K-12 Lawfare, continued: Virginia Moms

Timothy Sandefur:

The Goldwater Institute filed a motion with a Virginia judge today to defend the rights of two moms in Fairfax County, Virginia, who are under attack by their local school district for exercising their freedom of speech. It’s just the latest example of a growing trend of school districts nationwide aggressively persecuting parents who are trying to promote the best interests of their children.

Fairfax County mother Debra Tisler took an interest in how her school district was spending its money, especially given that the county has been in national news about its legal troubles recently. So she filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out how much the district was paying for its legal bills. The district turned over more than 1,000 pages of receipts from its law firm, and another Fairfax-area mother, Callie Oettinger, published some of them on her website, specialeducationaction.com, redacting and sharing select documents related to the superintendent, the school board, and investigations into Fairfax County Public Schools’ cyber hacking and its virtual learning launch debacles.

That’s when trouble started. When the school district realized it had handed over potentially embarrassing material, it demanded that Callie take the material down from her website, and when she refused, district officials sued her—notwithstanding the fact that the Constitution clearly protects her right to publish the information online.

“As a parent, I have a right to know what’s happening in my children’s school, and as a taxpayer, I have a right to know how money is being spent,” Callie said. “I created my site to help advocate for children with special education needs. This includes sharing and holding Fairfax County Public Schools accountable for its noncompliance. I will not let them silence my voice.”