The ACLU of Massachusetts and the Natick School Committee agreed to settle a lawsuit challenging on free speech grounds the Committee's Public Speak portion of its meetings.
The lawsuit was filed last year by the ACLU of Massachusetts and Todd & Weld on behalf of two mothers of former Natick Public School students. In November 2018, the Middlesex Superior Court ruled that the Committee's former policy violated constitutional free speech protections and that it had been applied to illegally suppress the rights of the two mothers to express views critical of the Natick Schools.
Under the new Public Speak policy adopted by the Committee, the Committee Chair will not be allowed to interrupt speakers except when they exceed their time, engage in speech not protected by the Constitution, or seek to talk about issues outside the School Committee’s jurisdiction.
Under the settlement agreement, the Natick Schools will also host a public education session on the values of free speech and the lessons to be learned from the lawsuit. An email will be sent to the Natick School Community announcing the forum, and apologizing to the two mothers, Corey Spaulding and Karin Sutter, and anyone else who was harmed by the application of the former policy.
Benjamin Wish, lead counsel in the case, remarked, "Hopefully, the adoption of the new policy will remind communities throughout the Commonwealth that our constitution does not permit the government, including local governments, to silence criticism simply because it may be unpleasant.”
Mr. Wish concentrates his practice on complex commercial litigation, shareholder and real estate disputes, and white collar criminal defense. Mr. Wish also represents clients on a pro bono basis in the defense of their First Amendment rights.