COMMENTARY: Why is the Norwalk-La Mirada School Board limiting our freedom of speech?

By Raul Samaniego

Ah, another Fourth of July weekend in Norwalk. Bar-B-Qs, picnics, fireworks and good music greeted us. All things I’m sure the forefathers envisioned when they sat down and came up with a little document called the Declaration of Independence and later, the Constitution of the United States.

At the June 26 school board meeting of the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District, guest

Pam Severns was about to direct the Pledge of Allegiance when she brought forth a document she requested to read. 

It was a statement in the third person from the U.S. flag itself. It spoke of patriotism and respect for a symbol of our great country and the price paid for the right to wave it.
I take the First Amendment seriously.  Let’s review:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Yet, there I was again listening as Board President Sean Reagan was reintroducing the idea of limiting the ability for the citizens of the district to do just what the Constitution says, to gather peaceably and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

However, I can appreciate the board’s (in this case, President Reagan’s), need to get home after listening to members of the community offer their solicitated or non-solicitated words of advice.

I’ve been privy to two of the four meetings, which stretched into the night. Those were regarding educators addressing the board about upcoming salary negotiations and when community members addressed the board supporting the idea of honoring a favorite son, who gave a majority of his adult life to serving, Mr. Lee Mitchell.

Now, I don’t have a problem sitting and listening to people address the board with their support or non-support of an idea. I could not speak for everyone in the board room though last Monday night.

Freshly sworn-in board member Jude Cazares was barely an hour or so into his term when he spoke up and said he was opposed to any limitations on the public addressing the NLMUSD Board of Education. 

Minutes earlier both Darryl Adams and fellow member Jesse Urquidi expressed their opinions that they did not support any limitation on the public’s right to address that board.

My question is, why didn’t board members Karen Morrison, Ana Valencia or Vice President Chris Pflanzer chime in with agreement?

What are they afraid of?

So, they miss their favorite late night talk show once in a while.

According to an email provided by District Counsel Robert Jacobsen, only four times in the last two years, did any significant number of speakers exceed 11 or more.

If I were going to limit any resemblance to free speech (and I won’t), I’d cite someone else’s guidelines (such as the California School Board Association) so I couldn’t be blamed for its inception.

Am I upset? You’re dammed right I am.

John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence with prominence and Patrick Henry asked for death if he could not have liberty.

Therefore, why is the district school board even considering any limitation on the constitutionally guaranteed Freedom of Speech?