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Published: Wednesday, 12/21/2005

Speech ban dominates TPS meeting

The Toledo Board of Education approved contracts last night for design services that could reach $5.8 million in the third phase of the district's massive building renovation and construction program.

But those contracts got almost no attention or debate.

Much of the meeting was consumed by criticism and catcalls over the board president's decision in October to ban four vocal critics of the district from speaking during meetings.

Board member-elect Darlene Fisher was among several people who addressed the board last night and urged President Larry Sykes to rescind his order prohibiting Charles Brown, Twila Page, Alicia Murphy, and Steven Flagg from speaking.

"Among my first actions as a new board member will be to see that these bans are lifted," she said.

The meeting was contentious at times. At one point, Mr. Sykes asked a security officer to escort a man from the meeting for shouting at board members.

Mr. Sykes said he banned Mr. Brown, Ms. Page, and Ms. Murphy because they consistently breach board policies.

Mr. Brown, who is president of the African American Parents Association, was also told not to enter any school district buildings because he was accused of threatening Mr. Sykes with physical harm. He attended the meeting last night but was not asked to leave.

Mr. Flagg, a member of the African American Parents Association along with Mr. Brown, Ms. Page, and Ms. Murphy, was banned in June from speaking at meetings.

After hearing from several people, including Ms. Page's daughter and Mr. Brown's nephew, Mr. Sykes said he would allow Ms. Page and Ms. Murphy to speak, but only if they adhered to board policy.

The policy limits speeches to three minutes and prohibits the use of any school district employees' names.

During the board's Sept. 27 meeting, Mr. Brown used a teacher's name and refused to stop speaking when asked.

Mr. Sykes said Mr. Brown and Mr. Flagg would be allowed to address the board if they promised to "conduct themselves in a professional manner."

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