Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Banned activist files formal complaint against former school board member

Sandy Eyles approaching the dais, which Stefanie Adams stands behind, as law enforcement gather at the conclusion of Sept. 20 school board meeting. (Port City Daily).

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — The endeavor for retribution in a New Hanover County Schools banning case is not over, despite the school board’s final ruling yesterday. 

Monday, the board commuted the ban on NHCS parent and education activist Sandy Eyles from 12 months to just under eight. Eyles received a trespass notice from NHCS on Nov. 3 for “disruptive behavior” on two occasions, both involving former board member Stefanie Adams. 

READ MORE: Local activist banned from NHCS board meetings for disruptive behavior to appeal before board

ALSO: NHCSB members cite First Amendment, Bible in debate to shorten activist’s trespass ban

Eyles has now filed a formal complaint against Adams, alleging she violated the district’s bullying and harassment policy and the board’s rules of decorum. Monday night, Eyles notified board members and Superintendent Charles Foust via email of her filed complaint and argued her position. 

“I truly believe she needs to be held accountable for her actions to make sure this does not happen to another community member,” Eyles wrote in her email.

The two altercations stemmed from a Facebook exchange between the two women, which carried over into an in-person confrontation on Sept. 20. Adams is seen in a video of the meeting approaching Eyles, leaning into her and pointing her finger in Eyles’ face, then walking away. Eyles follows Adams, stepping onto the dais and prompting law enforcement to stand between them. 

A little more than a month later on Nov. 1, Eyles made an emotional outburst from the back of the Board of Education Center, yelling at Adams regarding a comment she made during the meeting. Her comment called out local activists, stating some people were afraid to speak at meetings due to their presence. Eyles took that to mean her.

Eyles was banned and deemed a “serious safety concern” for violating the board’s policy 5020 for “using loud and/or offensive language, swearing, cursing, or displaying of temper; and any other behavior that disrupts the orderly operation of a school, a school classroom, central office or administrative facility, or any other school system property.”

During the hearing earlier this week, board member Stephanie Kraybill asked Eyles why she did not submit a formal complaint against Adams after the two altercations — or at any point since. Eyles addressed the question again in her email. 

“I did not trust the complaint would be taken seriously or that any action would come from it,” Eyles wrote. “I fully expected my complaint to be dismissed and I would be at further risk of retaliation from Ms. Adams.”

Adams did not receive any reprimand from the district for her actions during both occasions. During Monday’s hearing, Assistant Superintendent for Operations Eddie Anderson concluded Adams did not violate policy 5020. 

“I do not agree that Ms. Adams acted in an aggressive or threatening manner,” Anderson said during the hearing.

Eyles claims Adams violated policy 4329/7311 on bullying and harassment, which lists examples like “repeated acts of disrespect, intimidation, or threats, such as verbal taunts, name-calling and put-downs, epithets, derogatory or lewd comments, spreading rumors,” among others. 

“I am deeply concerned that a bullying and harassment policy was used against me, when I was the victim of her attacks,” Eyles wrote. “This sets a very dangerous precedent in our district if we punish a victim but choose not to hold the aggressor accountable.”

It is unclear what policies would be reviewed for violation in this case because Adams is no longer serves on the board. However, Adams is a parent member of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. 

In her email to the board, Eyles said she fears Adams will continue to “attack” her and potentially other community members. She advocates Adams be removed from her committee position and also be banned from meetings for at least eight months.

Policy 5020, which allows the superintendent to ban “disruptive” community members from meetings for up to one year, does not stipulate a time limit for issuing those bans. 

NHCS spokesperson Russell Clark could not answer if the district could still issue a trespass notice to Adams nor what policies would apply in this case. He said the district is consulting with its attorney to figure out the best path forward to address the complaint. 

Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at brenna@localdailymedia.com 

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