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Parents say Madison District school board president violated their rights during meeting

Posted: 7:52 PM, Feb 17, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-17 20:19:50-05

MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Parents who attended a school board meeting are voicing outrage. They say they were ordered to stop recording the public meeting.

It happened last week at the Madison District Board of Education meeting.

“Before we go into public fundamentals, I would like to state a policy in the bylaws that will now be enforced," said school board President Mark Kimble, as the meeting started. "If anyone is recording meetings you need to make arrangements with the superintendent before the meeting. And there will be a designated place where you can have recording devices. There shall be no commentary. No posting on-line. No conference calls. I am going to ask that whoever has a camera right now to please shut off.”

Kimble said that according to board bylaws, anyone who wanted to record needed to give the superintendent notice at least five days in advance. Effective immediately, this bylaw was going to be enforced.

School Board Trustee Bill Pittman said he didn’t think it was fair.

“Is anyone distracting us where they are at right now,” Pittman asked.

“No,” Kimble can be heard responding in a video posted by the district. “The point is people who record this are streaming live on Facebook and often make comments about what is going on. And that is forbidden.”

“Put your cameras down, your phones down. Stop recording,” Kimble aded.

Jimmy Brown, a former athletic director in the district, can be seen turning off his phone.

“I felt like my first amendment right was violated,” said Brown, who still has children who attend Madison District Schools.

Brown ironically has a lawsuit against the school district accusing it of violating his first amendment rights and wrongfully terminating him for his political views. He says he stopped recording so he wouldn’t be thrown out, but two other women kept recording. One started reading the open meetings act. When she refused to stop reading Kimble called for a recess.

A Michigan Open Meetings Act Handbook can be found at https://www.michigan.gov/documents/ag/OMA_handbook_287134_7.pdf.

It says “the right to attend a public meeting includes the right to tape-record, videotape, broadcast live on radio, and telecast live on television the proceedings of a public body at the public meeting.”

It also says, “the exercise of the right to tape-record, videotape, and broadcast public meetings may not be dependent upon the prior approval of the public body.”

The video from the district cuts out as the board takes a recess. Parents say the editing omitted inappropriate behavior.

“At that point the superintendent, Angel Abdulahad, pulls me to the side and starts reprimanding me in front of everyone,” said Alicia Robinette.

Robinette is not only a single mom of two, but works as a paraprofessional in the district. She says she felt her job was being threatened because she was recording the meeting.

And what has happened since has her more concerned.

“Wednesday I was called into the office and informed I needed to stand down,” Robinette said. “I don’t feel like because I work for this district my rights should be violated. I feel like I should be allowed to be mom and they stripped me of that right.”

“I think it is bad for democracy,” said Bill Pittman, the trustee who questioned Kimble when it happened.

School Board President Mark Kimble refused to do an interview.

Kimble tells 7 Action News that during the meeting he reversed his decision and allowed people to record. Seven Action News listened to the video provided by the district and could not hear him saying that. We asked him when it happened to ensure we did not miss anything. He did not provide a time in the video.

Some in the audience tell 7 Action News they did not hear that. One woman said she felt that Kimble wanted police to arrest her, but police knew she had the right to record and did not arrest her. She continued recording. Others witnessed this and resumed recording. They can be seen on the Madison District Public Schools video recording as the board then continues with the meeting.

“We had a review by legal, which stated our bylaws do not apply to the public. Nobody was stopped from recording. No one will be in the future,” said Kimble in a text message to 7 Action News.