116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — A Marion resident is suing the Linn-Mar Community School District, saying she was banned from school board meetings for the next 12 months because she disrupted the August school board meeting.
Amanda Pierce Snyder who lives in the Linn-Mar district, was removed from the Aug. 29 school board meeting after she interrupted board members’ discussion and was asked to stop speaking by the board president.
When Snyder didn’t stop speaking, Morey asked the Marion police officer at the meeting to remove Snyder from the room.
The public, by Iowa law, is allowed to speak only during designated public comment periods.
The lawsuit, filed in Linn County District Court, also names Superintendent Shannon Bisgard and school board president Brittania Morey.
“Morey did not adequately explain that audience comments were not permitted or otherwise give (Snyder) a reasonable opportunity to understand the expectations of her,” according to the lawsuit.
Aug. 31 letter
Snyder received an Aug. 31 letter from Bisgard and Morey informing her she had violated board policy related to the conduct of visitors to the schools and the board policy on public participation in board meetings.
The letter stated Snyder was banned from attending in-person school board meetings for the next 12 months because of her “disruptive and disrespectful behavior,” according to the lawsuit.
The letter also said Snyder could communicate with the board by writing Morey, who would distribute her comments to the board.
Snyder argues in the lawsuit that nothing in board policy authorizes district officials or school board members to ban people from attending future public board meetings. Board policies also do not define what interruptions of board business is inappropriate, according to the suit.
Board policy 204.9 does authorize the board president to “terminate the speaker’s comments if, after being called to order, they persist with improper conduct or remarks. If deemed disruptive, the individual causing the disruption will be asked to leave the meeting.”
Won’t risk arrest
The letter to Snyder also stated Marion police had been informed of the suspension. Snyder “understands this threat to mean that she could be arrested if she were to attempt to attend a board meeting before September 2023,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit states Snyder will not risk arrest by attending meetings in the next 12 months. She also agrees that any future comments she makes will be during the designated public comment time.
“A ban on attending future board meetings for a single comment at a board meeting could not, under any circumstances, and no matter the form it was issued, be a ‘reasonable rule’ for the conduct of an open meeting,” according to the suit.
“Board meetings are not held in ‘open session’ as required by Iowa Code when ‘all members’ of the public, including (Snyder), are not permitted to attend,” according to the suit.
The lawsuit asks the court to rule that banning Snyder from board meetings is illegal and cannot be enforced. It seeks to have the district penalized for violating Iowa law and fined $1,000 to $2,500 per meeting Snyder cannot attend. It seeks the removal of Morey from the president’s role if she again violates Iowa Code during her term and asks that the district pay Snyder’s attorney fees and court costs.
Snyder’s lawyer is Alan Ostergren, who also is suing the district over its transgender policy, representing the Parents Defending Education organization.
The district does not comment on pending litigation, Linn-Mar communications coordinator Kevin Fry said in an email to The Gazette.
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