ACLU of Ohio Helps Parents Who Were Banned From Petitioning On or Near School Property

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
October 4, 2002 12:00 am

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CLEVELAND–The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio today asked a trial court judge to modify an overly broad restriction on a teachers union picketing on or near school grounds which has swept up parents seeking to circulate a petition on an unrelated matter.

“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 Raymond Vasvari, Legal Director of the ACLU of Ohio.

On September 23, Judge Jose Villanueva issued a court order aimed at teachers on strike in Maple Heights that restricted the number of picketers allowed to demonstrate near school district property. In accordance with the court order, Maple Heights police have allowed only four union picketers on sidewalks near schools. All others engaging in political speech have been banned from the public sidewalks near schools and other school district property.

“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.”

The ACLU is taking action on behalf of Cuyahoga County residents Gerald Strothers and Leroy Colley Jr., two of several parents and taxpayers circulating a petition asking the Cuyahoga County Probate Court to recall sitting members of the Maple Heights Board of Education. The motion filed this afternoon argues for substantially relaxed limits on their right to free expression.

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