Dougco Board Member Justin Williams Intimidating Parents who question Dougco

Oct 8th, 2012 | By | Category: Articles, Education, Featured, Schools

As published by Taxpayers for Education:

Open Letter to Justin Williams in Reply to EdNews Letter, 10/05/2112

In your EdNews letter, you announce that the Douglas County School District is “investigating the matter” of “outsiders” and “political groups” who are supposedly “abusing public communication resources” and breaching “campaign laws.” It is clear from your letter that any such investigation is intended solely to intimidate and attempt to silence parents and citizens who question the actions and positions of the Douglas County School District and its leaders. These parents and citizens, motivated by concern for our public schools and showing great courage in the face of strident opposition by the DCSD, are exercising their First Amendment rights to address government officials and employees and to speak on questions on public concern; any attempt to hinder their speech or to intimidate them through the mechanism of an “investigation” will run afoul of the First Amendment. The Board’s investigation of Douglas County citizens is apparently based on a CORA request submitted by Parent Led Reform (“PLR”), a pro-board group. But contrary to statements in your letter, the PLR CORA request did not seek emails sent by “political groups.” That request mentioned only one group, the Strong Schools Coalition; far from being “political,” however, this group is dedicated to increasing transparency, accountability and communication within Douglas County School District. Indeed, the PLR request overwhelmingly targeted not groups, but individual persons. And those persons are not “outsiders,” as you incorrectly label them. To the contrary, they are “insiders” who are a vital part of life in our school district and our county: they are caring parents of DCSD schoolchildren, active volunteers in DCSD schools, and concerned citizens of our county. The individuals named in that request have one thing in common: they have demanded that the Board and the District act responsibly and accountably; they have dared to question the actions of the School Board; and some, but not all, have publicly voiced criticism of the Board. And this is what the Board is apparently investigating: speech by parents and citizens that questions the actions and policies of their governmental representatives. As you should know, this sort of speech — speech by citizens directed to government officials and employees regarding matters of public concern — lies at the very core of the speech that our Founding Fathers sought to protect through the First Amendment. The Board’s “investigation” into this sort of speech constitutes a poorly disguised attempt to squelch this protected speech and to intimidate those who would engage in it. And this attempt by the Board to chill our parents’ and citizens’ exercise of this constitutional right comprises as grave a violation of these citizens’ constitutional rights as if the Board tried to expressly prohibit such speech. You also suggest that the Board will investigate what you call “political groups.” But what, exactly, makes a group “political,” as you use that term? Is taking a stand for or against the actions of the DCSD or its Board “political”? Is demanding that the Board and District act responsibly and accountably “political”? Is Taxpayers for Public Education a “political” group for that reason? Is the Strong School Coalition “political” for the same reason? If so, then Parent Led Reform and Great Choice Douglas County are also “political” groups, and must be treated (and investigated) on the same basis as other groups. You cannot label groups who challenge the Board as “political” but label those who support the Board as “non-political.” Moreover, you seem to sneer at “political” groups and to imply that they have less right to speak on school-related issues than non-political groups. But let us remind you once again that “political” speech — that is, speech addressed to government officials and employees (like the DCSD staff and Board) on matters of public concern (like the administration of our public schools and the expenditure of our public school monies) — receives the highest level of protection under the First Amendment. Next, you argue that the DCSD investigation is warranted because you and your supporters suspect that the targeted parents, citizens and groups are somehow breaking laws or “abusing public communication resources.” But you conveniently neglect to identify exactly what laws are supposedly being broken and what policies are being abused. If you are serious about these allegations, please specifically identify which laws and school district policies are at issue here, and explain how these citizens’ and groups’ actions purportedly breach those laws and policies. Finally, your letter overflows with shrill allegations of bullying, abusive tactics and slander — but you provide not a shred of hard evidence in support of these allegations. And you provide no supporting evidence because you apparently have none. If you have support, then produce it publicly, so that all parents and citizens can evaluate for themselves whether there is any basis for your extreme claims. And if you produce no evidence to support your allegations — then your unfounded accusations look very much like bullying themselves. We look forward to your detailed reply to each of these points. Taxpayers for Public Education

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