Orange County school board member harasses parent handing out info in carpool line

By A.P. Dillon

Chapel Hill, NC – A school board member on the Orange County Board of Education North Carolina was caught on video harassing parents who were handing out information cards about issues in the district to parents in a carpool line.

Orange County School Board Member Hillary Mackenzie videos a parent handing out information in a school carpool line.

Board member Hillary Mackenzie was videoed hurling insults at a parent for giving out cards to the website OCS Truth.

Mackenzie is the former board chair for Orange County Schools (OCS). Near the end of 2021, Hillary Mackenzie resigned her position as OCS board chair but remained on the board. Around that same time, Mackenzie deleted her official board member Facebook page which had been receiving a large amount of traffic, mainly from angry parents.

“If there is nothing to hide why is Hillary McKenzie, Orange County School board member and chair who recently stepped down, trying so hard to distract school parents from viewing the info for themselves?” the parent Mackenzie called “Gretchen” wrote in a social media post containing the video.

Mackenzie had apparently been an activist before she joined the OCS board as a member of the “Hate-Free Schools Coalition.” One of the campaigns run by the Hate-Free Schools Coalition (HFSC) was the renaming of school buildings bearing a name linked to the Civil War Confederacy and the removal of Confederate flags from public school property. 

Last year, Mackenzie drew fire for instructing law enforcement to eject parents from an October school board meeting claiming they were not following the posted agenda.

For the past year, parents and students in Orange County have protested the board over sexually explicit books in the district, political and ideological indoctrination in the classroom, as well as the board’s apparent tunnel-vision focus on “anti-racism” and “equity,” and pandemic restrictions parents have complained about as being heavy-handed. The result in Orange County has been a coalition of parents banding together to form OCS Truth.

Topics on the OCS Truth website include teacher attrition and morale and student outcomes, but the main draw is a very detailed page about inappropriate sexual images and content that has been found in school materials.

There is a warning page buffer that pops up when one clicks on the “sex in schools” materials menu item. Once past the warning buffer, graphic sexual images pulled from books found in the district can be viewed along with a petition that can be signed asking the district to “curate out” certain titles containing explicit content.

“OCS Truth is a collaborative effort of a growing number of Orange County Schools parents,” the group’s website states. “We love our children. We love our teachers. We love our schools and communities. We value education. We are proud of Orange County and want to protect what has been built.”

“While there is much good in the Orange County School System, the county is experiencing concerning trends in a direction that is harmful to students and teachers,” reads the OCS Truth about page. “Our purpose is to raise awareness for all parents in the school district.”

In the video exchange between Mackenzie and the parent, Mackenzie walks up and down the carpool line yelling at the parent. Apparently, Mackenzie had been in the carpool line and got out to confront one of the parents. The second parent, who Mackenzie calls “Gretchen” in the video, took over for the first person who Mackenzie had intercepted.

Gretchen indicated Mackenzie had been videoing them from the moment she got out of her car. The video posted by the OCS parents only shows what happened after the parents also began taking video and said that Mackenzie “toned down her comments significantly” once she realized they were recording her.

Mackenzie also called out to parents driving by that what was being handed out was “propaganda” and called it “misinformation,” adding that parents should “call the school board if you have questions.”

Mackenzie can be seen videoing the parent with her cell phone as the parent hands out the cards.

While marching down the carpool line, Mackenzie yells out that “disinformation is fascism.”

Throughout the video, Mackenzie insults the parent, calling her a “fascist” and asking why the parent thinks being called that name is “insulting.” Later, the parent asks aloud why doing research for themselves and sharing information is a fascist act. Mackenzie didn’t answer.

At one point, Mackenzie yells out to the parent, “why are you a fascist, Gretchen?” The parent replies, “Why do you like to call names, Hillary? Is that what you teach your children?”

No law enforcement officer had been on-site at the carpool line prior to Mackenzie showing up, and the parents say that Mackenzie was the one who called one in but then “ran off as she saw him from a distance showing up.”

The officer said there was “nothing wrong” with what the parents were doing and had a polite conversation with them about possible other ways to hand out the information besides the carpool line.

Watch the full clip below

Congressional candidate Courtney Geels picked up on the video, publishing a video statement with highlights from Mackenzie’s harassment of the parent. 

Geels is one of two Republican candidates in the NC fourth congressional district primary, the other is Robert Thomas. The Democrat side of the primary is packed with eight candidates including former General Assembly Senator Valerie Foushee, American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken, and progressive Durham Commissioner Nida Allam, who has been endorsed by “squad” member Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Founder of No Left Turn in Education Elana Fishbein also tweeted the video.

“What lesson does this teach our kids?” tweeted Fishbein. “When an Orange County, NC mom tried to warn others about the explicit content in school books, the school board chair showed up and tried to stop her.”

Perhaps the lesson Fishbein refers to is found in a recent Op-Ed by Mackenzie’s successor as board chair, Carrie Doyle, who seems to be more interested in maintaining the progressive status quo on the board.

“In the upcoming May election, four of the seven seats are up for the Orange County Schools Board of Education; this election will determine whether or not our district continues in a progressive and equity-centered direction,” wrote current OCS Board Chair Carrie Doyle in an April 20 Op-Ed in the left-leaning publication IndyWeek. 

“Only some OCS board candidates express intentions of continuing the forward-looking, difficult work that’s underway. In our small district, we are gaining momentum on critical issues because of commitment by members of our board, staff, and students,” Doyle wrote in the final paragraph.

Article reprinted with permission from A.P. Dillon.