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Brevard County School Board Floats Lead Balloon. Still Thinks The Constitution Doesn’t Apply.

We heard from some folks inside of the Brevard County School District building concerning our post on Friday where we noted the School Board is denying people their Constitutional rights.

People in the building asked others about the post and how accurate we were. Not surprisingly, supervisors and others tried to float the idea that the Board had done nothing wrong. They even were citing a Florida Statute to back their opinion.

The statute they are citing is FS 286.0114 which reads in part:

286.0114 Public meetings; reasonable opportunity to be heard; attorney fees.—

(1) For purposes of this section, “board or commission” means a board or commission of any state agency or authority or of any agency or authority of a county, municipal corporation, or political subdivision.

(2) Members of the public shall be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard on a proposition before a board or commission. The opportunity to be heard need not occur at the same meeting at which the board or commission takes official action on the proposition if the opportunity occurs at a meeting that is during the decisionmaking process and is within reasonable proximity in time before the meeting at which the board or commission takes the official action. This section does not prohibit a board or commission from maintaining orderly conduct or proper decorum in a public meeting. The opportunity to be heard is subject to rules or policies adopted by the board or commission, as provided in subsection (4).

They are clinging to the phrase:

The opportunity to be heard is subject to rules or policies adopted by the board or commission…….

It almost seems as if the School Board believes they can set their own policies and procedures when it comes to public comments which would mean that the policies we covered on Friday would be legal.

The School District needs to read the entire sentence, not just the portion they think supports them.

The opportunity to be heard is subject to rules or policies adopted by the board or commission, as provided in subsection (4). (emphasis ours)

Subsection 4 reads:

(4) Rules or policies of a board or commission which govern the opportunity to be heard are limited to those that:
(a) Provide guidelines regarding the amount of time an individual has to address the board or commission;
(b) Prescribe procedures for allowing representatives of groups or factions on a proposition to address the board or commission, rather than all members of such groups or factions, at meetings in which a large number of individuals wish to be heard;
(c) Prescribe procedures or forms for an individual to use in order to inform the board or commission of a desire to be heard; to indicate his or her support, opposition, or neutrality on a proposition; and to indicate his or her designation of a representative to speak for him or her or his or her group on a proposition if he or she so chooses; or
(d) Designate a specified period of time for public comment.

The first thing to notice is that subsection 4 limits the rules that a board or commission may adopt. Anything outside of these rules is contrary to the statute.

(a) Provide guidelines regarding the amount of time an individual has to address the board or commission;

This would be the three minute time limit that is placed on comments by the School Board. There is nothing wrong with this provision in the School Board’s policies.

(b) Prescribe procedures for allowing representatives of groups or factions on a proposition to address the board or commission, rather than all members of such groups or factions, at meetings in which a large number of individuals wish to be heard;

Many boards and commissions have a rule that allows for one spokesperson to speak for a group, especially if the people are going to be saying the same thing over and over, one after another. This did not occur at the school board meeting in question, so we won’t discuss this here.

(c) Prescribe procedures or forms for an individual to use in order to inform the board or commission of a desire to be heard; to indicate his or her support, opposition, or neutrality on a proposition; and to indicate his or her designation of a representative to speak for him or her or his or her group on a proposition if he or she so chooses; or

This is a reference to cards that people fill out in order to speak. In the meeting the other day, the Chair was given a stack of cards and was told how many cards / speakers there were. Once again, we take no issue with this practice under the School Board’s policies and procedures.

(d) Designate a specified period of time for public comment.

This would be a rule as to where in the agenda public comments will be heard. A board or commission may designate that comments on an agenda item be made during the discussion of that agenda item, but for general public comments, the topics may be as wide as the Florida sky.

The Brevard County School Board follows these guidelines and for that we are appreciative as we would hate to think that the School Board would not be following the law. (We hate to think that, but we know they are violating the law.)

Subsection 4 ends with those provisions in regards to policies and procedures for people speaking.

Notice what is missing – anything that deals with the content of someone’s comments.

This means that by law, the School Board’s policies as found in their policies are in fact, illegal:

0169.1 – PUBLIC PARTICIPATION AT BOARD MEETINGS

…..

G. The presiding officer may:

1) interrupt, warn, or terminate a participant’s statement when the statement is too lengthy, personally directed, abusive, obscene, or irrelevant;

Some of these rules are fine.

A statement that is too long (over three minutes) would be allowed under FL 268.0114(4)((a) (see above)

Statements that are “obscene” are covered under the US Constitution and federal laws, as well as the Florida Constitution and laws. “Obscenities” are not protected speech under the first amendment. It is important to note that curse words” are not “obscenities.

In the free speech case of Cohen v. California, concerning a man in a courthouse who was arrested for his jacket with the words “F*** THE POLICE,” Justice Harlan famously wrote:

For, while the particular four-letter word being litigated here is perhaps more distasteful than most others of its genre, it is nevertheless often true that one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric. Indeed, we think it is largely because governmental officials cannot make principled distinctions in this area that the Constitution leaves matters of taste and style so largely to the individual. (emphasis ours)

See also Texas v. Johnson:

The fact a State’s governing majority has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice.

In other words, even if the majority of the Board members think that a curse word in a public meeting is “immoral,” they do not have the legal right to ban it.

(Some will say that they don’t want children to hear those types of words. Clearly they have not stepped on a playground in the last 10 years. Secondly, as the subject matter the other day was guidelines on working with LGBTQ individuals, what happens when a child – a first grader for example – asks “what is LGBTQ?” Curse words are somehow worse than the topic of sexual identity? What world do these people live in?)

Therefore when Board Chair Belford stopped a person from using the term “b****,” Belford was far outside the law, no matter what the policies and procedures of the Board say.

Statements that are “irrelevant” are covered in FL 268.0114(4)((d). Courts have held that if a Board is discussing issue “A” on the agenda, and someone starts to make a comment about issue “Q,” the speaker can be cut off.

However, what the School Board does is say that statements that are “personally directed,” and “abusive” are not allowed.

Where is the legal support for that restriction of speech as a rule in FL 268.0114(4)?

As we said the other day, Board members and members of the public regularly make statements on how wonderful and great employees, teachers, students, etc., are. If you are going to allow “positive” personal comments, you have to allow comments that may be seen by some as negative. Furthermore, if a person says a person “stinks” or “sucks,” while the Board may consider that to be “abusive,” it is still protected speech.

The irony of what happened the other day is that the discussion and comments were about LGBTQ guidelines that the Board said were now required by Federal and State law. The Board had no issues telling people the school district had no choice in the matter and they had to uphold the laws. To accomplish this goal, the Board was willing to violate the US Constitution, the Florida Constitution, state laws, and hundreds of court precedents up to and including those cases decided by the US Supreme Court.

On one hand, “we have to follow the laws.” On the other hand, “we don’t care what the law says…..we are going to do what we want.”

Somehow people in the School District think that their policies and procedures outweigh laws and rights of people. Somehow those same people think that reading half a statute means they can do what they want. These are supposedly highly educated people – at least two of which are or were educators.

Can these people not read?

We have a feeling that those who put this “FS 214.0114 defense” were trying to float a balloon to see how it would be received. Either they tried to bamboozle the public, or they showed tremendous ignorance which is something we would hope we would not see in a Board that is directing the education of thousands of students in Brevard County.

No matter what, the balloon the School District floated was made of lead.



2 Responses to “Brevard County School Board Floats Lead Balloon. Still Thinks The Constitution Doesn’t Apply.”

  1. Howie Feldersnatches says:

    Wtf are y’all talking about? I filled out a card and they called my name to speak at this meeting. Were you even there?? The dumba*es and bigots gathered out front weren’t there to give public comment in the meeting. They were there to try to spread coronavirus, be disruptive, and yell things like ‘faggots!’ and ‘pedophiles!’ at kids. It was disgusting. They were just too stupid to sign the signup sheets which were OUTSIDE and available to everyone. It’s the same people who gather on Eau Gallie and Riverside/US 1 waving trump flags. Spoiler alert: they lie a lot.

    While those very insane people may have been there trying to relive the glory days of storming, looting, and vandalizing the U.S. Capitol building on January 6th, the Mom’s For Liberty group, led by former loser School Board Member Tina Descovitch, organized that event with the help of Republican school board members because the Republican objective of abolishing public education in favor of private and charter schools is advanced by this kind of trash. They just feel that tax dollars aren’t being well spent on educating kids if some politically connected millionaires aren’t getting their government handouts to run unaccountable schools that teach things like Jesus rode dinosaurs and the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery.

    I agree the school board screwed up, but it wasn’t because of limiting public comment in an unreasonable way. Just like claims of massive voter fraud in ONLY four states which would have changed the outcome of the election, its a fantasy, it didn’t happen. What they screwed up was inviting public comment on a policy that was enacted 4 years ago when a simple press release would have sufficed.

    You guys do some good reporting, this article is partisan tripe and shockingly devoid of relevant fact, context, and any fidelity to the truth.

    3:16:20 they did call my name. Because I filled out a sign in sheet. I had to walk through the bigots who were there for an hour before I showed up, it was in front of the entrance to the School Board which is exactly where they were. https://youtu.be/3dMPd2ixr-w

    • AAfterwit says:

      Howie Feldersnatches,

      Thank you for the comment.

      We aren’t talking about the issue that was the topic of discussion. (The LGBTQ guidelines.)

      We are talking about the fact that the Chair restricted the speech of people in violation of the First Amendment.

      In fact, if you have bothered to read past your bias, you would have noticed that we addressed comments by two speakers – one for the LGBTQ guidelines and one against them – as being illegally restricted by the Brevard County School Board. We didn’t care as to who said what, only that the School Board illegally restricted their speech.

      You write:

      You guys do some good reporting, this article is partisan tripe and shockingly devoid of relevant fact, context, and any fidelity to the truth.

      The First Amendment is “partisan tripe?” Violations of the Constitution is “partisan tripe?”

      You spend the majority of your response attacking one side of the issue (an issue that we are not talking about) and then claim others are “partisan?” (Funny how you don’t see the partisanship in your own comments.) Furthermore, in case you missed it, the School Board members lean mostly to the right of the political spectrum. We are commenting on their behavior of the School Board. Perhaps in referencing the Constitution, case laws, etc., on speech, you missed the idea that we were talking about speech. We don’t see how you did that, but you did.

      The “relevant fact” is that the Constitution does matter. The Bill of Rights matter.

      If you can find one sentence – one statement – where we lied or misrepresented anything in what we wrote concerning the School Board abridging the rights of people, we’ll retract it and write an apology.

      We know you won’t do that because you cannot.

      You have had issues with people and the First Amendment in the past. These two comments (and we are going to leave them both up to show people how ridiculous, off topic and lacking in comprehension they are) show once again that you don’t understand or want to protect the rights of people. You don’t believe in the rights of people.

      We’ll say it again: the Brevard County School Board violated the rights of people and their policies on public comments violate the rights of people.

      It amazes us that you don’t seem to have an issue with that.

      By the way, if you are going to accuse us of writing a post that is “devoid of relevant fact, context, and any fidelity to the truth,” perhaps you should look in the mirror and check your own statements:

      3:16:20 they did call my name.

      You are Board Member Katye Campbell?

      We both know that you are not but it is not our policy to release the names of commenters if they choose to post using a pseudonym.

      Thanks again.

      A. Afterwit.

      PS – you wrote:

      led by former loser School Board Member Tina Descovitch,…..

      Are you sure you want to go down the path of discounting people because they lost an election?

  2. […] usually don’t do this, but the other day in response to our posts on the Brevard School Board and the First Amendment, we received such a mind numbingly, ridiculous comment, void of any intelligent thought, that we […]

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