Sunday, October 21, 2007

GISD: Lessons on Making a Fool of Themselves

GISD AKA the Galveston Independent School Board has decided to go on the offensive and sue a website over criticisms of its board members and the some of their policies. Yup, thats right, in a blatant disregard of the first amendment, and of Galveston taxpayers rights they are threatening to sue a parents group that dared to question them. The Daily News explains.
Galveston public school trustees on Wednesday authorized the district’s legal firm to take all action necessary to clamp down on what they say is libelous material on parent-run Web site

The law firm, run by David Feldman, plans to issue a letter to site administrator Sandra Tetley demanding that she remove all libelous material. If she refuses, Feldman plans to sue her.

The district’s move to sue for defamation is rare and unlawful, said Sandra Baron, executive director of New-York based Media Law Resource Center.

Under the 1964 Supreme Court case New York Times v. Sullivan, government entities cannot sue for libel — any court would toss out the “threatening” suit as being inconsistent with U.S. law, she said.

A school district suing for libel is an intimidation tactic and a waste of taxpayer dollars, Baron said.

“It’s clearly designed to tell citizens of the community: ‘Don’t mess with us. We have the power. Not only do we have the power, we have the tax dollars. And we’re using your dollars to fight your fellow citizens when they say something we don’t really like,’” she said.

“It’s pretty extraordinary to use the power of the state and the resources of the state, that is, the entire tax base, to ... try to bring a libel suit against an individual citizen.”
Its ill advised on several levels. As the Daily News opines
What The Daily News or the school board thinks about the content of doesn’t matter. The U.S. Supreme Court has settled the issue of what’s protected, in terms of free speech, under the Constitution.

One of many disturbing things about the school board’s decision to make the legal threat is that it will cost money. This is the signature error of this board.

The recurring error goes like this: Someone — an attorney, administrator or consultant — will offer school board members advice. They will take it at face value. No one ever says: “No, we don’t want to do that because it is a dumb idea. We don’t want to spend public money on something that silly.”
They are wasting taxpayers money on a case they will most surely lose. They are attempting to deny the most fundamental of our first amendment rights. But it is gonna get worse. This suit is about vanity. Yet they are finding out that there will be nothing good to become of this for the district or the members themselves. By drawing the line they invite others into the fray, and surprisingly few will pick their side of the line. Here is how its worked so far.

A small web site criticizes the district.

Suit Threatened.

The local News paper gets critical not a good thing in a one paper town with no other major media. Where do they think the local voters get their information?

Now I'm getting critical, although I'm just a little blog with about a thousand readers a week. gets more linkages and publicity and more hits. GISDwatch turns on the rhetoric into high gear. The big difference is now even more people get to see it than before. The result is that Lynne Cleveland and the band of H'eight look like a total fools with more negaive publicity than they would have had if they kept the lawyers out.

A week ago about a hundred readers of the a small obscure website believed that
their school district trustees was a vain collection of idiots. The whole Island is pretty much aware of it now. I wonder what they will do for an encore.