Legal trouble grows for PA school board that shut down free speech

DON’T SPEAK: Students were not allowed to speak at public school board meeting in York.

By Maura Pennington | Watchdog.org

PHILADELPHIA —The School District of York City last month held a public meeting and restricted comment from students younger than 18. The solicitor for the school board told attendees it would hear no comments about New Hope Academy Charter School.

As a result, two people — a parent and teacher — filed a federal lawsuit on the basis of a First Amendment violation.

According to the York Dispatch, a settlement in that case is pending.

The drama doesn’t end there.

Another case was filed in the York County Court of Common Pleas, citing that the school board violated the Sunshine Act, which is meant to make government and public proceedings more transparent and open.

Finally, 60 parents and students from New Hope have filed an additional federal lawsuit.

The district decided not to renew the school’s charter in 2012, which a state appeals board upheld. The school must close at the end of this year.

Having been denied the opportunity to speak, students from New Hope made a video to express the importance of the charter school in their lives. The school targets at-risk students and, as many in the video attest, they have flourished in the New Hope community.

“No school is perfect, and if you can show us one, then, yeah, we’ll go there,” said Gabrielle Juarez, a tenth-grader.

Contact Maura Pennington at mpennington@watchdog.org and follow her on Twitter @whatsthefracas.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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