The Pennsbury School District was called out after speakers were shouted down and had their words edited out of recordings of school board meetings.
A solicitor for the Pennsbury School Board yelled “You’re done!” while critics were speaking.
Simon Campbell and Doug Marshall were two of the community members that had their comments cut short and one had comments removed from the video of the meeting.
The comments taken out were from Dough Marshall – Marshall said “We’re creating a group of children who are essentially handicapped.”
The editing of information out of recordings of school board meetings brought the Pennsbury School District under fire recently.
Public comments relating to the board’s diversity and inclusion efforts, including the Educational Equity policy passed in May, were initially removed from the March and May meeting recordings.
Two community members whose comments were cut short in May — one of which also had his unabridged comments later taken out of the March meeting’s video — threatened lawsuits as they were asked to leave the microphone.
Here is a video of Simon Campbell calling out the school board.
The school board has now had to pay out a large settlement.
The settlement states that they must pay $300,000 for the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and $17.91 to each plaintiff. The $17.91 is symbolic because 1791 was the year the First Amendment was ratified.
Last May, a solicitor for the Pennsbury School Board shouted down and censored critics of a new district policy during public comment time at a board meeting, screaming “you’re done!” Several of the targets of his wrath said, “see you in court.” After almost a year of litigation, the board agreed last night to settle the lawsuit and pay $300,000 in attorney’s fees and nominal damages.
In addition, the district has rewritten its public-comment policy to conform to the First Amendment and the federal court’s preliminary injunction ruling. It also abolished its so-called civility policy and parted ways with the law firm that was advising it during the time it censored comments, including the solicitor who shouted down speakers.
The lawsuit was filed last October by Bucks County residents Douglas Marshall, Simon Campbell, Robert Abrams, and Tim Daly. They were represented by attorneys from the Institute for Free Speech and Michael Gottlieb of Vangrossi & Recchuiti.
“School boards across the country should take note. Rules for public comments must respect the First Amendment rights of speakers. If you are limiting which opinions may be shared, you’ll be held liable for violating First Amendment rights,” said Alan Gura, Vice President for Litigation at the Institute for Free Speech.
The plaintiffs in the case were censored for attempting to criticize district policies, including efforts to promote contested ideas about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Marshall was once interrupted mere seconds into speaking because the solicitor objected to his use of the term “critical race theory” to describe the district’s initiatives. Critics of the board were cut off for addressing their comments to board members, while other speakers were permitted to directly praise board members and school employees.
“Rules for public comment periods are meant to maintain time limits and protect each speaker’s right to be heard, not police which viewpoints are expressed. Pennsbury’s rules were so vague and subjective that the board could effectively shut down any speech they didn’t like, and that’s exactly what they did,” said Del Kolde, Senior Attorney at the Institute for Free Speech.
Woke school boards lose again.