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Monday, May 27, 2024

Case closed: No charges in NHCS superintendent’s intimidation report against activist, watchdog

Dr. Charles Foust (middle) filed an intimidation report with the sheriff’s office following a Facebook discussion between Mack Coyle (left) and Angie Kahney (right). Both attended an unruly meeting July 13, during which Coyle questioned the police presence and Kahney advocated for one person’s opportunity to speak.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY –– A harassment and intimidation report filed by New Hanover County Schools Superintendent Charles Foust, following a dysfunctional board of education meeting earlier this month, named two civilians who are no stranger to the district. Both suspects now claim the complaint, which they were never formally made aware of, was an attempt to intimidate them and others from taking an interest in school board business.

NHCS is declining to comment on the situation or answer questions.

The case is now closed. According to the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson, it was reviewed by the district’s attorney’s office, but there was not enough evidence to meet any statute and bring charges against Angie Kahney nor Mack Coyle.

Foust met with the NHCSO July 21, more than a week after the school board’s infamous July 13 meeting. During the meeting, the board lost all control to an unruly and at times antagonistic audience and was forced to recess before tackling any business. The crowd was fired up over a multitude of concerns, though one of the most prominent was the way children learn about racism in history classes, a politically divisive issue often mislabeled as “critical race theory.”

RELATED: New Hanover school board recesses amid uncontrollable audience, one person detained

On July 20, the day the recessed meeting resumed, Kahney and Coyle exchanged a few words in the comment section of Kahney’s personal Facebook page that later led the superintendent to meet with the sheriff’s office and file the report. The post regarded a districtwide policy that defines the relationship between law enforcement and NHCS relating to school resource officers.

Kahney helped organize a press conference on the policy earlier in the evening at the 1898 Memorial. She and other critics feel the policy should explicitly guarantee a parent or guardian is contacted and allowed time to arrive before law enforcement proceeds with any interrogation of a student. The draft policy points to the signed agreement between NHCS and the sheriff’s office, which currently allows questioning of a student to proceed without parental notification.

During the July 20 meeting, the board briefly reviewed the policy but did not make any plans to revise the language. Ahead of its anticipated August adoption, Kahney published a Facebook post calling on people to act and continue emailing the board in the coming month. Coyle suggested they do more to ensure their voices are heard.

“We need to be at these BOE members’ workplaces, homes, and places they socialize at – they rely on the system to shield them – we must change tactics,” Coyle commented.

Kahney seemed to agree with the idea of reaching the leaders outside board meetings, writing back “exactly” and noting members of the public were “locked out” literally from the June 8 meeting and figuratively from the virtual July 20 meeting. She added that the presence of large numbers seems to make a difference in the way the board votes.

In the thread, Coyle calls five of the seven board members “KKK members” and referred to the superintendent as “Fraudster Foust.”

Kahney told Port City Daily she did not consider Coyle’s statements as hostile but rather believed he was venting frustration. She said that she is not a violent person either.

In a brief phone call, Coyle said his statements were not intimidation but were within his First Amendment rights, and he believed Foust’s complaint was an attempt to stifle community participation in board business.

WECT first reported Foust’s complaint without naming the individuals in question. The sheriff’s office spokesperson said he was unlikely to share names unless charges were brought against the suspects. However, a log of case summaries for July 21, obtained by Port City Daily, confirms Kahney and Coyle were the two suspects.

It also explains that board of education chair Stefanie Adams texted screenshots of the Facebook post to Foust the morning of July 21.

The comments are still on Kahney’s page, but she said she blocked Adams’ and vice chair Nelson Beaulieu’s personal accounts on Facebook because she believed it wasn’t the first time board of education members screenshot images of her page.

Kahney and Coyle said they were never notified of the report, but learned through speaking with people that it was with regard to them.

Coyle said he contacted NHCSO, but they would not tell him if a warrant was out for his arrest. He said he called back and threatened to hold a protest, claiming the office let itself be used to intimidate and retaliate against the community.

Kahney said she called NHCSO on July 23, two days after the report was filed, because she didn’t want to be caught off guard, either during work or while she was with her son, if someone from the agency showed up to ask questions. Kahney said the office told her they would be in touch if needed and she got the impression she shouldn’t be overly concerned.

“I won’t apologize for anything I’ve said as I have never made a threat in my life,” Kahney wrote to Port City Daily in an email.

This is not Coyle’s first run-in with the district. Coyle has submitted public records requests for all of Beualieu’s and former chair Lisa Estep’s emails and recently attempted to obtain a video montage of public comments by two speakers that, according to an email, former superintendent Tim Markley directed staff to compile. The district told Coyle that video was never made. (NHCS is now discussing adding charges to large public records requests.)

In recent months Coyle submitted at least two Ethix 360 reports, one that broadly accused Foust and four board members of promoting “a culture of patriarchy and sexual violence against children,” among a list of other concerns.

Foust sent Coyle a letter dated April 30, stating Coyle called NHCS 107 times in the past year, including 66 times in the past month. The superintendent wrote some staff members felt threatened by his behavior, describing it as aggressive and confrontational. The letter informed Coyle some of his repeated inquiries would go unresponded, and he could be removed from school property for trespassing if his behavior continued.

Kahney is also a familiar face to the staff. She said she has not missed watching a meeting in at least three years, and she often compiles notes and publishes recaps on her social media. She’s also involved with NHCS United for Students, a Facebook group highly critical of the district. As a contract social worker, her concerns have largely focused on the sexual abuse of children in the school system, some of whom are her clients.

“These bogus complaints are nothing more than a scare tactic being used to control the narrative,” Kahney wrote. “It’s a way of bullying local activists into silence.”

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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at or on Twitter @alexsands_

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