The Forsyth County School District in Georgia has settled a federal lawsuit brought by a group of parents. The parents claimed their First Amendment rights were violated when they were banned from exposing sexually explicit material at school board meetings.
The Mama Bears, as the parents were known, won the case with the assistance of the Institute for Free Speech, which provided legal representation for them.
Sexually explicit sentences seen in children’s book
As part of the settlement, the district paid the Mama Bears $17.91 in nominal damages and their lawyers were awarded $107,500 in legal fees.
The court order also prohibits the district from preventing plaintiffs or any authorized speakers from reading or quoting directly from any book or written material accessible in an FCS classroom or library. That’s during the public-comment session of school board meetings.
The lawsuit arose when one of the Mama Bears, Laura Hair, was prevented from reading a sexually explicit passage from “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer during a school board meeting.
Hair had read an excerpt from “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer at a school board meeting, which included a sexually explicit sentence. The district claimed that Hair had violated its public participation policy at school board meetings.
School district forced to pay over 100K in legal fees after banning moms from exposing pornographic materials https://t.co/S3jnLChlVA #FoxNews Mama Bears settled federal lawsuit against Ga school dist after member barred from reading sexually explicit excerpts @school bd meetings
— Michele Schiesser (@MicheleSchiesse) February 23, 2023
The settlement highlights a growing trend across the United States of parents closely monitoring school boards and challenging progressive curricula, as well as questioning books they deem inappropriate.
School board meetings have become a battleground for heated debates over curricula and appropriate materials for students, fueled in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to senior attorney Del Kolde from the Institute for Free Speech, the settlement serves as a reminder to government officials that they can be held accountable for violating civil rights laws and censoring free speech.
Ruling to serve as a wake-up call to respect First Amendment Rights
Fee shifting is a significant aspect of civil rights laws and it is the right of victorious plaintiffs to have their lawyers’ fees paid by the wrongdoers. That’s if they can prove government officials censored them, similar to any other type of illegal discrimination.
The hope is that school board members and their lawyers will take note of this ruling.
The settlement comes at a time when parents are increasingly questioning the content taught in schools, with some pushing back against critical race theory and other forms of progressive education.
The Institute for Free Speech noted this ruling should serve as a wake-up call to school boards and other government officials that they need to respect individuals’ First Amendment rights and avoid censoring free speech.
The stunned look of one of the school board members you'll see at the end says it all. —-> Brad Taylor, a 15-year-old, who was a student of Rosemount High School in Rosemount, Minnesota, decided to leave the school over critical race theory. pic.twitter.com/T7MALmH68C
— Tommy Truth (@TommyTruth6) February 22, 2023
In response to the lawsuit, the Forsyth County School District Board voted on a new public participation policy that removed language requiring speakers to be respectful. It also eliminated the rule prohibiting speakers from addressing board members individually or being boisterous.This article appeared in Right Wing Insider and has been published here with permission.