A bill making its way through the California state legislature would criminalize “substantial disorder” by attendees at school board meetings, in what critics say is an attempt to crack down on parents’ opposition to transgender and racial ideology in curricula.
SB 596, introduced by State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-Glendale), would expand an existing law that punishes those who cause “substantial disorder” in schools to include school board meetings as well. As the state legislative counsel’s digest explains:
This bill would specify, for purposes of the above-described offense, that “substantial disorder” includes substantial disorder at any meeting of the governing board of a school district, the governing body of a charter school, a county board of education, or the State Board of Education. The bill would define a “school employee” as any employee or official of a school district, a charter school, a county office of education, a county board of education, the state board, or the State Department of Education. To the extent the bill expands the scope of an existing crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The bill would also punish sending threatening emails to school board members, though it specifies: “Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of ‘credible threat.'” The penalty for violating the law would be up to a year in jail.
As the Daily Signal notes, the legislation has provoked concern among parents that it will violate their First Amendment rights:
“It’s clear they’re trying to chill parents from speaking out,” Sarah Parshall Perry, a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, told The Daily Signal on Wednesday. (The Daily Signal is The Heritage Foundation’s news outlet.)
“I find it curious that there’s no definition of ‘substantial’ or ‘disruption’ within the proposed text,” Perry said. “Considering that these are essential terms for the bill, it’s likely that if passed, the law would fall under a vagueness challenge.”
Exemptions in the bill that would apply to school employees are not extended to apply to parents, leaving them vulnerable.
The bill has already passed the California State Senate, where it passed by a 30-8 vote, and it is currently moving through the California State Assembly. Democrats hold supermajorities in both houses, leaving little leverage for Republicans to object.
The Biden administration has already come under criticism for colluding with the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to produce a letter urging Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate parents who showed up at school board meetings as if they were domestic terrorists. Garland issued a directive to Department of Justice employees to monitor school board meetings.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.