A Georgia school district was made to pay over $100,000 in legal fees after silencing a concerned mother and banning her from speaking at school board meetings.
A group of moms, called the Mama Bears, filed a federal lawsuit claiming the Forsyth County School District (FSC) violated their First Amendment rights. The group was represented by attorneys from the Institute of Free Speech.
After a federal judge ruled in favor of the Mama Bears, FSC was ordered to pay the group’s attorneys $107,500. Additionally, the school district was required to pay the plaintiffs $17.91, per a Fox News report.
Last year during a school board meeting, Mama Bears member Allison Hair read an excerpt from a book that she discovered was available in her son’s middle school library.
The book, entitled “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is about a young boy whose father was tragically killed on 9/11. At the school board meeting last February, during the public comment portion, Hair read from the book, “I know that you give someone a blow job by putting your penis…”
She was immediately silenced by a school board member and told she could not read from the book during the meeting, even though the book was promoted to middle schoolers by the district.
A month later, Hair tried to read the same excerpt from the book at another school board meeting. As a result of her actions, the school district sent her a letter banning her from future school board meetings, saying she was in violation of the district’s public participation policy.
“Fee shifting is an important feature of our civil rights laws; and successful plaintiffs who are able to show that government officials censored them are entitled to having their attorneys’ fees paid by the wrongdoers, just like for any other form of illegal discrimination. We hope that school-board members and their lawyers take note,” Institute for Free Speech senior counsel Del Kolde told Fox in an interview.
In November, the federal judge ruled FSC’s public participation policy unconstitutional, banned them from enforcing it and forced the school district to allow Hair to speak at school board meetings.
Fox reports the legal fees are being covered by the district’s insurance company.