In The News

News - 2019

July. 2019

Howard Cooper, Maria Davis file amicus brief in support of school officials and teachers in legal dispute over curriculum

Todd and Weld LLP lawyers Howard M. Cooper and Maria T. Davis filed an amicus brief in support of the City of Newton School Committee and other school officials and teachers who are pursuing the dismissal of a complaint that seeks to censor the Newton High School curriculum in the offered comparative religion and world history courses.

The case, Dechter, et al. v. Newton School Committee, et al., (Civil Action No. 19-10736-DJC), is pending in the United States District Court in Boston.  Mr. Cooper and Ms. Davis filed the amicus brief on behalf of a number of organizations: Newton Teachers Association; Newton Interfaith Clergy Association; Families Organizing for Racial Justice; Massachusetts Teachers Association; American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts; and the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

The complaint alleges that the Newton High School curriculum contains material that promotes Islam and is anti-Semitic because it is anti-Israel.  In the amicus brief, Mr. Cooper and Ms. Davis argue on behalf of the amici that the complaint filed by residents of Newton should be dismissed because it seeks to improperly censor legitimate and protected speech by imposing the plaintiffs' viewpoints on others.

Mr. Cooper and Ms. Davis argue that the complaint fails to state any legitimate claim for relief under either the Establishment Clause or Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.  The motion makes clear that the curriculum is entirely lawful and that the plaintiffs’ claims, if successful, would represent a true danger to public education in a pluralistic society.

According to Mr. Cooper, “This lawsuit is a dangerous attempt to chill education and chill speech. The First Amendment protects public education about the widest range of ideas.  There is no room for a select group of individuals to insist that their viewpoint be imposed upon students.” 

Ms. Davis added, “It is truly antithetical to our values that teachers have been sued simply for teaching what is a lawful curriculum.”

The organizations filed the amicus brief in an attempt to preserve free speech and academic freedom, as well as combat unjustified censorship.