TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A federal judge has blocked, at least for now, an effort by Moms for Liberty to lift some restrictions on speaking at Brevard County Public School Board meetings. US District Judge Roy Dalton, Jr. has blocked the preliminary injunction.
The conservative nonprofit filed a lawsuit against Brevard County Schools in November 2021, accusing the board of limiting Brevard chapter members’ right to speak by interrupting or criticizing their First Amendment speeches at board meetings restricting rights.
“The Brevard School Board conducts its meetings as if the First Amendment does not exist,” the nonprofit alleged, arguing that Liberty for Mothers and other citizens who “criticize defendants’ policies regularly are harshly punished, criticized, or silenced when they do speak out in public.” Comment on the portion of school board meetings.
The board members named as defendants instead responded in court that “much to the dismay of Plaintiffs, the public comment portion of Brevard County Public School Board meetings are not open to the public,” and that “these meetings It is important to maintain decorum”.
While public participation is encouraged, the Brevard School Board stated that it “does not inhibit heated comments and participation or the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” and that no speech is absolutely prohibited at meetings. Instead, his policy is an effort to strike a “proper balance of allowing public input and maintaining decorum” at public meetings.
Moms for Liberty pushed back in court, saying that “the First Amendment does not exist to protect speech that government officials find offensive. Free speech and the right to petition come into play only when, as here, government officials try to silence ideas they dislike.”
However, in January, a federal judge rejected Moms for Liberty’s request for a preliminary injunction on the restrictions, saying the school board’s policy was not specifically targeting Moms for Liberty, but rather “material and the outlook was neutral”.
In his January ruling, Dalton wrote the policy “allows the chair of the (school board) to interrupt speech only when it is ‘too long, personally directed, abusive, obscene or irrelevant.’ …and prohibiting libelous and obscene remarks is not based on content or point of view, but is important to prevent disruption, maintain ‘proper decorum,’ and facilitate an orderly meeting – which the Eleventh Circuit (Court of Appeals) has held on several occasions Held on is permissible.
As the appeals process continued, Dalton ruled in favor of the defendants, partially blocking the preliminary injunction on the grounds that the Brevard County School Board’s policy “does not affect a substantial amount of constitutionally protected conduct because Offensive, irrelevant and disruptive speech” is still allowed in the Forum, and therefore it is “not overbroad.”
However, the appeals review judges did not rule on the entirety of Moms for Liberty’s lawsuit, instead writing that the denial of the preliminary injunction was affirmed, without ruling on the lawsuit as a whole.
The court wrote, “After a review of the briefs of the parties, and with the benefit of oral argument, we find no abuse of discretion.” “We therefore affirm the order of the district court,” which denied a preliminary injunction.
Meanwhile, the main case between the Brevard County chapter of Moms for Liberty and the Brevard County School Board, headed by Judge Dalton, is still ongoing.