A Florida school board member is facing some backlash after she called 911 because the public had gotten “animated” while speaking out against Common Core State Standards during a school district-sponsored public forum earlier this month. However, there is a lot more to this story than meets the eye.
Brevard County School Board member Amy Kneessy says she called 911 after school board candidate Dean Paterakis refused to give up the microphone, intimidated her and hurled allegations at school officials. A short time after the 911 call, Paterakis claims a deputy forcibly removed, or trespassed, him from the Sept. 12 meeting.
The public meeting was focused on discussing Common Core standards and how they impact the math and English curriculum in Florida as well as other states.
But Kneessy tells TheBlaze Paterakis is intentionally misrepresenting the incident and claiming she was trying to prevent him from speaking out against Common Core.
Perhaps the most important detail being left out of — or buried — in many local reports is the fact that Kneessy says she is the only conservative, anti-Common Core school board member in Brevard County and therefore had no reason to try and stop him from speaking out against it. She said she actually arranged the meeting to help shine light on some of the issues with the controversial federal standards.
“Instead of focusing on the problems with Common Core, we are talking about this 911 call,” she said, adding that no one on the school board is backing her up. She said her fellow board members are likely happy that the controversy is focused on her instead of Common Core, which they all support.
When we first spoke to Kneessy she was in tears because she claims she is receiving hateful messages calling her everything from a “Nazi” to a pro-Common Core leftist. “I’m one of the good guys,” she said, her voice shaky with emotion.
She revealed that she has a long history with Paterakis and claims he has harassed her and other school officials for years after he was fired from his teaching job by the district. Kneessy also says that at one point Paterakis intimidatingly followed her into a hallway when she was alone.
“I’m on the side of the anti-Common Core people, but I was concerned things were getting out of hand,” she told TheBlaze. “I didn’t have the non-emergency number so I called 911. All I wanted was a uniform present because I felt unsafe. I didn’t want anyone arrested, and no one was arrested.”
Another board member, Andy Ziegler, said Paterakis “was out of line and he was volatile.”
“If he followed her out, that man has attempted to physically engage me before. I have no doubts that he would,” Ziegler added.
In the 911 tape, which Paterakis later played at a another board meeting on Tuesday, Kneessy tells the 911 operator that her “presenters” were getting “scared” and she was concerned that things could get out of control.
Kneessy reportedly walked out of the Tuesday meeting briefly as Paterakis aired the 911 call for everyone at the school board meeting to hear.
“I see that the person that called 911 for this non-emergency has left,” Paterakis said after playing the recording. “I was going to ask her: Why did she call 911 for a non-emergency, why did she try to stop the citizens that were expressing concern for the Common Core?”
After he was allegedly thrown out of the school district-sponsored forum on Common Core State Standards, Paterakis told TheBlaze the meeting was not an “official school board meeting,” but officials felt it was important to “have a dialogue” on Common Core.
“About 45 citizens attended,” he explained. “I don’t think they were prepared for this group because many of the citizens who had attended seemed to know more about the Common Core than the school administrators did.”
Paterakis told TheBlaze he asked the district staff if they support Common Core, to which they all responded affirmatively except Kneessy.
A few minutes after Paterakis spoke, he claims Kneessy called 911 on “some of the citizens because, according to her, they were refusing to give up the microphone and scaring the presenters.” He sees the incident as “an abuse of the 911 system.”
About 20 minutes later, Paterakis says he was told by Kneessy that he needed to leave. While he refused, he claims a “sheriff’s deputy used physical force” to remove him, “and when I refused to leave he pushed me out of the room and building without being charged with anything.”
“The deputy told me I was being trespassed, yet when we contacted the sheriff’s department the next day they said that I wasn’t trespassed” and was just asked to leave, he told TheBlaze. “I did nothing illegal, I was just exercising my free speech and right to peacefully criticize the school board.”
An official with the Brevard County Sheriff’s office told TheBlaze in order to be “trespassed” from an event, a deputy would have to issue a trespassing warning, signed by both the individual trespassed and whoever reported the complaint. However, she said a deputy wouldn’t necessarily need to formally issue a warning to remove someone from a public meeting if there was a legitimate complaint.
TheBlaze is still currently awaiting official confirmation from the Brevard Sheriff’s County Sheriff’s Department on whether or not one of its deputies forcibly removed Paterakis from the public forum and told him he was being “trespassed.”
But Kneessy says the meeting was over by the time Paterakis was escorted out by the deputy because he refused to leave.
“We all wanted to go home,” she said. “Nobody was arrested, nobody was trespassed. He wasn’t even removed from the meeting” because it was already over. Though she did admit she should’ve called the non-emergency number for the police department instead of 911, but said she didn’t have it.
Kneessy also expressed frustration that media outlets are not giving her any benefit of the doubt and presenting what she feels is an inaccurate account of the now-viral incident.
A witness at the event, Alice Kreitz, told TheBlaze that the entire incident was overblown by Kneessy. She said at no point did she feel like the crowd was bound to spin out of control.
“The only problem they had with Dean [Paterakis] is when he brought up some of their six-figure salaries,” she said.
Kreitz also claims there was a cameraman employed by the school district videotaping the entire event. She said both she and Paterakis are trying to get the district to release the video, which they say will back up their account of the story.
After reviewing the tape, which the school board has not posted online yet, the School Board Chair Barbara Murray said there was “no intention to throw anybody under the bus,” but that the district staff has “reflected on that evening and in the future they are going to change some of their strategies.”
“That includes setting time limits on speakers and taking a more authoritarian tone, she said. Murray also said the board needs to discuss whether the district would post the video,” Florida Today reports.
But Kneessy feels like she is being intentionally thrown under the bus.
“There were parts of the video you didn’t see,” Kneessy told TheBlaze. “When I left the room, Dean was still at the microphone. But when he was done he went out into the hallway and confronted me, and you can hear me on the 911 call saying, ‘he’s following me, I have to get away from him.’”
Regardless of who is perceived to be in the right, Murray admits: “We obviously have some controversy going on.”
This story has been updated.