School district hired law firm to send cease and desist letter to local parent
The News: The Oconomowoc Area School District (OASD) issued a cease and desist letter to a local parent and activist threatening her with a defamation lawsuit for statements she made in public forums about the use and accessibility of age-inappropriate material. The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) issued a letter to the Oconomowoc Area School District’s attorneys, on behalf of Alexandra Schweitzer, making clear that her public statements do not meet the legal standard for defamation and that her speech is protected by the First Amendment.
The Quotes: WILL President and General Counsel, Rick Esenberg, said, “The Oconomowoc Area School District’s attempt to silence a local mom with legal threats is inappropriate and troubling. The District’s accusations of defamation are weak. This tactic needs to be called out for what it is: bullying a critic.”
Alexandra Schweitzer, recipient of OASD’s cease and desist letter, said, “If the school district wanted to silence me, they have failed. School districts need to know that parents won’t back down and legal threats won’t deter us from looking out for our kids.”
Dr. Elana Fishbein, Founder & President, No Left Turn in Education, said, “Bullying a parent into silence is a dangerous precedent to set in a free society. No Left Turn in Education stands with Alexandra Schweitzer and any American parents petitioning their school boards on matters relating to the education of their children.”
Background: Over the past year, Alexandra Schweitzer, of Oconomowoc, Wis., raised concerns about age-inappropriate materials, both available for children to access and being used in the classroom, without proper parental notification. After enrolling her children elsewhere, Alexandra continued to be an advocate and resource for local parents regarding their concerns. As President of No Left Turn in Education – Wisconsin, Schweitzer voiced her concerns, and those of district parents, in public forums and in testimony before the Wisconsin legislature.
On May 13, attorneys for the Oconomowoc Area School District School Board issued a cease and desist letter to Schweitzer threatening legal action if she does not revoke public statements she made about classroom material and access to inappropriate material. At issue are a series of comments Schweitzer made about the availability of certain inappropriate books available to students of all ages through the school’s library app, inadequate parental notification about the use of a book in an eighth-grade classroom with controversial themes, and statements about her communications with the school district and the school board president.
OASD is threatening a defamation suit against Schweitzer if their demands are not met.
Oconomowoc is Trying to Silence Critics: The Oconomowoc Area School District hired a law firm to send a threatening letter to a parent after she spoke out about her negative experiences with the District. OASD’s behavior in this regard is indicative of bullying parents into silence. This is entirely inappropriate and sets a dangerous precedent.
WILL’s letter to OASD’s attorneys makes clear that none of the claims OASD made reach the legal standard of defamation. Ms. Schweitzer will not be revoking her statements because they are protected by the First Amendment.