Back in May a father upset that his 14-year-old daughter was given a sexually explicit reading assignment at school was arrested for daring to confront the school board over the book. Now, the father’s case has been dismissed by a judge who was shocked at the arrest and said it was a “chilling” example of the unconstitutional quashing of the father’s right of free speech.
On May 6, parent William Baer attended a school board meeting in Gilford, New Hampshire where he expressed his unhappiness that his 14-year-old daughter was assigned the book “Nineteen Minutes,” a book that contains sexually explicit and violent content.
In one part of the book, for example, a teenaged girl is raped by a drunken boy. The violence and the explicit nature of the passage made the father question the assignment.
Baer attended the meeting to ask the school board why his daughter was assigned the book but during the course of his comments, board members tried to shut him down. Eventually the school board called the police and Mr. Baer was arrested ostensibly for violating the “two-minute speaking rule” and for being “unruly” at the meeting.
The father has been fighting against the arrest for months and finally the courts have come to agree with him; his arrest was illicit.
In December Circuit Court Judge James M. Carroll dismissed the case against Mr. Baer saying that Baer was just exercising his right of free speech at the meeting and that a passionate response to a school board is no grounds for being arrested.
“The court does not find the actions of the defendant to be criminal in nature, which is necessary in the ordering of restrictions on a citizen’s liberties in First Amendment considerations. The court finds that the defendant’s action never created a breach of peace sustaining a criminal complaint,” the judge wrote in his December 14 decision.
Sensibly, the judge went on to point out that the arrest was a “chilling” abuse of authority.
“The sequence of the arrest actions cause pause by the court as to the chilling, if not silencing of a citizen by the state, for actions which do not warrant a criminal arrest nor conviction,” he said.
This is a proper outcome and serves as a rebuke to this power mad school board.
Check out the great coverage of this story at the great New Hampshire blog Granite Grok.