Woman arrested at Gwinnett School Board meeting says ‘I don’t understand’ how situation escalated

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Two women were arrested during a school board meeting in Gwinnett County on Thursday.

Both women bonded out of jail, and Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray went to the jail to pick up the warrants to learn more about what happened.

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Both arrests happened within moments of each other at the new metal detectors and security screening put in place for the first time at Thursday night’s meeting.

Suwanee resident Brenda Stewart claims her childproof scissors were for knitting, not violence.

“So these were the scissors, and so she said, ‘you can’t take these in there,’ so I took them, and they all lost it,” Stewart said.

She’s one of two women arrested at a security checkpoint at the Gwinnett County School Board meeting Thursday night.

“I just planned on sitting there. I told my husband I would get some chocolate milk on the way home,” Stewart said.

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Karen Pirkle was charged with trespassing. Gwinnett Schools said that they had to pause the school board meeting last month when Pirkle refused to put on a mask, and she was issued a criminal trespass warning.

Pirkle was told in writing she was banned from future board meetings. She was arrested when she showed up there anyway Thursday.

There’s an “unmask our children” sign at Pirkle’s Snellville home where Gray attempted to speak with her Friday.

Stewart says she didn’t know Pirkle, but she ran through a metal detector to grab Pirkle’s phone during the arrest.

The warrant Gray obtained alleges Stewart attempted to bring scissors into the meeting and resisted when an officer tried to take them away.

“I get that rules are rules, and in general I’m a rule follower, but how it went from zero to 180 in one second, that I don’t understand,” Stewart said. “From the position should I not tug the scissors, in hindsight probably shouldn’t have done that.”

Gwinnett Schools added a metal detector and security screen for the first time to Thursday’s meeting.

Gwinnett County’s Solicitor General Brian Whiteside said his office is now investigating both arrests.

“We cannot have people who may harm our police officers or our school board, so we have taken this seriously,” Whiteside said.

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Whiteside says his office is now investigating whether Pirkle could have her $1,300 bond increased or revoked because she had been warned multiple times, including in writing, that if she tried to show up to a board meeting it would be trespassing. He expects a decision on that by next Tuesday or Wednesday.

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