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A Wisconsin mom alleges that the Oconomowoc Area School District was trying to quell her criticism of materials, such as books, within the district by threatening her with legal action.
After Alexandra Schweitzer, the president of a No Left Turn in Education chapter in the state, raised concerns about the appropriateness of materials in the district, the district responded with a cease and desist letter that threatened the possibility of future litigation if she continued to make “defamatory statements” via meetings or in email. Her counsel, the Wisconsin Law & Liberty group, responded Friday stating that Schweitzer “will not be revoking any statement she made” and accused the district of using taxpayer dollars to silence a parent.
“In fact, use of outside counsel by the Oconomowoc Area School District… to send threatening letters to parents who speak in good faith about their experiences with a school district is antithetical to our Constitution and to your clients’ obligation as public officials,” the law group said in response.
“This is a really serious claim that the district is making in response to really trying to be a bullying tactic to parents,” the mom’s attorney, Libby Sobic, told Fox News Digital. “They do not have a legal claim available to them, not only where our client statement’s true, but secondly, she doesn’t meet any of the requirements of defamation under the law.”
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“The… Supreme Court made clear that damages cannot be awarded to a public official for statements concerning his or her official conduct unless it is made with actual malice… You can’t come close to establishing that standard,” the response said. The mom’s counsel further argued that some of her statements are “conditionally privileged” since it was “given as testimony during a legislative proceeding.” Regarding an email the district objected to, the response said it was “non-actionable opinion” that was also “made without actual malice.”
“I definitely feel as if I’m being bullied into silence,” Schweitzer added.
“My biggest message to parents and taxpayers is the parent is the primary educator of the child. And we have a right to know what’s going on inside the classroom… And I’m here because many, many parents don’t want to stand up… They’re scared their child will get bullied or they’re scared they’ll get blacklisted themselves. And I’m not going to stand down to tyranny like that,” she said.
In the cease and desist, the district said that Schweitzer’s defamatory claims included her statements regarding the district’s use of a book called “The 57 Bus,” which the mom said contains sexually explicit texts. The district said that only portions of the text were read to students “for the purpose of critical thinking and writing craft” and were not available to students. They also claimed that books Schweitzer deemed inappropriate were not available “to… students in the library for checkout… [or] in the District’s curriculum.”
The district further claimed that the parent was given notice that “texts… deemed inappropriate [were] not available to Oconomowoc Area School District students in the library for checkout, nor [were] they used in the District’s curriculum.”
The letter demanded the parent “cease and desist” from making “defamatory statements” about the district, and issue a retraction email “indicating the information is false.”
“Oconomowoc Area School District and its Board of Education are entitled to take legal action to prevent you from further distribution of statements containing the false claims in the letter and testimony referenced above, and to seek monetary damages against you,” the cease and desist said.
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“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,” Schweitzer said. “It’s difficult to get a letter like that. It shocks you. But I had faith in knowing what I was doing… – advocating for the community.”
Fox News Digital reached out to the district, via its counsel, but did not immediately receive a response.