Thursday, November 01, 2007

School District Sues Parent

Because, yes, things are really getting this bad. Sandra Tetley, a parent in Galveston, Texas runs a website called "GISD Watch" where she is really keeping an eye on the things going on in her school district. According to Neal Boortz (where I first discovered this story):

Tetley accuses trustees and administrators of breaking the law. Her group, Galveston Alliance for Neighborhood schools, has a history of criticizing the district for reconfiguring its middle schools, closing elementary schools, meeting in illegal executive sessions, refusing to divulge contents of a letter from a civil rights consultant, and for issuing a budget forecast that was off by $10 million.

Board members evidently don't like this very much and have had their lawyers send her a nasty letter demanding that libelous statements against the school board be removed. A government entity is threatening to sue a private citizen for libel.

I sure am no lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but I seem to remember that our right to criticize the government (and therefore its officials) is protected by the U.S. Constitution. Or something like that. It seems to this layperson/U.S. citizen that if Tetley is criticizing a government official for something they did in their official government capacity, then those writings couldn't be considered libelous. Now if Tetley wrote something nasty about a government official for something outside the scope of their job, then that individual might have a case against her for libel. Gosh, I hope that's the way it works. (I haven't spent enough time on Tetley's website to determine the nature of these apparently libelous comments.)

I suspect that the school board knows they will lose this case, so it makes me wonder why they'd be willing to spend lots and lots of taxpayer dollars to bring an action against this woman. Sandra Tetley--fight the power!


Parent Advisory Council Team said...

Sandra Tetley is very brave to stand up to the District bullies. Nationwide, once a parent stands up for their rights, they are silenced with threats like these. If we don't shut up, the districts will use the system to harass us. Suddenly the police start ticketing our cars, our children and their friends get arrested, CPS shows up at the door, they file 'truancy' charges...the list is endless.

What's ironic about this charge of "slander" is that the Districts themselves start a whispering campaign against activist parents, calling them liars to the other "lemming" parents who mindlessly support the district, so no one will believe them. No one wants that kind of hassle.

One mother went before the Appoquinimink School Board in Delaware and exposed the District in a public meeting in April 2004 about their dirty doings to an autistic 5-year old child and the persecution of her family. Laws were broken all over the place--what came of it? Nothing. The abusers in the administration were never held accountable, in fact their contracts were renewed.

This drum needs to be beat in this case. Every Galveston parent who has been mistreated needs to step up and demand the State remove all the administrators. Let them feel a little zero tolerance. School administrators who abuse their power and use state resources as their personal pit bull should at the very least be fired.

Anonymous said...


You are right that the district cannot sue Tetley, but they are going to try to sue her individually using the districts money. I think any lawyer that takes this case on is a fool. I would be amazed if any judge would let the case go to trial because it is not sort of within the confines of the law, her actions are completely legal. I could sit on a blog on say anything about the President all day long (you can find plenty of sites out there that do, other than threats) and you won't see the Presidential branch try and sue me for posting anything on a site. What makes a school district think they are somehow different or better?

I hope she doesn't cave to the bullying and hopefully there will be a legal way for her to push back at the school district. Given the districts reaction thus far and the actions they are trying to take with her, maybe what she has to say is true... it certainly matches the pattern of action she talks about.

twinkobie said...

The Hillsborough County, Florida, board and administration is crying foul because of the community blogs. They use such terms as "disruptive," "vicious," and other hostile descriptions of the blogs.

The board and administration have turned the school system into a racket that allows them to maintain power and dip into the tax kitty to fund extravagances for themselves like Supervisor Mary Ellen Elia's $300,000 salary and the board members greedy use of tax dollars such as Board Member Susan Valdes's $50,000 travel funds for last year while poor children in the county can't afford supplies to participate in class work.

The board won't give the teachers a slot on the board agenda because they don't want to hear from anybody but each other. They want to hide what they are doing from the public and the press to continue their abysmal running of the schools.

Ms. Tetley should shop the ACLU to take her case. Its specialty is government entities who try to punish citizens for claiming their free-speech rights.

I am proud of Ms. Tetley and hope she digs in her heels and does not let this bunch of C-student administrators strip her of her Constitutional rights.

lee drury de cesare, Madeira Beach, fl

Anonymous said...

Hello! I live in Wisconsin. When I googled "private citizens sue school district", up came this site.

For 3 years, myself and another individual have been watching our school district very closely, and publicly stating the school board's explanations that do not match up with the district's budget claims. We've brought discrepancies to the Board's attention regarding the District's budget forecasting methods of administrative salaries (at the expense of teachers), spending exhorbitant monies to buy artificial turf for a sports field, breaking of district's own by-laws, etc. We've written countless times in the local paper.

The school board has actually hired a lawyer to prohibit us from communicating with district employees, and discriminated against us to keep information we are legally entitled to from us.

The lengths the school superintendent and this school board will go to to create smoke and mirrors and keep us from getting any closer to the truth is AMAZING! Spending taxpayer dollars to hide the truth from taxpayers about how taxpayers' money is being spent.

I, personally, have experienced the attempts to assassinate my character by the MAYOR of our city. The local paper's editor printed quite the incendiary opinion about us, to discredit us and protect the district. Our police department told us "this is getting petty" and said it would not do anything to hurt the district. The DA and AG offices will not do anything.

WHO protects the taxpayers if the agencies we pay taxes to protect us won't do their job????? Anyone have any ideas regarding retaining a lawyer and what sort of lawyer we should be looking at? Thanks!


Rational Jenn said...

Anon--WOW. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. I wish you luck in fighting the good fight!

Jack said...

I just saw this and wanted to let you know that 3 years later a school district actually did sue parents - ME!
here is the case, read for your self. It is true that they waste taxpayer money to shut you up, the whispering campaigns - ALL OF IT!
And nothing happens to them even though they lost their case because they could prove ther accusations against there is no recourse for us because we dont have the money to fight back - I have learned through all of this that you only have the rights that you can afford to pay for. So sad that criminals have access to attorneys and legal help but not regular law abiding citizens.

Barbara Rejon

Jack said...

Ooops, obviously I meant to say the district could NOT prove their accusations. Of course it doesn't matter because all of our reputations have been ruined because no one thinks school officials (gasp - dare I say)lie!