Original Article By Chris Miller – The Stanly News & Press
STANLY CO., N.C. — After a tense school board meeting Tuesday night, board chairman Jeff Chance announced his resignation effective immediately after revealing his life had been threatened.
“At this time, I hereby resign from the board of education effective immediately,” Chance said, before making a motion that the board adjourn.
His resignation came after board members discussed why the venue for the meeting has been changed from its usual location in the spacious Gene McIntyre Meeting Room to the much smaller staff development room, where the public was not allowed in except to briefly speak during public comments.
“We have to do everything we can to ensure the public has access to these things,” said board member Anthony Graves who, along with board member Bill Sorenson, took issue with the board not allowing the public in-person access to the meeting.
Graves said he first found out about the change in location on Sunday and thought it had changed due to some sort of threat that was conveyed to board members or school faculty, but that was not the case.
Graves then reached out to the central office on Monday, where he was told that Chance has made the decision to move the meeting out of an abundance of caution.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Chance revealed he had received death threats over the past few months, during a time where the board voted to require masks in schools which was heavily unpopular with large parts of the community.
Chance said other board members and some central office staff had not felt safe during the previous two board meetings due to numerous individuals having to be escorted out by law enforcement.
Board member Carla Poplin said she could barely hear the other members during the September meeting at the Central Elementary auditorium because the crowd was so loud and rowdy.
Board member Glenda Gibson said also two members had been “accosted out in public” recently, which she said was unacceptable. “We can’t have that and we’re not going to have that.”
Graves said while the public does have a First Amendment right to attend board meetings and let their voices be heard, board members should never be threatened.
“We live in a country with the First Amendment and people have the right to speak their mind, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us,” Graves said.
When asked by Graves why the location moved, Chance said law enforcement advised they change their next meeting location after several members expressed they did not feel safe with the public in attendance.
Chance said he was told the board could legally change locations so as long as the public could still speak and a video was made available.
Officials say the school system even notified news outlets a few days in advance about the change in location.
Regarding Chance’s resignation, Graves claims the announcement took him by surprise.
It was a total shock,” Graves said. “As vice chairman, Gibson will likely take over Chance’s position, at least for the time being.”