BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Brevard County School Board members expected heated comments from the public Tuesday, but one speaker apparently took it too far and was arrested and carried out in the middle of his comments.
Board Chairman Andy Ziegler repeatedly warned the crowd that “profane, abusive or slanderous speech” would not be allowed.
“We consider this board room an extension of the school environment, and therefore, if it’s not appropriate conversation in a school, we don’t consider it appropriate conversation here,” he said.
The meeting was packed for a discussion of a proposed change to the district’s nondiscrimination policy that would add protections for people’s transgender status and/or gender identity.
Dean Paterakis, who is running for the District 4 school board seat, got up to talk about something unrelated to the nondiscrimination policy.
“The reason I’m here now is that we’re not putting children’s safety first,” he said.
His comments then veered sharply and caused an uproar in the meeting room.
“Would it be OK now if I showed a picture of my penis to you guys?” he asked, holding up a notepad, which did not appear to have anything on it.
Ziegler interrupted, saying, “Let’s keep it civil, please.”
Paterakis attempted to continue and was interrupted again.
“You’ll keep it civil or you won’t speak,” Ziegler said.
Channel 9 learned there is no policy about public comment, but by law, the public can speak on agenda items. However, the board is not obligated to allow individuals to speak on any topic they want.
Paterakis was raising a question about the employment of a teacher who was suspended in 2014 after school officials said he inadvertently showed a picture of his genitals on his phone and displayed the photo briefly in class.
The district investigated the incident, which was believed to have happened inadvertently, and the teacher was placed on paid leave, but was not fired.
Paterakis attempted to continue, but Ziegler cut him off.
“That’s enough, Dean, that’s enough,” Ziegler said. “Sorry, it’s not appropriate.”
Members of the crowd started to yell, demanding that the board let Paterakis speak.
Meanwhile, several Brevard County deputies confronted Paterakis and tried to make him step away from the podium.
Paterakis eventually squatted down and had to be forcibly carried from the room by four deputies.
When the crowd refused to calm down, Ziegler threatened to have the room cleared.
“I think it was a fair request for (Paterakis) to be civil,” Ziegler said. “You may agree with the conversation, but we will not allow slanderous, abusive or profane speech in the meeting.”
Paterakis said he was exercising his right to free speech and doesn't think he should have been removed.
“I sat down to show that I wasn't wanting to leave and it would be on them violating my constitutional rights,” Paterakis said.
Paterakis was arrested and charged with disrupting a school function and resisting arrest. He was released from the Brevard County Jail on bonds totaling $750.
Paterakis isn't keeping quiet about his arrest.
“I can speak on whatever subject I like, and it's obvious they wanted to restrict my free speech,” said Paterakis.
On his Facebook page, Paterakis decried the situation and said his wife picked him up from jail at about 3 a.m. Wednesday.
Discussion continued on the proposed public hearing on the nondiscrimination policy change, which eventually passed 3-2.
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