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UMLC demands Elk River School District allow parents to speak at Board meetings

On November 19, 2021, UMLC demanded that Elk River School District (ISD 728) reverse its unconstitutional bans of parents from Board meetings and censorship of their speech. A copy of the demand letter is located here. ISD 728 has until November 26 to reverse its unconstitutional actions.

ISD 728 banned UMLC clients Cassandra Bonine and Sarah Ronchak from speaking about assaults among minor students, and the District’s failure to properly address those matters. After parents spoke up in defiance of the Board’s unconstitutional First Amendment violations, the Board then doubled down on its anti-speech actions by trespassing Isabel Harju and Cassandra Bonine for speaking out of turn and for a “verbal altercation,” whatever that means.

The District claimed to Bonine and Ronchak that its Policy 206 prohibits speaking about issues which might invoke “data privacy concerns” or “potentially libelous or slanderous” statements. But this policy creates too much discretion for the District to stop speech just because the speech makes the Board uncomfortable. The District cannot use the possibility that a parent might say something that crosses a line as a reason to ban the speech in the first place.

The District’s trespass notices delivered to Harju and Bonine are clearly intended to stop them from attending and speaking at School Board meetings. There is no valid non-speech reason for these notices. Neither Harju nor Bonine committed any act which could possibly justify the District’s ham-fisted attempt to squelch their First Amendment rights, and they only visit the District Office to attend Board meetings or discuss matters of public concern with administration.

Courts have noted that School Boards cannot create an environment lacking in decorum and then blame parents for “interruptions” of their unconstitutional behavior. Unfortunately, ISD 728, like other districts UMLC is investigating, has created a hostile environment by ignoring legitimate parental concerns and then doubled down on its hostility by abusing its authority to trespass people from its property in certain circumstances.

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