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CA Parents Could Soon Face Jail Time for Speaking Out at School Board Meetings

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Parents in California could face jail time for speaking out on behalf of their children at school board meetings if the state legislature passes a bill that would criminalize any adult for disrupting or creating "substantial disorder."

Critics warn it is a way to stop parents from speaking out.

SB 596 was already passed in the California State Senate in May and is making its way through the floor of the lower chamber as lawmakers have broadened some terms in the law. 

Previously, the bill barred adults from subjecting "a school employee to harassment." 

Now, the term "school employee" has been expanded to include any employee or official of a school district, charter school, and county or state education board or office.

Under the bill, it would be a misdemeanor for a parent, guardian, or another person to interfere with "a school employee's daily life away from a school site or after school hours for reasons related to the employee's course of duties."

It adds that adults cannot materially disrupt "classwork or extracurricular activities" or cannot be involved in substantial disorder at any "meeting of the governing board of a school district, the governing body of a charter school, a county board of education, or the state board..."

The bill was amended to change the meaning of harassment from lawful violence or a credible threat of violence to a school employee to now being defined as "torments, or terrorizes the person."

After two infractions, a person could be subject to a hefty fine or even a year in jail. 

Jim Manley, state legal policy deputy director at the Pacific Legal Institute, told The Daily Signal that the language in the bill sends "potential red flags".

He notes that "torment" means to make some mentally suffer, adding, "If you send two emails that cause a school board official to mentally suffer, technically you fall under this definition," Manley said.

The bill "could be interpreted in a way that chills people's ability to communicate with elected officials," he said.

Sarah Parshall Perry, a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation's Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, told the outlet she has no doubt the bill is an attempt to stop parents from questioning the school board.

"It's clear they're trying to chill parents from speaking out," she said.

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As CBN News has reported, school board meetings have always been a place where parents can voice concerns about curriculum. But in the last few years news reports and videos of highly charged meetings have surged amid mounting frustration over the sexualization of children and LGBT ideology in school.

Now parent's rights groups are being seen as a threat with the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) labeling them as  "extremist" "hate" groups

In one case, The FBI interviewed a mother who belonged to the group Moms for Liberty for reportedly telling a school board "We are coming for you." The mother told investigators she was just warning school officials that they could be replaced in an upcoming election, according to the letter. But an FBI whistleblower claimed she was a threat because she "is a gun owner" and a member of a "right-wing mom's group."

Experts say parents are simply fed-up.

"They're just sort of getting fed up in some cases with feeling like they don't have control over what's happening with their children," Dr. Neal McCluskey, the director of the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom, told CBN News. 

Parents have a right to express themselves under the protections of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

California mom, Kelly Schenkoske, told the Daily Signal, the state's new bill will cause parents to second guess themselves and slowly "erode" their rights.  

"Their work over the years to erode parental involvement and rights has been noticed by parents who will stand courageously to speak for the protection of their children and for a better education," she said.

Matt McReynolds, deputy chief counsel at the Pacific Justice Institute, agreed.

"I would certainly agree that SB 596 targets conservative parents who have been energized and re-engaging at the school board level," McReynolds told the outlet.

"It's not just speaking at school board meetings; this would criminalize sending emails that seriously annoy or alarm school employees," he said. 

"In nearly all other areas, our state leaders are stressing decriminalization and have released thousands of dangerous offenders back into our communities," he added. "The rhetoric about mass incarceration and overcriminalization goes out the window when they're going after their political enemies. And in the school setting itself, our legislators are moving to reduce the ability of teachers and administrators to punish kids for defiance, disruption, and disorder. The hypocrisy is unmistakable."
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About The Author


Talia Wise has served as a multi-media producer for, CBN Newswatch, The Prayer Link, and CBN News social media outlets. Prior to joining CBN News she worked for Fox Sports Florida producing and reporting. Talia earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia.