A Maine school board was forced to pay $40,000 for violating the First Amendment rights of a father in the district it banned from attending school functions.
This is the latest ruling against School Board RSU 22, reported by Fox News, after the father, Shawn McBreairty, won an injunctive relief against the school district following a lawsuit filed on July 8. That ruling allowed the father to attend school functions again.
In the suit, McBreairty claimed he was banned by the district after speaking up at school board meetings about “sexually graphic material” in the school’s library.
In its defense, the district claimed it banned McBreairty over “blatant and repeated failure” to comply with the board’s “reasonable policies regarding meeting attendance.” It also described an audio recording he had played at a meeting as containing “obscene language.”
However, US District Court Judge Nancy Torresen ruled that the school board banned him simply because they did not agree with his opinions.
“Here, it is hard to shake the sense that the School Board is restricting the speech because the Board disagrees with both Mr. McBreairty’s opinions and the unpleasantness that accompanies them,” Torresen wrote. “Moreover, McBreairty’s reference to ‘hardcore anal sex’ in a book in the school library wasn’t obscene under the law because it had not appealed to any prurient interest and was ‘offered to make a political or philosophical point’.”
After the latest judgement against the district, McBreairty said he hopes board members will change their ways.
“I filed this lawsuit because I believe that we do not have a Constitutional Republic without the First Amendment,” McBreairty stated. “I hope that Chair Heath Miller and RSU22 learned their lesson and they will treat everyone with the respect and dignity that we deserve from now on when it comes to our Constitutional rights.”
Responding to the outcome of the settlement, RSU 22 issued a statement defending itself as having “acted appropriately in enforcing these policies.”
However, lead attorney for McBreairty, Marc J. Randazza, described the board’s actions as unreasonable.
“[E]ven after being sued, they would not be reasonable,” Randazza stated in a press release, “but the federal court compelled them to be and the federal judge saw their actions for what they were – unconstitutional.”