Pamplin Media Group – Teacher prosecution: Newberg Pride, BLM ban violates freedom of expression

The teachers’ union lawsuit claims the board’s ban on political symbols violates state and federal laws.

In late August, the Newberg Education Association, the union that represents more than 280 teachers in the school district, announced that it would sue the Newberg School District and four members of its board of trustees if the board did not overturn its ban on Black Lives. Subject matter, pride flags and other so-called political symbols in schools.

The board implemented its ban last month and the NEA kept its promise.

The lawsuit, filed in Yamhill County Circuit Court by Portland law firm Bennett Hartman, argues that the school board’s actions are unconstitutional and are so vague and too general that they could impact abilities teachers to work in the district.

“Due to the original district directive and new policy, plaintiffs have been cooled in exercising their constitutionally protected free speech rights,” reads a complaint filed Nov. 3 by NEA lawyers. “They work with the constant fear that something they wear or have displayed in their classroom, such as a family poster or photo or reflective materials related to gender identity and race, to sustainability and the environment, medical issues (including but not limited to COVID-19 protocols), borders and migration, criminal justice, economic justice, privacy and freedoms, change climate or other sciences, the Holocaust, civil war, and voting and democracy can be seen as a violation of politics, subjecting them to additional scrutiny and discipline from the administrator of the building, the superintendent and ultimately the school board. ”

The lawsuit was filed by the NEA and four district teachers and counselors: Jennifer Schneider, Drew Gallagher, Katherine Villalobos and Sara Linnertz. The lawsuit targets the district and the four Conservative council members: President Dave Brown, Vice President Brian Shannon and Trustees Renee Powell and Trever Dehart.

Arriving on Thursday, Shannon said: “I will not comment on the pending litigation.” Attempts to contact Brown for comment were unsuccessful.

The prosecution requests that a jury trial seek an injunction, which would stop the application of the council’s direction. the lawsuit also seeks a declaratory judgment from the bench berating the council for their actions.

“The Complainants seek a statement that district policy prohibits members of the Complainants Association from” hanging, displaying, erecting or in any other manner displaying posters, signs, flags, banners, pictures or any other digital or physical image depicting the support of an opposition to a policy, quasi-political or controversial subject ”, violates the guarantees of the plaintiffs under section 1, section 20 of the Constitution of Oregon against the laws waves that confer unlimited discretion, because such discretion creates the potential for unequal application of the law, and therefore arbitrary or unequal treatment of individuals, ”the file said.

The lawsuit further argues that banning teachers from posting signs in their classrooms violates their rights to free speech and association guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. United.

“The defendants and their agents acted under the guise or authority of state law,” the trial continues. “They knew or should have known that their actions were illegal under the Oregon constitution and the federal constitution.”

The lawsuit further alleges that the school board violated teachers’ rights to due process and equal protection by adopting a directive that “is vague and too broad in scope, leaving association members without guidance as to prohibited speech and potentially a violation of district policy leading to potential discipline by the district and / or their authorization through the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission. ”

The number of groups berating the school board increases

The NEA lawsuit is just the latest affront to the board. In October, a half-dozen district bosses filed a complaint alleging that the board violated open meeting laws when it hired Canby’s attorney, Tyler Smith, in August.

Over the summer, Newberg City Council took the school board to task, saying its ban on political symbols in schools made the city a less pleasant place to live or visit.

In September, the American Civil Liberties Union threatened legal action if the school board did not reverse its ban on political symbols in schools.

In August, the Oregon Legislature’s Black, Indigenous and Colored Caucus condemned the board of directors for its efforts to remove the district from state membership law. to each student. The board has not reviewed the law in recent months.

In September, students from Tigard High School waved Black Lives Matter and Gay Pride flags from the stands during a football match against players from Newberg.

On several occasions, dozens and sometimes hundreds of pro-BLM and Pride activists have gathered at the River Street flag pole to counter the actions of the school board.

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About Michael S. Montanez

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