An Oklahoma judge has ruled that a father who challenged his child’s school board over pornographic material in the library cannot be barred from the school for his speech.
The initial ruling in the father’s favor from U.S. District Judge John F. Heil came on Nov. 1 as a temporary restraining order against the school. On Monday, the judge converted it to a longer-lasting preliminary injunction, citing the father’s First Amendment rights.
“While it is true that injunctive relief is an extraordinary relief, this Court finds that the First Amendment is an extraordinary right, deserving of extraordinary relief,” Heil wrote in his latest order.
Father-of-two Timothy Reiland challenged a book at the Oct. 10 Owasso School District board meeting in hopes the board would take action against inappropriate material in its schools, according to a Fox News report.
Displeased with the board’s approach, Reiland questioned board member Brent England further in the parking lot after the meeting, but not before telling a Tulsa World reporter the board’s actions were “f—ing bulls–t.”
After the incident, district Superintendent Margaret Coates sent Reiland a letter banning him from school property and claiming he “committed one or more acts” that disrupted the “peaceful conduct of activities on District property.”
Reiland sued, arguing the school violated his First Amendment rights.
The school argued Reiland’s exchange with the reporter and his conversation with England were not “constitutionally protected speech.”
In contrast, Heil wrote in his first order, “It is well established that the right to criticize public officials and the right to ‘petition the Government for a redress of grievances’ are protected activities under the First Amendment. The Plaintiff’s criticism of the Board’s decision as ‘f—ing b——t,’ while vulgar and arguably unnecessary, is protected speech.”
In his latest order, Heil found the district’s ban “an effort to suppress” Reiland’s speech.
“The Court finds that the restriction is not reasonable, but rather is an effort to suppress Plaintiff’s expression merely because public officials oppose his view,” the judge wrote.
The book that sparked the controversy is Blankets by Craig Thompson, a novel featuring graphic depictions of sex, masturbation and sexual abuse.
In spite of its the district’s displeasure with Reiland, it nevertheless adopted a policy on Monday – the very day the preliminary injunction was ordered – requiring a review process for all graphic novels in the school.
Reiland was elated.
“Today was a great day. It was a great day for my children, for the children of the Owasso community, and for the nation,” he said in a statement to Fox News. “Not only was I able to get the school to give in, but I also showcased, in a federal court, that parents have First Amendment rights to lobby their school when the school argued that we have no such rights.
“Ultimately, this was a fight for human decency, societal standards, and our First Amendment rights as American citizens. I could not have asked for a bigger win. Tonight, our nation won.”