Free Speech Press Release

10.04.02

ACLU Seeks Relief for Petitioneers in Maple Heights

Court Limits on Strikers Hit Petitioneers Too, Civil Liberties Group Files Motion

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation filed a Motion to Intervene in a lawsuit between striking teachers and the Maple Heights School District. The motion was filed this afternoon in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court on behalf of petitioners seeking to force a recall of the Maple Heights Board of Education. The action does not involve the recall itself, but recent limits on the petition drive.

Gerald Strothers and Leroy Colley Jr. are two of several parents and taxpayers circulating a petition which asks the Probate Court to recall sitting members of the Board of Education. But a preliminary injunction issued on September 23rd by Common Pleas Judge Jose Villanueva, aimed at striking teachers in Maple Heights, has forced the petitioners off public sidewalks near schools and other school district property.

The ACLU is seeking to modify that injunction to allow Strothers and Coley to collect signatures near the schools, where they are most likely to reach concerned parents with their message. “Gathering signatures is pure political speech, and when political speech takes place on the public sidewalks, it merits the highest degree of First Amendment protection,” said ACLU Legal Director Raymond Vasvari.

The papers filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court this afternoon ask Judge Villanueva to allow Strothers and Coley to appear in the action and argue for substantially relaxed limits on their right to free expression. Maple Heights Police have been enforcing the September 23rd injunction to allow just four union pickets – and noone else – on sidewalks near schools.

“The picketers have a right to be there, but they are not the only ones with an opinion to express,” said Christine Link, Executive Director of the ACLU of Ohio. “The sidewalks are broad enough to accommodate the petitioners too. They have their own issues, and they have a right to be heard.”