Moms for Liberty cry foul….

This week we are studying the Florida lawsuit brought by Moms for Liberty claiming that the school board stifled their free speech rights by how the board handled public comment.  Yesterday we told you about the court’s ruling on the facial constitutionality of the district’s policy. That was an easy win for the district. But today we focus on the tougher issue: how was the policy applied? 

The Moms accused the board chair of discriminatory enforcement of the policy, shutting down disfavored speakers and allowing more favored speakers to violate decorum standards.  An issue like that requires a dive into the facts. The court noted that its decision was based on “many hours” of video review. That review revealed only a few instances in which a Moms member was interrupted, and one in which a Mom was ejected from the meeting.  The interruptions by the chair were “brief and respectful” allowing the speakers to finish what they had to say. The chair also interrupted speakers with whom the chair agreed when they violated decorum standards.

The court noted that there may have been instances in which “the Chair strayed from evenhandedness,” but cited an earlier case for this common sense standard:

“An erroneous judgment call on the part of a presiding officer does not automatically give rise to liability for a constitutional tort,” and the 11th Circuit has cautioned against Monday-morning quarterbacking of calls made by a presiding officer “without the benefit of leisurely reflection.”

Board presidents should take comfort from that. 

So the court concluded that the policy was applied evenhandedly, at least within the margin for error.  That’s strike two on the case brought by the Moms. Tomorrow we’ll conclude our discussion by telling you about the “chilling effect” argument.

It’s Moms for Liberty v. Brevard Public Schools, decided by the 11th Circuit in an “unpublished” opinion on November 21, 2022.  The District Court opinion was decided on January 24, 2022 and can be found at 582 F.Supp.3d 1214. 


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Tomorrow: was there a “chilling effect”?