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Oregon Mom Sues School after alleged Free Speech Violation during Board Meetings

Oregon Mom Sues School after alleged Free Speech Violation during Board Meetings

Gladstone, OR: Gladstone mother Glenda Scherer claims that when administrators in her children’s school system decided they didn’t like her comments, they crossed a line.

Some Oregon districts have also seen violent outbursts over sexual orientation, gender identity, and race. Not all members of the school board feel secure speaking out; some have reported being harassed or threatened, while others have warned that the heated debates make the school a dangerous place for students.

Nonetheless, members of the public are able to voice their opinions throughout most legislative sessions, educating the board on matters they might not have been previously aware of. Although other regulations and procedures typically address public comment, depending on the board, there is a rationale to the enshrinement of public meetings in Oregon law.

“I got a letter in the mail, basically saying that I had to ask the superintendent’s permission to come to school board meetings,” according to her.

It all began in 2020, when the spread of COVID-19 forced Oregon schools to go remote. According to Scherer, she began criticizing the Gladstone School District on its Facebook page.

“My main criticism of the district was that they weren’t following the guidance from Oregon Department of Education regarding the comprehensive distance learning that was in place,” according to her.

The administrator of the school district’s Facebook page began deleting her messages, according to Scherer. In a separate message, the district informed her that her social media posts “weren’t helping” and assured her that everyone was working hard to ensure the success of distant learning. The administrator threatened to remove Scherer from the page unless she could prove otherwise.

According to Scherer, she was informed that in order to voice her opinions during school board meetings, she would have to seek prior consent from the district. In 2021, before he was chair of the school board, Greg Lind wrote to Scherer, “Please stick to your submitted comments.”

Scherer claimed that Superintendent Bob Stewart barred her from district grounds because she persisted in voicing her concerns about the district and naming particular district workers.

These policies are now the subject of a lawsuit filed by Scherer against the district. Dean McGee of the Liberty Justice Center, who represents her, has characterized the situation as one of “prior restraint”—a breach of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free expression.

Federal prior restraint is subject to stringent limitations outlined in the United States Constitution. Time limits are the most prevalent kind of public comment restriction, yet there is a high threshold for speech policing.

Neither the lawsuit nor KGW’s written queries were answered by the Gladstone School District. They did, however, offer Scherer copies of emails that corroborate instructions to pre-submit remarks and a subsequent suspension from meetings.

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