CPS gag orders strictly in place as gagging of the public grows... Veterans barred from CPS sign in a few weeks before Veterans Day... ' 8:01 today I attempted to sign up to speak to the CPS Board and received the message 'All speaking slots filled...'

"This Board listens," was one of the many statements by the new President of the Chicago Board of Education, Frank Clark, during the Board's September 2015 meeting. Clark smiled and repeated talking points while his security chief ordered security staff to drag parents, teachers, and others away from the microphones during the "Public Participation" portions of the Board meetings for illegal public participation. Clark's rise to power (and to being a multi-millionaire) was facilitated by the sacrifices of others, who built the Civil Rights Movement and the struggles for equity and equality while men like Clark maneuvered to become corporate chieftains. Clark ended his private sector career as a typically overpaid CEO, at Chicago's Commonwealth Edison. Clark has also been an outspoken supporter of charter schools (one "campus" of the Noble Network of Charter Schools is half-named after him). Substance photo by David Vance.The Chicago Board of Education has blocked dozens of speakers from signing up to testify at the October 28, 2015, meeting of the Board of Education including Chicago Veterans for Peace, which tried to sign up up less than two minutes after the time began and was blocked by the CPS computer sign in system.

"It's Unbelievable . . . almost, except it's CPS," said Arny Stieber, coordinator of Chicago Veterans for Peace. "At 8:01 today I attempted to sign up to speak to the CPS Board and received the message 'All speaking slots filled.' At 8:03 today, I attempted to register to attend the next Board meeting - 'All observer slots filled.'" Stieber's message was sent to Substance a few minutes after the sign-in times began on October 19, 2015.

The Veterans for Peace group has spoken out against the increasing militarism at CPS for years, and one of the many ironies of the current situation is that CPS officials are gagging the most active voice of Chicago veterans a few weeks before Veterans Day 2015 (which will be on November 11, 2015).

"It appears that the 'open' Board is closed to the public . . . at least the public they don't want to hear from!," Stieber went on. "Not surprising -- the letter I sent to each Board member regarding the last fiasco got zero response."

The Board of Education began dramatically restricting the number of people who are allowed to speak at the monthly Board meetings under former President David Vitale, shortly after Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Vitale and the new Board of Education in May 2011, after Emanuel's inauguration. The restrictions on public speaking at the Board meetings are carried out in three ways:

Chicago Board of Education Vice President (Jesse Ruiz, left) and President (Frank Clark, right) have worked to suppress virtually all dissent during the monthly meetings of the Chicago Board of Education, and to cover up the Board's secret discussion of key policy questions (which always take place during "Closed Sessions"). Even by the standards of suppression set by former Board President David Vitale, the suppression of critical voices during the September 2015 meeting of the Board of Education of America's third largest school system surprised some observers. On orders from Clark, the number of speakers allowed on any "topic" was reduced to one, while the number allowed to sign up to speak (or even to attend a Board meeting) was also suppressed. Substance photo by David Vance. First, the number of speakers is restricted. Instead of allowing as many people as wish to speak to sign up, the Board has ruled that since there are to be only two hours for "public participation", and since each possible speaker is supposed to get two minutes, the maximum number of speakers can be determined in a "data driven" way. Two minutes per speaker divided by 120 minutes = 60 speakers. MAXIMUM.

Second, those who do speak are wrestled away from the microphones quikly, often before their two-minutes are actually up. At the "old" Board of Education headquarters at 125 S. Clark St., the time limit was announced by the Board Secretary, Estela Beltran. At the "new" Board headquarters, there is a dramatic time clock which shows the number of seconds left to each speaker, counting down from 120 seconds to zero. Before zero, each speaker who is speaking against a Board policy is surrounded by CPS security, while speakers who are praising CPS policies are usually allowed to continue.

Even though she was signed up to speak and on the speakers list for the September 2015 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, Zerlina Smith (barely visible, above left with golden hair) was blocked by CPS security when she tried to speak. The pretext for suppressing Smith's comments to the Board was that she was speaking on a topic that had been "bundled" and that she was no longer the "designated speaker" chosen by the Board's Secretary, Estela Beltran. Substance photo by David Vance.Third, signed-up speakers are told they have to "bundle" speakers on the same topic, further reducing the actual number of speakers who are called on during the meeting itself. Thus, if seven people sign up to speak against the most recent cuts in special education, at most two will actually be called on to speak. The rest are ignored, and if they protest they are, as happened at the September meeting, dragged away from the podium.

With the Board scheduled to vote on a further expansion of charter schools at the October 28 Board meeting. There is a protest at the home of the Board President, Frank Clark, this Thursday (October 22) at 5:30 front of Frank Clark's condo, located at 1201 S Prairie Ave Apt 2101. On Monday, October 26, there will be a huge rally and march to Alderman Ed Burke's office (14th ward). The rally starts at 3 p.m. at Kelly Park (California and Archer) arrives at the Ward office at 4:15. Those who cannot be at the rally can meet at the Ward office, 2650 W. 51st st. at 4:15 p.m..


October 20, 2015 at 9:23 AM

By: John Kugler

All Talk but No Action

Interestingly enough there are so many complaints about this open meetings issue yet I have seen no actions or litigation to stop this censorship and violation of free speech.

Is anyone really serious in thinking that this Board and Mayor will do anything that is remotely legal and good for public education, when they can so easily restrict the most basic American right to free speech and a representative government?

October 21, 2015 at 2:52 PM

By: Mark Thompson


John, they only violate the rights of people they think they can get away it, and this occurs because of bad attorneys within the CPS. Once they violate the rights of the wrong person, they get sued. Then they try to settle the case once they see they can't win. I set up a whole bunch of attorneys at CPS. I sent a complaint to the ARDC against eight attorneys I knew would lie in response. What they didn't know is that right before I sent that complaint, I received information that an individual would testify on my behalf at the proper time as to the allegations of what the ARDC complaint entailed. What someone needs to do is set the Board up related to public speaking. Find an attorney with the ACLU to come speak against something the Board is in favor of, someone the Board doesn't know is an attorney from the ACLU, to see if he/she will be denied to speak or is physically grabbed by security. Then file a lawsuit that results in a legal mandated change of policy on public speaking. Or even better, just work harder to get a better mayor if the legislation on an elected board doesn't go through. The mayor Chicago has completely suck when it comes to schools, but I do think Claypool will clear out the corrupt attorneys CPS still currently have (Ciesil, Colston, Wong, Krieger) when the truth is revealed to him as to their corrupt involvement in targeting whistleblowers with false complaints.

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