School Board Uses Power to Silence Michigan Mom, She Fights Back

Americans have First Amendment rights that allow them to speak up at public meetings, whether they offer their opinions and research to members of a city council on matters of local policies and actions, or whether they address their local school board to critically address matters pertaining to the education of the next generation of community members.  Many parents, students, and other interested citizens became active over the last two years at school board meetings because of policies enacted nationwide to ostensibly combat the spread of Covid-19-- policies that many considered to have a much more detrimental effect on the children and their education than any benefit gained.

Many school boards and their members, unaccustomed to seeing many parents attend their meetings, were equally unaccustomed to seeing those parents aggressively question their dictates, dictates primarily based on what state and local health agencies directed them to set up.  Dictates that were rarely based on what was best for the children and the advancement of their education.  In Macomb County, Sandra Hernden, a parent and local police officer, was not afraid in criticizing the school board's decisions that negatively affected her children.  The board appears to have tried to silence the persistent and vocal critic.

Sandra Hernden (above) is suing the Chippewa Valley School Board after members of the board emailed the department of justice and her employer complaining about her behavior at school board meetings.  Like many parents across the state, including here in Ludington, Hernden expressed her dissatisfaction over mask policies and the lack of in-person learning at Chippewa Valley.  

She regularly attended board meetings and was perceived as blunt and hostile in her comments to the board. Two board members, the secretary, and the president, emailed her employer (the Harper Woods police chief) and the Department of Justice to complain about her strident speech.  The contact with the DOJ occurred the day after Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo indicating that the DOJ would be willing to investigate and prosecute those that would intimidate or harass school board members.

The email to the police chief claimed Hernden was angry, disrespectful, and engaging in veiled racism at board meetings.  An internal investigation against her was made due to these claims which found no violation of department policies.

Those two emails are front and center in her complaint in federal court citing violation of her First Amendment rights and they are included in their entirety in the lawsuit (seen here.pdf).  Those emails include 'evidence' (Hernden's words at meetings and in emails) the board secretary and president forwarded that they believe shows inappropriate conduct but appears to show nothing of the sort.  Criticism of board policies and actions do not constitute threats, veiled racism, or anything else that the two board members claim.

“For two years, I have been demoralized, humiliated, discredited and demeaned,” said Hernden. “I can live with a lot of things and be called a lot of names, but none of this will stop me from fighting for my children. I’m bringing this case not just for my family, but for all the families like me who feel they have no voice.  I have every right to air my grievances and ask for help from the school board, especially when it comes to my child."

And that right should never be infringed upon by thin-skinned school board members who would use their position to try and get one of their critics fired from their job or investigated by the FBI just for taking a stand against the board's acts and policies.

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