A judge ruled on Monday that an Oklahoma parent could not be barred from entering a school after confronting a member of the school board and a reporter about explicit books in the district’s library.
Timothy Reiland, a father of two, attended an Owassa School Board meeting on October 10 to protest a book that his daughter had brought home from the library. Craig Thompson’s book “Blankets” is a coming-of-age autobiography about the author’s first love and sexually abusive babysitter.
Reliand came to the meeting hoping that the OPS Board of Education would vote to ban “pornographic content” from the school library, but instead the board members announced that the issue would be discussed at a special meeting closed to the public.
Dissatisfied with the outcome, Reiland waited in the parking lot after the meeting for OPS board member Brent England to question the board’s decision further. Reiland told a Tulsa World reporter while waiting in the parking lot that the board’s decision was “bulls—t.”
Reiland and England had a heated argument about the board’s decision, prompting 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 barred Reiland from OPS property, prompting Reiland to seek legal action and citing a violation of his First Amendment free-speech rights.
OPS claimed that Reiland’s conversation with England and the Tulsa World reporter did not constitute “constitutionally protected speech.” According to the court’s official ruling, OPS officials stated during the hearing that they were “motivated by their desire to ensure a safe environment.”
After hearing arguments on both sides on November 14th, U.S. District Judge John F. Heil blocked OPS from imposing a six-month ban on Reiland’s access to school property. The ruling stated that “the Court finds that the restriction is not reasonable, but rather an attempt to suppress Plaintiff’s expression merely because public officials oppose his view.”
“While we are disappointed with the outcome of yesterday’s court proceedings, we respect and will uphold 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.
According to a press release from Legal Overwatch for Parents’ School Rights, the “Northern District Federal Court for the second time found that the Owasso Public Schools violated Tim Reiland’s free speech, 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.”
The board of education unanimously voted on the same day as the judge’s riling to update the district’s library policy to screen for explicit content and to give parents or legal guardians the right to restrict access to library materials for their students. The vote was met with applause from the board meeting audience.
Reiland spoke during a public comment period before the vote at the OPS regular session meeting. He stated at the podium that he was “pleased” with the policy updates.
“Total victory,” Reiland, a father of two children, said on Monday in response to both the court ruling and the OPS Board of Education’s vote on a library book policy.