Manitowoc school board goes virtual due to security concerns

MANITOWOC, Wis. (NBC 26) – In early February, a man took the stage during the public comment portion of a Manitowoc school board meeting. The superintendent then prevented him from getting close to the council members.

“These are dangerous situations,” said board chairman Dave Nickels. “You don’t know what someone’s intentions are.”

Nickels says some parents tell her they don’t feel safe attending her meetings in person.

“I discussed it [incident] with law enforcement after that meeting and their advice was not to allow that to happen,” he said.

According to Nickels, Tuesday night’s meeting was moved from in-person to virtual due to security concerns.

“Rather than using security personnel, I just thought a virtual meeting was a better solution for now to provide a safe and healthy atmosphere for all attendees,” he said.

A group of parents and two board members – Collin Braunel and Stacey Soeldner – gathered for the online meeting at the Baymont Hotel.

“I’ve also noticed banter among our audience members at our meetings,” Nickels said. “And that can lead to physical altercations, as it has in other types of meetings. And we’ve had to interrupt several of our meetings due to the misbehavior of attendees.”

Michael Mealy is the man from Manitowoc who approached the scene.

“Am I a security problem? ” He asked.

He says he was trying to hand over documents to staff.

“I’m in investigation mode,” Mealy said. “I serve legal papers and FOIA requests.”

NBC 26 heard from parents at Manitowoc who believe the virtual move is a form of censorship.

“I did not initiate any direct use of force on anyone,” Mealy said.

At the end of Tuesday night’s meeting, board members failed to pass a motion to bring back the in-person format. But Nickels doesn’t think it will stay that way for the foreseeable future.

“I’m not interested in this continuing long term,” he said.

Council members discussed asking the police to attend or hiring security to allow a return to in-person meetings.

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