Lawyer: Parents can sue Mankato board for banning criticism of members

Prohibitions on "personally directed" comments aimed at individual school board members "plainly fit in the 'broad' scope of impermissible viewpoint discrimination," according to the Sixth Circuit Court. The Mankato School Board currently enforces such prohibitions.

Mankato School Board Chari Jodi Sapp (Mankato School Board

A lawyer whose work challenging anti-white policies in public schools has been featured on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” says parents “should sue” Mankato School Board members.

Alpha News unearthed a now-viral video earlier this week that shows Mankato School Board Chair Jodi Sapp forcing a man to dox himself in order to provide a comment during the open-forum portion of a recent meeting. She also announced prohibitions on explicit criticism of board members and school district employees. Now, David Pivtorak of the Pivtorak & O’Brien law firm says parents whose speech has been suppressed by these measures may be justified in taking legal action.

“This is a malicious violation of parents’ [First Amendment] rights. The prohibition on what the school board did is established in law: Ison v. Madison Local [School District Board of Education],” the attorney explained on Twitter. “Parents should sue board members individually & get punitive damages which board members can’t be indemnified for,” he continued, suggesting that school board members can be held personally liable and may not be protected by the district.

Ison v. Madison is a 2021 lawsuit that addressed a conflict between commenters and a school board in Ohio. In resolving this case, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government, including a school board, cannot prohibit speech solely on the grounds that it disparages or offends members of the government. As Pivtorak suggests, this may provide legal standing for parents to take action against the Mankato School Board’s ban on criticism of board members.

Restrictions on critical or antagonizing comments about a school board “by definition, prohibits speech opposing the Board,” the Sixth Circuit found. The court even added that prohibitions on “personally directed” comments aimed at individual board members “plainly fit in the ‘broad’ scope of impermissible viewpoint discrimination.”

“Open forum participants are prohibited from calling out or addressing any individual school board or school district staff member,” Board Chair Sapp said. “Open forum will [also] be limited to those individuals who wish to speak to an item on the board agenda,” she added. These measures apparently designed to limit what parents are allowed to say during their three-minute addresses to the board seem to present a similar “viewpoint discrimination” issue as the one seen in Ison v. Madison.

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