A school board wouldn’t let parents read from books with dirty or profane words at school board meetings, even though those books were found in the school system’s own libraries. In essence, it considered dirty words to be fine for kids but not for adults. So it was sued by Mama Bears of Forsyth County, represented by the Institute for Free Speech.
That lawsuit has now resulted in the court issuing a consent decree prohibiting the Forsyth County school board from silencing the parents who read from school library books. If the board wants to subject children to such books, it will have to be subject to them itself. The decree says,
“The Court permanently enjoins the District … from … prohibit[ing] … speakers … from reading or quoting verbatim from the text of any book or written works available in any FCS library or classroom, while addressing the school board during the public-comment period at school board meetings.”
The court had earlier temporarily banned the school board’s censorship of parents in a ruling in November, in a preliminary ruling. As Forsyth County News reported:
The court also ruled the board policy banning speakers from using “profane remarks” during meetings should not be enforced, stating that such language is protected by the First Amendment in the setting of a government meeting.
The Board of Education had just added the provision against profane remarks to its policy in September following heated debates surrounding media center books that many in Forsyth County felt were inappropriate for children.
During those debates, some community members often tried to read from sexually explicit passages found in school library books during public participation at board meetings. But board Chair Wes McCall always stopped the speakers, telling them they could not use profane language.
At the board’s March meeting, Hair continued to read from one passage despite McCall’s efforts to ask her to stop and follow board policy. She yelled over McCall’s voice, leading others in the crowd to yell their own comments at the board.
Here’s a passage from last Monday’s Consent Judgment in Mama Bears of Forsyth County v. McCall (N.D. Ga.):
As part of the Parties’ settlement of this matter, … the Court[s] enter the following order, which the Court finds appropriate and consistent with the Court’s prior order issuing a preliminary injunction[:] …
[a.] The Court permanently enjoins the District … from enforcing any current or future FCS public participation policy to prohibit … any … speakers entitled to speak at an FCS school board meeting … from reading or quoting verbatim from the text of any book or written works available in any FCS library or classroom, while addressing the school board during the public-comment period at school board meetings.
[b.] Plaintiffs are each awarded nominal damages in the amount of $17.91 [plus costs and fees to be calculated later] ….
The plaintiff was represented by Endel Rohe Kolde (of the Institute for Free Speech) and Erika Birg (of the law firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough).