Ohio School Board Settles With Woman Who Sued After Being Told to ‘Zip it’ at Meeting
“what’s more important than a member of the public being able to state grievances about their government’s performance?”
Another victory in the battle for parents’ rights in education.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
A Parental Victory on Free Speech
Parents continue to fight for a say in their children’s education, often against hostile administrators. Three cheers, then, for Ohio mother Ashley Ryder for successfully challenging a policy that limited what parents could say at school board meetings.
Ms. Ryder sued the Big Walnut Local School District Board of Education in an Ohio federal court in March. She said it had violated the First Amendment with a policy that allows the presiding officer at school board meetings to “interrupt, warn, or terminate” any public statements he deems “abusive,” “personally directed” or “antagonistic.” In late April the board settled with Ms. Ryder and agreed to end its restrictions on speech.
Ms. Ryder’s experience illustrated how the school board had abused the policy to silence critics. The Ohio mother believes schools should provide mental-health services for students, and she criticized newly elected school board members about the veracity of their statements on the issue. “Now that you’ve made a complete 180, my question for the board is this: Were you lying to your base to get elected, or are you lying now to the parents?” Ms. Ryder asked at a February meeting.
At that point, School Board President Doug Crowl interrupted Ms. Ryder, told her to “zip it for a minute,” and refused to allow her to complete her prepared statement. He then instructed other parents that “public participation is to explain to us your position, not to make accusations, not to call names,” and that “any personal attacks, name-calling, I will call out.”
That was especially egregious, Ms. Ryder’s lawyer Matthew Miller-Novak explains, because “what’s more important than a member of the public being able to state grievances about their government’s performance?” The school board’s policy amounted to “facially unconstitutional” and “vague, content-based” restrictions on speech that also had a chilling effect, Ms. Ryder said in her complaint.
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I hope Crowl personally had to pay the settlement for his violation, but somehow I suspect he successfully wished it off on the taxpayers. Anyone ever heard of “personal responsibility”?