Pasadena Unified School District Board Member Tina Fredericks on Friday withdrew her lawsuit challenging PUSD Board protocols as unconstitutionally restricting her outside free expression constitutional rights. The dismissal followed the School Board’s unanimous vote last Thursday night to change the challenged protocols so that they are optional rather than obligatory.
The four board Protocols in question require board members to submit opinion pieces to the superintendent and board president before their publication, prohibit board members from collaborating on opinion pieces without approval of the full board, and restrict what board members may say in opinion pieces about other board members.
“What is at stake is the right of all board members to communicate to the public on important issues without restriction,” Fredericks said at the time she filed the lawsuit. “If my rights can be restricted today, then every Board Members’ rights can be restricted tomorrow.”
“I am having to protect the outside expressive rights of all board members,” Fredericks said. “The controversy has arisen because I wrote op-eds supporting a COVID vaccine mandate without clearing them with the Superintendent and the President – both of whom have refused to support a vaccine mandate.”
Fredericks hired civil rights attorneys Dale Gronemeier and Elbie J. Hickambottom, who demanded that the board rescind its pre-publication restraints on members’ outside expressive activities on the ground that they violated Fredericks free speech, free petition, and free press constitutional rights.
Fredericks and her attorneys twice extended a deadline given to the board to rescind the protocols. Ultimately, they filed a lawsuit for Fredericks on October 20 in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Thursday, the school board amended the protocols during its regular meeting.
“The Board at last Thursday’s meeting made the protocols optional and thereby granted me all the relief I could get in court,” Fredericks said Sunday. “My attorneys, who handled the case as a pro bono case for me, probably could have gotten tens of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees, but they’ve agreed to forgo seeking them. As a result, there was no cost to PUSD. I’m pleased the board has belatedly removed these unconstitutional restrictions, thereby protecting the constitutionally-protected expressive rights of all PUSD present and future board members.”