BOARDWATCH: Vitale's police state expands attacks on press freedom, as parents are hauled out of Board meeting and even the Tribune and Sun-Times are warned against 'disrupting' the meeting by covering the news

One year after the Chicago Board of Education made the Guinness Book of World Records for ruthlessly closing the largest number of public schools in the nation's history and then trying to cover up the damage and destruction the closings have caused in the vast segregated ghettos and barrios of the nation's third largest city, Board President David Vitale and his staff continued to take aim at those whom they perceive as their real enemies: the press and parents who challenge their corrupt power.

After she had stood alone for less than two minutes denouncing the attacks on democracy and real public schools by the members of the Chicago Board of Education and "CEO" Barbara Byrd Bennett, Rousemary Vega, a mother of four, was surrounded at the podium and dragged away when she demanded to be allowed more than two minutes to present her grievances to the members of the school board of America's third largest city. For more than a year, the administration of Barbara Byrd Bennett and Board President David Vitale has tried to strangle dissent and limit press coverage of the truth about Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's racist attacks on public schools by limiting parent and public access to Board meetings, restricting the number of people who can sign up to speak during the monthly public meetings, and barring reporters from the city's more than 600 public schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.And so at the May 28, 2014 meeting of the school board of the nation's third largest school system, the police state ordered by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel continued.

It was clear from the beginning of the meeting that "security" was on the alert to prevent news reporters and photographers from getting to the stories that were unfolding inside and outside the Board chambers, while CPS officials worked to carefully control the number of people permitted to speak during the brief "public participation" allowed at the monthly meetings. And as usual, five or six very large men wearing jackets marked "SECURITY" pushed and pulled a 100-lb mother of four away from the podium when she tried to continue speaking critically of the Board and its president one year after the Board members had voted to close Lafayette Elementary School, where her children attended, and destroyed the music programs that the children had loved. The lack of respect toward democracy from the administration of Barbara Byrd Bennett and David Vitale is not limited to irate parents. On May 28, 2014, Vitale ordered Board security staff to push Vietnam combat veteran Arny Stieber away from the podium when his two minutes were called "time." Memorial Day or the fact that Vitale, his fellow Board members, and the entire CPS administrative "team" (with one exception) are all FNG REMF wannabes was not a consideration. Substance photo by David Vance.Rousemary Vega was not the only parent insulted by the millionaires who serve on the Board of Education appointed by multi-millionaire mayor Rahm Emanuel, but her removal was the most dramatic. Despite the hard work by the Board's "Office of Communications" to keep what they call the "optics" in line with the Board's Orwellian versions of reality, the young mother of four being pushed and pulled from the podium where she had stood alone facing seven of the most powerful men and women in Chicago challenging their illegitimate authority was "bad optics."

One of the many problems faced by the Board's propaganda department is that the Board President cannot control his involuntary disdain for anyone who criticizes him. While observers, including this reporter, note that Vitale smiles and perks up regularly when someone appears before the Board to sing the praises of the latest policy contortion ordered by City Hall (from "Longer School Day" through "School Closings" to "Turnaround," it's been so since Vitale became Board President in May 2011), when critics take the podium, Vitale often closes his eyes like he is trying to take a nap rather than listen to democracy in action. Some reporters (and one prominent union leader) originally thought this was just the way Vitale worked, but after photographing more than two dozen Board meetings, and watching both speakers and Board members, it's clear to me that he reserves his meager ration of politeness for those who praise the Board and can barely maintain a civil face -- or a look of altertness -- when critics speak.

Rousemary Vega heading towards the exit after having been forcefully removed from the speaker's podium at the May 28, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The attempts to control the press by CPS officials and Chicago's City Hall had some successes. During the May 28 Board of Education meeting, security staff allowed a young "photographer" during the "Honoring Excellence" portion of the meeting to tramp around the Board chambers, even inside the sacred railing behind which administrators sit. During the same meeting, every press person, including the Tribune's photographer, was ordered to stay in one of the two press pens, where reporters and camera crews are supposedly restricted, even though lines of sight on the CEO are blocked, or, from the rear, that photographs would show the smiling faces of the Board members -- and the rear ends of the Board's critics.

To add insult to injury during the May 28 meeting, Board Security chief Jadine Chou ordered her lieutenant Reginald Williams to seat a number of non- reporters in the seats marked "Reserved for Press." Then when reporters (who had been covering protests outside the building) arrived inside the Board chambers, Williams told them "Too late" even though the people sitting in the press seats were not reporters.

Vitale's staff has even stopped providing reporters with the Power Point presentations that Board officials do. A Power Point during the May 28 meeting was flashed quickly on the screens above everyone's heads, but CPS "Communications" staff ignored requests for paper copies from reporters, including both corporate press and Substance staff. The previous month, Vitale's staff made sure there was not danger of the facts on the school "turnarounds" getting too public. The report by "Chief of Chiefs" Denise Little was done in narrative format, with neither Power Point nor written materials. "Put nothing in writing," has long been a bureaucrats' way of trying to keep information from the public, whether in the Veterans Administration or at Chicago Public Schools.