School board warned it is required to recognize 1st Amendment

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty has written to a school board in the state, calling for an apology for an incident in which board members ignored the requirements of the First Amendment and appeared to order a member of the public to hold opinions that align with those of the school board members.

In a letter to the West Allis-West Milwaukee School Board, the organization warned “a school board may not silence speakers who express viewpoints that the board does not want to hear.”

That happened when board member Noah Leigh did exactly that, committing “an egregious violation of the First Amendment.”

WILL reported the incident developed when Steve Broadwell, a retiree in the district, was voicing his concerns about a suggested LGBTQ curriculum.

Leigh “prevented Mr. Broadwell from speaking and accused him of ‘hate speech,'” the letter said.

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But Broadwell was only expressing his opinion, which included that school promotions of the “LGBTQ ideology” amount to “an effort to normalize the transgender social contagion that legitimate experts agree is most often an undiagnosed psychological problem.”

Leigh claimed that amounted to “hate speech,” justifying his comments with his own opinion that, “It’s considered hate speech.”

Shortly after, Leigh again stopped Broadwell’s address, claiming that calling LGBTQ activism a “fad” was “equally bad.”

Shortly after, Leigh shut him down entirely, simply because his opinion differed from those of Leigh, the report said.

The WILL letter to the school said, “It is no surprise that the topic of gender ideology, especially when that ideology is taught to minor students, is a subject of intense public disagreement. Community members should be able to share their viewpoints on the issue without being censored and silenced by their local school board. The First Amendment protects opinions, even those opinions that you may oppose such as the claim that transgenderism is a ‘social contagion” – an opinion, which, by the way, is the subject of scientific investigation.”

The legal team noted that the board’s own policy said it “recognizes the value of public comment … and the importance of allowing members of the public to express themselves.”

But, it said, that’s exactly what Leigh prevented. And that amounted to an “impermissible viewpoint discrimination” in violation of the First Amendment.

The letter called for an apology to Broadwell.

“The board should never again unlawfully censor public comments in this way,” the lawyers wrote.

WILL Deputy Counsel, Dan Lennington, stated, “The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech – period. WILL is speaking out and advising all school boards to embrace and protect the First Amendment, rather than shutting down speech it finds uncomfortable.”

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