A group of Wilson County moms today filed a federal lawsuit against the Wilson County Board of Education for violating their First Amendment right to speak at the board’s public meetings.

When Robin Lemons decided to speak to the Wilson County school board last fall about how school officials ignored and mishandled an allegation of sexual misconduct involving her fourth-grade daughter, she worried the school board might censor her. She was right.

As soon as she started criticizing the school director during the October 3, 2022, meeting, Board Chairman Jamie Farough told Lemons to “stop talking.” Farough cut her off because she had not announced her home address to the crowd—a widely ignored rule that the school board did not enforce against any other speaker last year. Lemons complied with the request, but now is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the Wilson County Board of Education for violating her First Amendment rights. The Wilson County chapter of Moms for Liberty and its chair Amanda Dunagan-Price join her as plaintiffs in the case.

The moms challenge three policies that violate the First Amendment, including the board’s requirement that speakers publicly announce their home address before speaking. This rule—which the board selectively enforced against Lemons—exposes speakers, their homes, and their families to potential harassment or reprisals if their speech is unpopular.

The moms also challenge the board’s policy against “abusive” comments and a requirement that individuals obtain approval to speak by first persuading a board member that their comments are in “the public interest.” Practically speaking, these policies allow the board to censor speakers if they criticize officials too harshly. They also make speaking at board meetings “a difficult and intimidating process—one that prevents the Board’s sharpest critics from speaking freely,” reads the complaint.

“If we can’t speak openly and honestly to the school board about our concerns, we can’t be effective advocates for our kids,” said Amanda Dunagan-Price, chair of the Wilson County chapter of Moms for Liberty. “We hope the court will recognize our First Amendment right to speak freely to school officials.”

To read the complaint, click here.

United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division
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