A judge ruled Monday that an Oklahoma parent could not be barred from school property after confronting a member of the board of education, as well as a reporter, about explicit books in the district’s library.
On October 10, Timothy Reiland, a father of two, went to the Owassa School Board meeting to protest a book that his daughter had brought home from the library. The book, called “Blankets” written by Craig Thompson, is a coming-of-age autobiography that depicts the author’s first love and sexually-abusive babysitter.
Reliand attended the meeting hoping the OPS Board of Education would vote to restrict “pornographic content” from the school library, however, the board members instead announced the issue would be discussed at a special meeting closed to the public.
Disappointed in the outcome, Reiland waited in the parking lot after the meeting for OPS board member, Brent England, to question further about the board’s decision. While waiting in the parking lot, Reiland expressed to a Tulsa World reporter that he thought the board’s decision was “bulls–t.”
Reiland and England had a heated exchange about the board’s decision, which prompted Owasso Superintendent Margaret Coates to send Reiland a letter, informing him that he had “committed one or more acts” that interfered “with the peaceful conduct of activities on District property.” The letter effectively banned Reiland from OPS property, prompting Reiland to pursue legal action and cite a violation of his First Amendment free-speech rights.
OPS argued that Reiland’s exchange with England and the Tulsa World reporter was not “constitutionally protected speech.” During the hearing, OPS officials also said they were “motivated by their desire to ensure a safe environment,” according to the court’s official ruling.
U.S. District Judge John F. Heil blocked OPS from imposing a six-month ban on Reiland’s access to school property after hearing arguments on both sides on November 14th. Heil said in the ruling the “Court finds that the restriction is not reasonable, but rather is an effort to suppress Plaintiff’s expression merely because public officials oppose his view.”
OPS told Fox News Digital they are “disappointed” in the proceedings, but will honor the judge’s decision.
“We are disappointed in the outcome of yesterday’s court proceedings, however we respect and will honor the judge’s decisions. Despite claims made in the media and on social media, this issue was never about silencing an individual as a response for speaking at a School Board meeting. As stated in the original notice to the parent, the actions taken were a result of his conduct after the School Board meeting on Oct. 10. We respect and honor the First Amendment rights afforded to all citizens, however it is important that we maintain an environment of safety and free of intimidation and verbal harassment at all school events,” the school said.
Legal Overwatch for Parents’ School Rights said in a press release that the “Northern District Federal Court for a second time found that the Owasso Public Schools violated the free speech of Tim Reiland, a parent who was banned in October for standing up against pornographic content in school libraries consistent with his parental right to direct his children’s education and upbringing under Oklahoma’s Parents Bill of Rights.”
On the same day as the judge’s riling, the board of education unanimously voted to update the district’s library policy to screen for explicit content, as well as to allow parents or legal guardians the right to restrict access to library materials for their students. The vote sparked an applause from the audience of the board meeting.
Reiland spoke at the OPS regular session meeting during a public comment period before the vote. He said at the podium that he was “happy” with the updates to the policy.
“Total victory,” Reiland, a father of two children, told Fox News Digital on Monday, reacting to both the court ruling and the OPS Board of Education’s vote on a policy related to library books.
“Today was a great day. It was a great day for my children, for the children of the Owasso community, and for the nation. Not only was I able to get the school to give in, but I also showcased, in a federal court, that parents have First Amendment rights to lobby their school when the school argued that we have no such rights. Ultimately, this was a fight for human decency, societal standards, and our First Amendment rights as American citizens. I could not have asked for a bigger win. Tonight, our nation won. The Owasso community won. Most importantly, our children won, both in policy and in law. It has been a great day to be an American. It did not come without a sacrifice but, as usual, the outcome was worth it all. I stand by everything that I said and did and would do it all over again without hesitation.”