By Elizabeth Allen, The Federalist Papers
In a move that should send chills down the spine of every parent and first amendment advocates, California’s State Senate recently passed SB 596, a bill aimed against parent’s speaking out at school board meetings.
The bill aims to broaden the definition of “harassment” of school employees. SB 596 expands the current definition of “school employee” to include any individual associated with a school district, charter school, county or state education board, or office.
It proposes to penalize acts causing “substantial disorder” at school board meetings as a misdemeanor. However, the bill remains ambiguous regarding what constitutes “substantial disorder,” leaving the definition of “harassment” open to wide interpretation.
Those who violate these provisions could face fines ranging from $500 to $1,000, a year in county jail, or both. Repeat offenses carry stricter penalties, including mandatory jail time.
“It’s clear they’re trying to chill parents from speaking out,” said Sarah Parshall Perry, senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.