EAST ROCKHILL – Even before the February 23 Pennridge Community Committee meeting addressed agenda items, voices were raised and one outing was raised in response to a public comment, leaving the committee without a quorum to conduct its business.
During the video recording of the meeting, the camera and audio cut out twice, so the video on YouTube which had around 2,500 views on the afternoon of February 27, and from which this article was written, was silent, and only displayed a “This meeting will resume shortly” message for half of its 41 minutes.
The public comment came from resident Kim Bedillion who said parents and community members in the district fought to remove the District’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative.
Work on the initiative was halted last year and the committee that ran it was disbanded, with then-board chairman Bill Krause creating a new ad hoc committee that became the Community Committee. .
“The DEI initiative was critical race theory in practice. He was about to infiltrate every aspect of the school district,” Bedillion said.
“The November election provided conclusive evidence that DEI was not wanted in the school district because school board candidates who showed up on the platform denouncing him were overwhelmingly elected,” she said. “Unfortunately, instead of eliminating the initiative altogether, an outgoing school board president decided to kick down the street and form the current committee. Now the battles in the community continue unnecessarily.
Pro-DCI fundraisers spread misinformation, she said.
“It’s very clear that the slogan ‘Hate has no home’ is being favored by the political left as a way to perpetuate the lie that the community is hateful and racist. It is also a means by which the intolerant ‘Hate has No Home Here’ mob attempts to silence anyone who dares to oppose the DCI ideological narrative,” Bedillion said. “Anyone who opposes the narrative is deemed hateful, bigoted, transphobic, homophobic, you get the idea.”
The meetings include two public comment periods, the first, in which Bedillion was speaking, is for comments on agenda items that the committee will discuss or take action on later in the meeting. The second is for comments on things that weren’t on the agenda. Before starting to speak, Bedillion had said that she would address the mission statement, which was an agenda item.
As she continued to speak, members of the public began to protest loudly, including saying that she was not speaking on an agenda item.
“Don’t shut me up. It’s not fair,” one person is heard saying off-screen. “She’s blatantly obvious about her far-right agenda.”
Pandemonium continued to be heard as the camera remained briefly on the speaker’s podium after Bedillion left it, then video and audio were muted for just under two minutes.
When it resumed, resident Lee Rush said committee chair David Reiss, who is also the school board’s vice chair, initiated the shutdown.
“You can’t arbitrarily tell someone to stop recording a meeting in public,” Rush said.
Rush, Reiss, and committee member Joan Cullen, who is also school board president, all said, however, that the meeting could be suspended and terminated, leading to a committee member’s motion that the meeting is suspended. This motion was not seconded as committee members continued to argue, followed by members of the public joining in and several people speaking at the same time.
“Is this to stop DEI?” asked a member of the committee. “Because if it is, I don’t want to be on it.” I signed up for DEI to be helpful.
Committee member Elia Garrison asked everyone to calm down and listen to both sides.
“Please listen. Can we talk? Yelling isn’t going to help,” she said.
“We have to listen,” she said as the debate continued, “because it’s not going anywhere if we don’t listen.”
In response to the question of whether the committee was meant to be a DEI committee, Cullen said it was not established to be DEI.
“It was designed to meet, to find the needs that we have in the community,” she said.
Committee member Donte King, whose family business was referenced by Bedillion but not by name, said his comments should have been withheld until the second comment period, rather than allowed in the first period because she was not talking about an item on the agenda.
Reiss and Cullen, however, said the comments came under a “Pennridge Community Committee Expectations and Limitations” agenda item.
Another motion was made to suspend the meeting, this time in passing.
With nine members present, the committee did not have a quorum, Reiss said.
“The meeting is over,” someone said and two of the committee members and a few members of the audience left.
“You have to decide if we are DEI or not because if we are not, I don’t want to be on it,” an outgoing committee member said.
“Oh, we’ll ‘decide,’ Cullen replied.
Another of the departing people called the committee a deception.
In response to a question after a few more back and forths, Reiss again said the committee did not have a quorum.
Although no action could be taken at the meeting without a quorum, the discussion could continue, Cullen said.
“There are no voting elements, but in fairness to public speakers, public commentators, they should be able to give the public comment if there is a point to be made,” a- she declared.
The camera and audio paused again for about 20 minutes before restarting just long enough for Reiss to say, “Thank you. We’re going to adjourn the meeting for tonight.
Note: This article has been corrected. The speaker of one of the quotes was initially misidentified.