Big Walnut Local Schools and a parent suing the district for allegedly violating her First Amendment rights filed a joint motion in U.S. District Court asking a judge to stay upcoming deadlines as they may be close to a resolution in the case.
The lawsuit was filed on March 7 by Big Walnut parent Ashley Ryder after she was told to “zip it” at a meeting by Board President Doug Crowl on Feb. 17. Ryder claimed in her lawsuit that her First Amendment right to free speech was violated when she was told to stop talking and when her public participation was cut short by Crowl, who was presiding over the meeting.
“(Crowl) retaliated against Ryder when (Crowl) silenced her criticisms, would not let her finish her statements, and ordered her to leave the lectern,” the complaint said. “Defendant further intended to chill Ryder’s future speech and others’ speech when President Crowl told the audience that he would not permit further criticisms of Defendant’s Board members. Thus, the Defendant has threatened and intimidated Plaintiff and other members of the public from exercising their First Amendment rights.”
The first hearing in the case was scheduled for 9 a.m. May 4, but on April 5, the parties filed a joint motion asking for the hearing to be stayed because a resolution to the case may be near.
“The parties have reached a tentative resolution and are working on finalizing the details of the resolution,” the joint motion said. “To give the parties time to finalize the resolution, the parties seek a 30-day stay of these current deadlines and dates, such that the parties will file their stipulated injunction and dismissal entry by May 20, 2022, or will provide the Court with an update by that date.”
The motion was granted the next day by Chief Judge Algenon L. Marbley, who ordered that a stipulated injunction, a dismissal entry or a joint status report be filed by May 20.
There have been no filings in the case since the motion was approved.
At a special board meeting on March 15, the Big Walnut Board of Education reviewed its meeting policy and suspended enforcement of part of the policy that restricts “abusive, personally directed or antagonistic speech until such time that the policy can be reviewed and amended and for no less than 60 days.”
The board meets next at 6:30 p.m. April 21.