Education Funding

Opposing Viewpoints

By Andrew Trotter — February 14, 2006 1 min read

A South Carolina school district that used newsletters, e-mail, and its Web site to drum up opposition to a tuition-tax-credit bill in the state legislature faces a lawsuit claiming it committed “viewpoint discrimination” against a resident who was denied the use of the same outlets to air his views.

In papers filed Jan. 24 in federal district court in Columbia, S.C., Randall S. Page says District One in Lexington County rejected his requests to use what he calls its “information-distribution system” to support a tax-credit bill that the legislature considered last year.

Mr. Page, a resident of the 19,000-student district, is the president of South Carolinians for Responsible Government, a watchdog group that supported the bill, which ultimately failed.

He argues that the publicly funded communication methods constitute a “limited public forum,” and notes that the district allowed other opponents of the bill, who were not district employees, the use of that forum for their views.

The lawsuit asks the court to declare that the district unconstitutionally deprived him of his First Amendment right to free speech.

“I don’t think they’ve created any sort of a forum, and therefore they are not engaged in viewpoint-based discrimination,” David T. Duff, the Columbia-based lawyer for the Lexington One district, said of his client last week. He planned to file a reply to the lawsuit this week.

Mr. Duff said that if the lawsuit succeeded, the effect might be to scuttle advocacy by school districts, “at least not without giving opposing views equal time, which to me as a practical matter is rather difficult to conceive.”

A district taking a position on legislation to educate children with disabilities, for example, might have to open up communications tools to parents with opposing views, he said.

Paul Krohne, the executive director of the South Carolina School Boards Association, which opposes tuition tax credits, called the lawsuit “just a harassment tactic” by a political opponent.

But Charles C. Haynes, a legal expert at the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va., said there may be grounds for the lawsuit. “For First Amendment purposes, a school district—when it does open up its [facilities] to express a view of a public-policy issue—they have in fact a responsibility, if not an obligation, to allow other people to use it.”

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding States Are Waffling Over Billions in K-12 Federal Relief. Schools Are Getting Antsy.
Schools in some states have already started spending money from recent federal stimulus packages. Others don’t yet have the dollars in hand.
6 min read
Conceptual image of money dropping into a jar.
iStock/Getty
Education Funding Opinion The COVID-19 Stimulus Money Won’t Last Forever. Here’s What's Next for Schools
There are three important first steps for states to start helping schools prepare now, write two policy experts.
Zahava Stadler & Victoria Jackson
5 min read
a group of people water a lightbulb plant, nurturing an idea
iStock/Getty Images
Education Funding Opinion What Ed. Leaders Can Learn From a Wildfire About Spending $129 Billion in Federal Funds
There are five entrenched routines that leaders should reject to forge a better path forward after the pandemic.
Kristen McQuillan
4 min read
Firefighters fighting fire
akiyoko/iStock/Getty
Education Funding Opinion Does Place-Based Giving Make It Harder for Funders to Get Reliable Feedback?
Big donors can be lulled into underestimating the financial, political, and information constraints of place-based philanthropy.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty