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NACS board member discusses law enforcement’s security concerns that led to eliminating public comments

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) -- A Northwest Allen County School board member is speaking out about the decision to eliminate public comments at board meetings, saying the recommendation came from officers in the sheriff's department.

"We've not even been able to conduct a meaningful meeting because the board members can't hear each other," NACS board member Ron Felger said.

Felger has been a board member for Northwest Allen County Schools for 39 years.

He says he's never seen parents get so contentious about an issue than they have about their children wearing masks in school.

A NACS board member says Allen County sheriff's officers assigned to security duty at the meetings reached out to the board to suggest eliminating public comments because they were concerned about people's safety.

The board recently voted to implement a temporary mask mandate in order to comply with Governor Eric Holcomb's orders that reduces the need for quarantining, enabling more students and teachers to remain in class.

"Take advantage of the opportunities of in-person instruction as opposed to sitting in front of a computer at home or some other location trying to do it remotely," Felger said.

He says Allen County sheriff's officers assigned to security duty at the meetings reached out to the board to suggest eliminating public comments because they were concerned about people's safety.

He says people had asked officers to escort them to their cars after meetings.

"What they were witnessing was an unsafe environment for the public, and even, I understand to a certain extent, possibly to the officers themselves," he said.

Indiana law says a school board meeting has to be open to the public, but the public does not have an automatic right to speak at the meeting.

"The NACS board is committed to resuming public comment when it's confident that public comment can occur in a safe manner," said district spokeswoman Lizette Downey.

Downey says she hopes that will be soon.

"We're hopeful that if we could press pause for a bit that we'll be able to resume and come back around and offer public comment again," she said.

The board's next meeting is scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m. at Carroll High School.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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