It took a man who was born in England named Simon Campbell to point out to the local school board that free speech must be allowed in public meetings and that any attempt to censor such speech is unconstitutional.
The Pennsbury School District has begun editing some content from public postings of recent school board meetings.
The district’s new posture on removing certain comments from recordings of meetings isn’t common in Pennsylvania and virtually unheard of among Levittown-area school districts.
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The March and May Pennsbury meeting edits removed comments about the district’s new diversity programs. The March comments that were removed, which were later posted on Facebook, involved Lower Makefield Township resident Doug Marshall questioning the district’s diversity and equity efforts. He mentioned topics and terms that could been seen as taboo, but he received no push back during his comments at the meeting.
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The district has cited school board policy that notes “comments that become personally directed, abusive, obscene, or irrelevant will be ended immediately.”
After the March meeting, School Board President Christine Toy-Dragoni sent a letter to parents that said Marshall’s comments “contained micro-aggressions as well as explicitly-racist ideas that connected the Black community to several commonly-held, stereotypical beliefs that are harmful.” She apologized for not stopping his comments at the meeting and that she “didn’t act in the best interest of our entire community.”
“Freedom of speech and varying viewpoints are acceptable under the Board Policy on public comment; however, these recent comments escalated from expressing a viewpoint to expressing beliefs and ideas that were abusive and coded in racist terms, also known as ‘dog whistles.’ Racist dog whistles are seemingly-innocuous speech, often not noticeable to some, but that explicitly communicate a more insidious and abusive message to a subset of the audience,” she wrote.
Mr. Simon Campbell, who was not born in the USA, following revelations about the censorship, put the school board members and their legal counsel in their place. He clearly understands the First Amendment to the constitution and it’s interpretation by the Supreme Court of the United States, and let the board member know exactly what he thinks about their actions. By the spontaneous applause, I would say that most others in the audience agree with him.