Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Thanks to Shawnee Mission Post/Jay Senter's reporting, ACLU spanks SM School Board's Three Monkeys policy as violation of 1st Amendment.

Today, Doug Bonney, Chief Counsel and Legal Director of the ACLU of Kansas challenged Sara Goodburn, President of the Shawnee Mission School District for violating the First Amendment in suppressing parents from speaking at a fake Open Forum meeting earlier this month.
Speak no evil.  Ignore public input.  Disallow First Amendment.  And make the public GUESS what you think, so you can get re-elected without ever revealing how you voted in those executive sessions.  The SMSD school board puts 98% of all votes on their consent agenda.  So how would you know for whom to vote???
Last month, the SM School District secretly (like 98% of everything they do) passed new rules requiring patrons to:
a. WRITE the Superintendent, first about any issue BEFORE attending a school board meeting
b.  Not mention names of district employees
c.  The "Onesie Rule": Not speak in support of any issue that anyone else mentioned earlier in the
      in-name-only Open Forum
d.  Wait patiently by their mailbox !!!--for a reply that might or might NOT come,
     weeks after said Open Forum.  Seriously.  Might come when you win the Readers Digest

The All-for-One True Blue Blood Oath
The school board also seemingly took a blood oath and foresook their integrity, revising their Code of Ethics, (LOL) never to disagree in public with any board position.  Especially if they disagreed.

Having watched the Trump administration try this tactic, sending generals out to back up crazy actions, it makes me wonder, how's that working for ya?

Our SMSD Three Monkeys!  New school board president Sara Goodburn--the paper waving scolder of parents making comments--plus former prez Deb Zila, cozied up to departing Superintendent Jim Hinson.   Photo by Shawnee Mission Post.com 

Huge praise goes to Jay Senter, publisher of an unrelated blog, Shawnee Mission Post, which has dogged this story ever since they revealed the conflict of interest story when Deb Zila, the school board member who was prez when she hired her 'school crush', Jim Hinson, as Superintendent.  And then Mommy Deb snuck through on a consent agenda the CBIZ contract for insurance benefits admin.  Her daughter Mallory, former Nordstrom customer service gal, administers the benefits plan for our school district!  And Mom Deb didn't think she needed to pull that off consent agenda--and ABSTAIN!

Well, now Hinson has suddenly resigned--before we figger out how to get the Ks. Legislature to fund us so schools re-open in August.

Cheers to the ACLU of Kansas for writing Sara Goodburn and 'splaining the First Amendment to her.  (She might have missed that chapter in history class.)  Clearly, the SM School Board has spent too much time emulating the KCMO City Council!  Suppressing speech, voter turnout, public information, etc.

Sara Goodburn scolded a parent for asking about Deb Zila's failure to abstain, and her conflict of interest on the CBIZ contract.  A totally valid point.  And, even with the new gag order, Zila is NOT an employee of the district, so the Open Forum rule didn't even apply to her.  (Goodburn admitted that later.)

One clever parent threaded the needle at the last meeting asking pointedly, without naming any names:
1.  "Will the contract for the NEXT SMSD superintendent have a moral turpitude clause?"

2.  "Is anyone on this board currently having an inappropriate relationship with any district employee?"

The board and the audience gasped audibly.  Stunned silence.  Absolutely NO response!  The dead elephant in the middle of the room cinched up his necktie, and stared at his shoes during the awkward silence, till Sara Goodburn asked for another patron to approach the mike.

Question: Do we think the district, or the superintendent, before he leaves this month, will respond in writing????  Or maybe on his way out the door, he will start tweeting...

Here are excerpts from Doug Bonney's great ACLU letter:
“…I write to emphasize that people have a well-established First Amendment right to criticize both elected officials and other public servants,” Bonney wrote. “The Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment reflects ‘a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.’ New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 271 (1964). ‘Criticism of their official conduct does not lose its constitutional protection merely because it is effective criticism and hence diminishes their official reputations.’ Id. at 273.”
Bonney went on to suggest that the policy, as currently written, would prohibit both public criticism of the district’s superintendent, who is vested with great authority over decisions about the district’s position on matters of public policy, as well as praise of current teachers or building principals:
“By prohibiting commenters from discussing ‘matters related to a specific student or employee,’ the Board’s current guidelines are overbroad and inconsistent with the First Amendment. Specifically, the guidelines prohibit citizens from making public comments — whether good or bad — about the stewardship of school employees who have key responsibilities for carrying out the public functions of the school district. For example, the guidelines would prohibit a parent from criticizing Superintendent Hinson by name for his public statements about the on-going legislative and public debate over school funding in Kansas. Similarly, the guidelines would prohibit a parent from extolling the selfless dedication of a particular teacher or principal in the district who has made extraordinary efforts to help immigrant students. Because such comments fall squarely within the people’s First Amendment right to comment on stewardship of public officials, the Board’s current guidelines for the Open Forum agenda item are unconstitutional.”

Read Doug Bonney's ACLU letter to SMSD in full, here.
See related post about SMSD in RH column.

also, read www.kcmopost.com for other news that will make you so glad you live in Kansas.

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