Judge Dismisses Moms for Liberty Claims in Florida Board of Education Lawsuit

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A federal judge ruled against Brevard members mother of liberty In a chapter of their lawsuit against the Brevard Board of Education, Board Public Speaking Policy It had a cooling effect on them.

In an order Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Roy B. Dalton Jr. ruled in favor of the school board, saying the policy was applied in a neutral light, arguing it was unconstitutional and discriminatory. was dismissed.

The lawsuit was originally filed in federal court in Orlando in November 2021 by Moms for Liberty members Amy Niecy, Ashley Hall, Katie Delaney and Joseph Korewa. Kneessy is a former member of the Brevard County Board of Education, and Cholewa ran for a District 2 County Board seat in last year’s primary election, winning 12.74% of the vote.

Previous coverage:Federal Judge Rules Brevard School Board’s Speaker Policy Doesn’t Violate First Amendment to U.S. Constitution

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Members of the Conservative Parents Group, founded by two former Florida School Board members, including former Brevard County Board member Tina Descovich, announced the General Participation Policy, which was implemented during the fall semester of the 2021-2022 school year. requested an interim injunction against

This policy limits speaker speaking time from the usual 3 minutes to 1 minute and does not allow speakers to speak directly to individual school board members, depending on the number of individuals signed up to speak. I did.

Free Speech Association attorney Ryan Morrison, who represents Moms for Liberty, disagreed with Dalton’s decision.

“We are disappointed with the court’s decision and strongly disagree with it,” he said in an email to FLORIDA TODAY.

“The First Amendment protects the right of parents to criticize the public school system and elected school boards without censorship. We intend to appeal and ultimately win, just as we did.”

BPS spokesperson Russell Bruhn declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Kneessy, the Moms for Liberty chapter onboarding coordinator nationally and a local advisory board member, said she didn’t expect the judge to rule in their favor. But when they go to appeals court, she expects a favorable outcome.

“It has been a very long process, but it has been to our advantage that the process has unfolded in this way, as there have been multiple lawsuits across the country regarding this issue with parents and public comment policies. on the committee,” she said.

Photo of Brevard School Board member Katie Campbell at the workshop on April 12, 2022

“Every time, they rule in favor of parents and against their public comment policy.

In January 2022, Dalton rejected a request for a preliminary injunction from Moms for Liberty, writing, “On the surface, the policy is neutral in both content and perspective.”

Moms for Liberty appealed that decision, but the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Dalton’s decision.

Brevard Public Schools argued that the policy “had no chilling effect” on Moms for Liberty members and their speeches, a position the court agreed with in Monday’s ruling.

“(Moms for Liberty) alleges that the chairman has a habit of reading the Penal Code that punishes confusion before board meetings and uses a policy of obstructing and ejecting speakers to wither their speeches. “There is,” said Dalton, referring to former chairman Misty Belford.

“However, M4L members, including Hall, Delaney and Cholewa, continue to speak at meetings on a regular basis, indicating that the policy’s actual enforcement has not cooled the exercise of their voice.”

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Further, the court found that the policy was applied in a perspective-neutral manner.

The school board argued that the policy applies to all speakers and does not discriminate based on viewpoint.

According to Dalton, four times between January and October 2021, Belford has suspended Moms for Liberty members for violating policy. These instances occurred more than 100 times during this period the member spoke with him. During that time, they were uninterrupted as members and non-members voiced their objections to the Board and spoke out “within policy.”

Additionally, non-members were also suspended for violating the policy during this period. This included comments that were supportive and those that were said to be consistent with the views of the Board.

“The record shows that there is no real dispute that the policy is applied impartially and is therefore perspective-neutral,” Dalton said.

At its November 2022 meeting, the school board approved a policy suspension following the appointment of Gene Trent and Megan Wright (both Liberty-backed mother candidates) to the board. Board member Jennifer Jenkins pointed out that the policy could be scrapped entirely.

“As the only board member sitting here, I regularly voted against changing our public comment policy from the beginning, so I ask new board members to revert to the old public comment policy. I would like you to consider,” Jenkins said at the meeting.

Kneessy said it was important to continue the lawsuit until Moms for Liberty won, and while the majority of school boards today are made up of Moms for Liberty-backed members, the board has decided to: It added that it could change with elections. They initially tried to reconcile with the district, but in the end they were unable to reach an agreement, she said.

“We have gone too far and without a change in policy, a board change could put us back where we started this lawsuit. I have to. It’s a shame.”

Finch Walker is an education reporter for FLORIDA TODAY.Contact Walker 321-290-4744 again fwalker@floridatoday.com. twitter: @_finch walker.

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