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Public Comment at Board Meetings
Vue v. Fresno Unified School District Case No. F076110 – California Court of Appeal, Fifth District New
Member(s) Involved: Fresno Unified School District
Current status and/or outcome:
On July 13, 2020, the Court of Appeal denied the request for publication of the decision, but its holding in favor of the district remains citable as persuasive authority and highlights important law for school boards, confirming that the board could not have restricted the public comment at issue even if it had anticipated that the comment would be objectionable.
Importance of statewide issue:
Clear judicial guidance related to public participation at governing board meetings helps governing boards fulfill their constitutional and statutory responsibilities.
Summary of the case:
Vue was a teacher in Fresno Unified School District. A community member who had made derogatory and false sexual comments about Vue in other forums, made similar comments during the public comment period of a Fresno USD board meeting. Members of the district knew, or should have known, that the community member was going to make these derogatory comments at the meeting. The Fresno USD board conferred with its counsel and subsequently did not stop the community member from speaking at the board meeting. Vue sued the district for, among other things, sexual harassment and failure to prevent harassment in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Vue’s attorney asserted that the statements at the Board meeting were the “primary basis” for the district’s liability.

After a jury returned a unanimous verdict against Vue, she challenged nine of the special jury instructions on appeal. Vue argued that the jury should have been instructed that the district could have adopted regulations restricting the expected derogatory public comment. Relying on Baca v. Moreno Valley School District (1996) 936 F.Supp.719, the Court of Appeal held that the district could not have adopted regulations ahead of time that would have restricted the type of speech at issue.

The ELA submitted a request for publication to the Court of Appeal on July 6, 2020, because the decision provides additional clarity for boards that they will not be held liable for failing to restrict speech during public comment, and in fact may not restrict such speech.