Moms for Liberty appeals judge’s decision in Brevard free speech case

Case centers around Brevard school district’s public participation rules

Michelle Beavers, chair of the Brevard Moms for Liberty library committee, suggested pulling the books while they get reviewed. (Malcom Denmark/Florida Today)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Attorneys representing the group Moms for Liberty officially appealed a federal judge’s ruling on Wednesday, in which he sided with Brevard Public Schools in a case concerning free speech.

The group’s Brevard County chapter and individual members sued the school district in November 2021 in federal court in Orlando and sought a preliminary injunction against the public-participation policy.

Among other things, the group contended that speakers are frequently interrupted for criticizing the school board, including for comments deemed “personally directed” at board members.

On Feb. 13, Federal Judge Roy B. Dalton ruled in a favor of a summary judgement, ruling the school district’s public participation policy did not violate free speech rights.

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“(Moms for Liberty) argue that the Chair’s custom of reading a criminal statute that penalizes disruptions before Board meetings and that her use of the Policy to interrupt and eject speakers chills their speech. But M4L members, including Hall, Delaney, and Cholewa, have regularly continued to speak at meetings -- demonstrating that actual enforcement of the Policy has not chilled the exercise of their right to speak,” Dalton wrote.

“The record demonstrates that the Chair’s interruptions of Plaintiffs, and others, for personally directed comments were regularly brief and respectful, and Plaintiffs freely finished speaking,” he wrote. “So Plaintiffs have not experienced the objective chill necessary to establish standing, entitling Defendants to summary judgment.”

At the time of the ruling, Moms for Liberty’s attorney said he planned to appeal.

“We are disappointed with the court’s decision and strongly disagree with it,” attorney Ryan Morrison with the Institute for Free Speech said. “The First Amendment protects parents’ right to criticize their public school system and elected school board without censorship. We will appeal and ultimately prevail, just as the Institute for Free Speech has in other school board cases across the country.”

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About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.