Benjamin Wish of Todd & Weld LLP and the ACLU of Massachusetts have filed a lawsuit in Middlesex Superior Court against the Natick School Committee on behalf of two mothers of former Natick Public School students. The suit seeks to protect the free speech rights of the plaintiffs and others.
The mothers, Corey Spaulding and Karin Sutter, seek a court order that the School Committee may not silence members of the public who engage in protected speech based on the content of that speech, particularly at the very time and place the School Committee designated for free speech.
The School Committee at public meetings earlier this year shut down Ms. Spaulding’s and Ms. Sutter’s attempts to express their deep-seated concerns about the operation of the Natick Public Schools, which they sought to express during the School Committee’s designated period for “any individual to voice an opinion or concern on any school-related issue that is not on the [School Committee] agenda,” called Public Speak. The School Committee did so in reliance upon an unconstitutionally overbroad policy that seeks to allow the School Committee to regulate speech on the basis of the content of that speech, and for practically any reason at all. The School Committee has claimed it can silence speech, for example, because it finds the speech “improper,” not “appropriate,” or “sensitive.”
“The School Committee’s policy on speech is just a collection of vague excuses for silencing unwanted voices. It is difficult to conceive of a policy that more directly violates the free speech rights of members of the public,” said Mr. Wish, who represents Ms. Spaulding and Ms. Sutter as cooperating counsel with the ACLU of Massachusetts.
“In our free society, government officials may not silence speech in a public forum based on their disapproval of the content or views being expressed. Yet this is exactly what the Natick School Committee is doing,” said Ruth Bourquin, Senior Attorney for the ACLU of Massachusetts.
The plaintiffs are seeking a speedy hearing from the court on their request for a preliminary order to prevent the School Committee from continuing to enforce its unconstitutional speech policy.
Mr. Wish concentrates his practice on complex commercial litigation, shareholder and real estate disputes, and white collar criminal defense. He represents clients pro bono in defending their free speech rights.