Behind the Poll

As school boards nationwide crack down on public comments about COVID-19, race and gender policies at their meetings, some speakers are taking to the courts and the political process to ensure that censorship carries a price.

Pennsylvania school districts are reeling from a preliminary injunction issued last month against a policy that prohibits speech the school board deems “offensive,” “intolerant,” “verbally abusive” or “irrelevant,” among other vague terms.

U.S. District Judge Gene Pratter also banned the Pennsbury School Board from requiring speakers to announce their address before giving remarks.

The Institute for Free Speech (IFS), which is representing community members, including a former school board member, who have been “repeatedly censored,” is now trying to hold district and board officials personally liable for First Amendment violations.

The government officials told Pratter in a reply brief this month that they have qualified immunity because the plaintiffs weren’t “exclud[ed]” from public meetings, meaning there was no “clearly established” right violated at the time.
-By Greg Piper