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Eyes on Broward County Public Schools: Unreasonable restrictions on First Amendment rights

There is nothing without the First - the First Amendment that is.

Calling on all Broward County Public School teachers to sign-up for the October 2016 school board meeting. It is time to challenge the unreasonable restrictions on speech at the Broward County Public School Board meetings.

School boards across the country, however, are taking advantage that teachers are unaware of their First Amendment rights, and thus trample all over them - both the First Amendment and the teachers alike.

But, what happens when one of those teachers happens to be an attorney?

Miami-Dade County Public Schools: Unreasonably Prohibits the Use of Names

The Miami-Dade County Public School Board, the county adjacent to Broward County, is under scrutiny for prohibiting taxpayers and teachers' from mentioning names, such as the names of publicly elected officials during school board speeches.

This policy is highly questionable - and many believe - a blatant violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Simply put, public speakers in a public forum should - without question - have the right to call out public officials. What perhaps makes the Miami-Dade County Public School Board's suppression of speech more egregiously outrageous is the fact that they do allow names to be spoken when the very same publicly elected officials are praised.

In July, National Public Radio education writer, Rowan Moore Gerety, brought media attention to the double standards applied by the Miami-Dade County Public School Board.

Broward County Public Schools: Unreasonable Public Segment Time & Discriminatory Limitation of the Number of Speakers Allowed to Speak

This month, it was time to address the inequities as they relate to the First Amendment in Broward County Public Schools.

The issues in Broward are that the Board has:

(1) scheduled the school board meetings to take place during the workday, at noon to be exact, when the great majority of taxpayers, especially the stakeholders of education, which includes teachers, parents and students, are working and unable to attend.

If speakers attempt to go after the close of business, they may show up to an empty board room, as the Board sometimes adjourns early in the day. Even if the meeting is in session, since Chairwoman, Dr. Osgood has ample discretion to deny public speakers the opportunity to speak after the designated 12 o'clock public segment, speakers complain that the discretion is usually exercised to exclude their speech.


(2) capped the number of speakers at ten (10).

This cap raises all sorts of red flags.

For example, what about the rights of the rest of the speakers - all the ones who follow speaker number 10? Why are their rights being diminished? In other words, what makes the rights of the first ten speakers any greater than the eleventh, twelfth, and so forth speakers?

This also raises questions such as: What if the Board "fills" or manipulates the speaker list to prevent speakers who they know will be critical of the Board from even having a chance to get on the list? After all, when you call to sign-up, the caller is not privy as to whether the list is already full. This is why this practice is unsound - period.

Will Teachers, Parents and Students - and any taxpayer - Demand their Rights?

I often hear, "People get the government they deserve."

At this juncture, teachers, parents and students - and interested taxpayers - in Broward County must start signing up to speak at the October 2016 school board meeting at or after 5 PM.

This is the time to challenge the rules, and in order to do that you must not only attempt to sign-up, but you have to show the Board that you really do have something to say.

Will you be there?

See you at the October 2016 Broward County School Board Meeting.

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