The Forsyth County School District in Georgia will pay over $100,000 in legal fees to the Mama Bears group after violating their First Amendment rights by banning them from reading sexually explicit material during school board meetings.
The Forsyth County School District in Georgia has agreed to pay a settlement of over $100,000 in legal fees after violating the First Amendment rights of the Mama Bears group by banning them from reading sexually explicit material during school board meetings. The group claimed that their First Amendment rights were violated and filed a federal lawsuit, which they won with the help of the Institute for Free Speech. The FSC will pay the Mama Bears’ attorneys $107,500 and nominal damages of $17.91 to the plaintiffs.
A senior attorney at Institute for Free Speech, Del Kolde tells Fox News Digital:
“Fee shifting is an important feature of our civil rights laws; and successful plaintiffs who are able to show that government officials censored them are entitled to having their attorneys’ fees paid by the wrongdoers, just like for any other form of illegal discrimination. We hope that school-board members and their lawyers take note.”
The court also issued an injunction barring the district from prohibiting anyone from reading or quoting from books or written works available in FSC libraries or classrooms during public-comment periods at school board meetings. The case is part of a broader trend of parents challenging controversial material in schools, and serves as a reminder of the importance of fee-shifting in civil rights cases.
The lawsuit arose after Mama Bears member Alison Hair attempted to read from Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” during a school board meeting, upon publicly reading the line:
“I know that you give someone a blow job by putting your penis …”
Hair was interrupted and would end up being subsequently banned from further meetings until she complied with board policies, despite reading books that are allowed within the school district. The Institute for Free Speech filed the lawsuit on behalf of Hair and the Mama Bears, and a federal judge ruled in their favor, finding the FSC’s public participation policy unconstitutional and ordering them to end Hair’s ban and pay legal fees.
The Mama Bears case is part of a broader trend of parents challenging progressive curricula and controversial reading material in schools. School board meetings have become contentious battlegrounds between parents and officials, reigniting debates over the role of parents in their children’s education.
The FSC has since caved, and revised its public participation policy, removing language that required speakers to be respectful and prohibiting individual addresses or boisterous behavior. The settlement underscores the importance of fee-shifting in civil rights cases and serves as a reminder to government officials to respect citizens’ First Amendment rights.