07 December 2006

Nashua School Board member Sandra Ziehm joins Alderman Fred Teeboom and Christopher King against Nashua School Board First Amendment Restrictions.

Uber update: KingCast is pleased to report that, based on my conversation today with City Attorney Stephen Bennett, a new rule will issue in the next several days. It it my understanding it may closely mirror the Oklahoma Defamation language noted below, and the footage from my 4 Dec. '06 appearance at the school board will visit KingCast and/or Justiceforkids.net in due course. It should appear on Nashua Cable 19 on Sunday, 10 Dec. 2006 starting at 12p.

Update: Go to bottom of this entry and read the second comment for proof that I am right. For background on this issue, read this post -- with its related links -- noting that now-suspended Nashua School Board Superintendent Julia Earl's proposed and accepted restrictions against anyone who wants to address personnel problems is coming under substantial fire.

With Ms. Ziehm officially coming on board I am now going to ask for a meeting with City Attorney Stephen Bennett, Alderman Teeboom and any and all interested Board members to resolve this issue, using a defamation standard for public speakers as noted in the above post.

Here's what Ms. Ziehm wrote me:

"I tried to call you today but there is another Christopher King in Nashua. Just wanted you to know that I agree with you [in your visit to the Board on 4 Dec. 2006].

Freedom of Speech cannot be overstressed. I read the right to know law from cover to cover, took a class and saw nothing to support suppressing the people. Because it would put the board in a precarious position does not relieve of us the obligation to give the public a chance to express their concerns to their elected representatatives. Truthfully, I would like to hear from the citizens because it acts as a balance to my judgements. Thus far in my tenure, citizen input has been my most valuable resource.

I would be interested in any interpretative information you (case law) might be able to provide me. I often feel bound and gagged by the system so any clarification I can obtain would be greatly appreciated. I thought your comments last night were well verbaged and presented. I often wish more folks would speak up!"

My telephone number is 555......

Please feel free to call anytime.
Sandra Ziehm"

I telephoned and emailed Ms. Ziehm, and you better believe she knows all about Columbus, Ohio school board protester Jerry Doyle (1999 Columbus Alive profile story) and the Federal case I initiated that is 100% on point, as noted in this 2000 Freedom Forum story: Jerry was there to talk about what else but personnel issues!

Update: 200 Jerry Doyle v. Cols. School Board Federal Case I initiated.
Update: 2005 West Virginia case affirming Defamation standard.
Update: 2004 Oklahoma case striking "no-negativity" standard.


Christopher King said...

This is a supremely compelling issue that requires immediate attention. As my last email notes, I was told that there is a letter outlining why the Board policy passes Constitutional muster, but I have not received any response on that issue as requested.

As such, I am telephoning City Attorney Bennett this afternoon to explore extrajudicial avenues of resolution, chiefly implementing the Defamation standard that I had referenced in this 5 Dec. 2006 blawg entry and on video in the 4 Dec. 2006 School Board working session itself.

Said video, with me standing directly before the U.S. flag, will likely be featured on KingCast and Justiceforkids.net at some point in the near future.

Again, I look forward to working with the Board and Attorney Bennett, rather than against the Board and Attorney Bennett. In my opinion, there is no need for any acrimony here.

Even though I need to work right now, and often work at night, I will make myself available any evening next week to initiate discussion on the matter. If it would facilitate things, I could reserve a room at the Nashua Public library.

Very truly yours,

Christopher King, J.D.

Christopher King said...

Follow-up email:

Here's the base story:


And here is the update, affirming exactly what I said about the Defamation standard:


Not to mention the related story involving the lawsuit where a Federal Judge concurred in 2004 in Oklahoma, striking a "no-negativity" rule:



I might not ever be a big business attorney or a partner in a huge firm and that's fine. Everyone has their role in this country.

But I sure as heck know my First Amendment Law -- I said what I said at the school board about the Defamation standard without even looking it up, just off the cuff and on legal principle -- and I respectfully request that Nashua move forward on adopting a Defamation standard before this thing gets really out of hand.



Christopher King said...


Sanda Ziehm is the correct spelling of the board member's name who openly supported this challenge, which has been resolved pending the updated policy.

As noted in this post where I discuss the voice (tenor) of this blawg:


I admit to being less than perfect.


Tom Vaughan said...

Hi Chris,

RE: 2004 Oklahoma case striking "no-negativity" standard

The article states in part:

The consent order, issued in late July, said the district must make a new policy that "shall not limit or prohibit the right of participants in the School Board meetings from making statements that are critical of District policies."

Policy 1130 does not prohibit criticism of District policies. The two relevant sections of 1130 are nine and ten which I've reproduced below:

9. Personal attacks or harassment of individuals will be ruled out of order

10. Administrative and personnel-related problems may not be brought before the Board in Public Comments.

-Tom Vaughan

Christopher King said...

Dear Mr. Vaughan,

Several things:

First note that the Jerry Doyle case, which I initiated, provided that Mr. Doyle can indeed name names of individuals while being critical of their conduct.

I was not permitted to do so on 4 Dec. 2006.

Second, the Oklahoma story also noted that this language was stricken:

"The board will not permit verbal attacks on any school personnel, nor discuss individuals by name, nor permit slanderous remarks against any such individual."

That is virtually identical to para. 9, which should be stricken in the Nashua policy as well.... who determines what is harrassive, I might ask? And that would be a time/place/manner issue, not grounds for a total bar. In other words, if a speaker delivers scathing commentary in a cordial and genteel manner, the board has no recourse to stop said speaker if s/he is directly addressing an issue of public concern. That's the Law.

Third, who determines whether an issue is one of "district policy" or one of "Administrative and personnel-related problems?"

....After all, there are several issues relating to district policy that I was going to address regarding a personnel issue, relating to Julia Earl, to wit:

1. Was there a hearing held? Shouldn't there have been a hearing within 20 days from the Notice to Terminate?

2. Was such a hearing requested or denied?

3. Further, was or is there a Demand Letter that has been issued?

As such, I respectfully submit that those are distinctions without difference. I wanted to speak to those issues, but I was denied on 4 December, 2006, in violation of my First Amendment Rights.


Editor's note: Mr. Vaughan is a concerned school board member.