Michigan School Boards have become an ideological battleground and one of the emerging weapons being wielded to suppress free speech is ‘censure’.
Recently in Rochester Hills, MI, a school board member, Andrew Weaver, was censured by much of the rest of the school board for speaking about a teacher-led Middle School field trip where minors, inadvertently, ended up in a strip club. Mr. Weaver’s social media posts and television media interviews were focused on the lack of appropriate policy, specifically regarding the district’s failure to inform parents about the incident. His reporting led to national news coverage, which upset certain board members, administrators, and members of the public. These disgruntled board members claimed Andrew Weaver was spreading misinformation and putting the district in a bad light and therefore requiring censure.
This and other emerging cases have revealed a new tool utilized by the government to try and suppress free speech that the government doesn’t like. Censure has become a political weapon which need not be rooted in fact.
On March 30, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court in the Houston Community College System v. Wilson case (https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/20-804_j426.pdf) held that a community college board censure of an elected board member was not a First Amendment violation. The U.S. Supreme Court viewed censure as constitutionally-permissible countervailing speech.
So, when school board members faces censure motions, regarding speech, it may be a new form of political attack and require an appropriate response. This means that school board members that face censure need to consider political strategies to counteract the attempts to suppress their right to speak. These censure battles can be a matter of political life or death for both sides. The use of censure as a political weapon to suppress free speech is a huge escalation in the struggle within public schools.
The Great Schools Initiative is committed to assuring free political speech, especially with regard to local school discussion and policy. If you or your district finds itself embroiled in the suppression of free speech by the government with the weapon of Censure, contact us, GSI may be able to help.