The ACLU of Massachusetts, together with Todd & Weld LLP, filed a lawsuit on behalf of two mothers of former Natick Public School students. Both Corey Spaulding and Karin Sutter were shut down while expressing concerns about the operation of the Natick Public Schools. They sought to express these concerns during the School Committee’s “Public Speak,” a designated period for individuals to voice opinions or concerns on any school-related issue. When silencing the mothers, the School Committee invoked a policy that allowed the committee to regulate speech on the basis of the content of that speech—and for practically any reason at all.
In June 2018, the Middlesex Superior Court ordered the Natick School Committee to discontinue policies that violate people’s free speech rights during “Public Speak.” Later, in November, the Court ruled that the policy under which Spaulding and Sutter were silenced violated the free speech provisions of the Massachusetts Constitution.
In early 2019, the ACLU of Massachusetts announced that a settlement had been reached with the Natick School Committee. The School Committee adopted a new policy governing the “Public Speak” portion of its meetings; under the new policy, the Committee Chair will not be allowed to interrupt speakers except when they exceed their time, engage in speech not protected by the Constitution, or seek to talk about issues outside the School Committee’s jurisdiction.
Under the settlement agreement, the Natick Schools will also host a public education session, in which the ACLU of Massachusetts has agreed to participate to discuss the values of free speech and the lessons to be learned from the lawsuit.