N.H. Dad Arrested for Protesting Book, a Contrarian View
This week saw folks bemoaning the arrest of a New Hampshire father (hereinafter “Dad”) for, according to the headlines and much of the reportage, protesting a book assignment given his daughter at a local school board meeting. Invoking the supposed ongoing erosion of 1st Amendment Rights and pandering to pervasive paranoia about government overreach, the headlines made it sound as if Dad was busted for free speech activity protected by the Constitution. Examples of the headlines are “N.H. Parent Arrested for Protesting Book That Contains Graphic Sex Scene” (Fox News Insider 5/6/14)” and “New Hampshire dad arrested for protesting assigned book’s sex scene” (UPI 5/6/14). To be sure, the book passage Dad was complaining about is at least racy if not downright pornographic. However justified Dad’s concerns regarding the school reading assignment, free speech is subject to some restrictions. Despite the headlines, Dad was not arrested for his speech; he was arrested for disrupting a school board meeting.
Even the most paranoid “Big Brother” theorists know that “falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic…” is not protected Free Speech. On the other hand, most laypersons are unaware that “free speech” is subject to “content-neutral time, place or manner regulations.” In short, a school board is generally well within free speech parameters with “time-to-comment” rules. A two-minute limitation to comment at a school board meeting, as reported in this matter, in order to accommodate all who might want to speak does not seem unreasonable. The upshot is that Dad is reportedly an attorney who is at least minimally aware of free speech regulation. Dad not only violated the two-minute restriction but he was also disruptive after he sat down by arguing with another parent and by arguing with school board attempts to restore some semblance of order. Dad was taken into custody as he continued to verbally disrupt the board meeting. Ironically, Dad asked the school board “Why don’t you have me arrested…”. (see the videos below) – Grizzly Joe
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This is perhaps the best video that goes to my point; this is AFTER dad has had his formal 2 minutes before the board!! (run time 2:12)
Here is a 10 Minute video that shows most of the incident including Dad’s two minutes before the board *WARNING: graphic passage overlaid*
(video credit Josh Youssef Use of Mr. Youseff’s video here is NOT an endorsement of Mr. Youseff and/or his views)