In Education

Community Member Removed By Police For Trying To Speak Out Against School Board’s Speech Policy

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  • Simon Campbell, a free speech activist, was removed from a Souderton School Board meeting after trying to speak out against the board’s speech policy, Campbell told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • Prior to the meeting, the school board solicitor told community members that if they are to make “inaccurate statements” during public comment, the board always has the ability to take legal action for “libel or slander.”
  • “You’ve got a law degree saying things like the board might consider libel or slander. For most ordinary people, that’s intimidating,” Campbell told the DCNF.

Police removed a community member who tried to utilize the public comment period of a Pennsylvania school board meeting to discuss its speech policy, a free speech activist told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

At a Nov. 17 meeting, the Souderton School Board solicitor advised community members that it is a “privilege” to speak to the board and if “inaccurate statements” are presented during public comment, the board always has the ability to take legal action for comments. considered “libel or slander.” Despite presenting the board with an opportunity to discuss his concerns, Simon Campbell told the DCNF he was removed from the Dec. 15 Souderton School Board meeting after he was called on and attempted to give public comment regarding the board’s speech policy and comments made by the solicitor.

“You’ve got a law degree saying things like the board might consider libel or slander,” Campbell told the DCNF. “For most ordinary people, that’s intimidating. And bearing in mind, I looked at their 903 public comment policy, he’s doing it on the back of a flagrantly unconstitutional speech policy that’s already been shredded in federal court. I wrote to them. Now, the policy says you have to be a resident or taxpayer of the district. I’m not a resident, I live in Pennsbury, but I made the argument in an email, I qualify as a taxpayer by the district because the district may get federal and state funding, and I’m a federal state taxpayer. I basically sent them an email saying if you disagree, have your lawyers write to me. They never did.”

The comments by the solicitor came after a mother within the district spoke at a Souderton School Board meeting in November about how her child had begun to transition genders at school without her knowledge and consent.

“While those investigations are ongoing and the district continues following up on all leads, the leads it has received so far have not substantiated the allegations that any teacher attempted to convince any student to claim a different gender,” the solicitor stated at the November meeting following the comments made by the parent.

Campbell told the DCNF he also planned to address the board’s 903 public comment policy, which he had challenged in court last November because it allowed the school board to stop speakers whose public comments “irrelevant” and “inappropriate.” Pennsbury School Board settled with Campbell and three others who sued over the public comment policy which was drafted by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

“Schools continue to use the illegal policy from the Pennsylvania School Board Association because until they are sued for implementing it they can continue to scare public commenters and chill speech such that was seen in the Souderton board meeting,” Tim Daly, a plaintiff who settled with Pennsbury School Board over the 903 public comment policy, told the DCNF. “The average citizen believes that the policy is lawful when it is not by any means. Its continued implementation impedes the ability to freely share opinions without fear of retribution.”

The 903 public comment policy which was ruled to be a Free Speech violation in 2021 continues to be used by school districts in the state, including by the Souderton School Board, which Campbell was planning on asking the board to amend, he told the DCNF.

“I wanted them to amend board policy 903, because it is legally unconstitutional,” Campbell told the DCNF. “I was informing them upfront, I was gonna petition and advocate under the First Amendment, and they obviously knew I was going to show up and criticize them for what they’re doing.”

Campbell told the DCNF that he was not given a reason for his removal and is now considering legal action against the board.

“I filed a right to know request to get more details of exactly what happened. I will consider legal options because those two guys escorted me out, they wouldn’t let me [back] in the room. There’s no evidence that I’ve committed any crime, any wrongdoing of any kind and my constitutional rights were violated.”

Souderton School Board and Souderton School District did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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