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An Indiana school district is under fire for writing a policy that parents and the ACLU say is a violation of their First Amendment rights and an attempt to shield the board from legitimate criticism. The North West Hendricks School Corporation’s “Parent Code of Conduct ” says parents shall not “use Facebook or any other Social Network to make rude/offensive comments towards individual staff members or the school in general.” It goes on to outlaw the use of “Facebook or any other Social Network to campaign against or fuel outrage against individual staff members, the school, or policies implemented by the school or district.” If a parent is in violation of these rules they can be banned from school property and events, according to the policy.
This school board seems to have forgotten that public schools and their boards are government agencies and they are prohibited by the Constitution of the United States from establishing any rule that infringes on the public’s right to free speech. Yet, trying to curtail the public’s ability to embarrass public officials is a common tactic by thin-skinned public boards with royalty complexes. I wrote a book detailing the Orland Park Public Library board in Illinois attempting to do the exact same thing to the public who wanted to criticize their computer policies that allowed men to access graphic adult material in front of children. They were sued and lost a big chunk of money for violating several state laws, including curtailing free speech.