Vermont parent to be paid $150,000 in lawsuit over ban from school meetings

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For­mer Ben­son, Ver­mont res­i­dent Mar­cel Cyr was award­ed $147,500 Mon­day after win­ning a law­suit against the Addi­son Rut­land Super­vi­so­ry Union. He had been banned from all school grounds in the dis­trict because school offi­cials were fright­ened of him.

The ACLU took up Cyr’s case on free speech grounds, and in Sep­tem­ber fed­er­al judge J. Gar­van Murtha found that Cyr’s rights to free speech had been infringed upon by the school district.

In his deci­sion, Judge Murtha wrote that “The ARSU’s cat­e­gor­i­cal ban was not tai­lored to respond to the spe­cif­ic threat that Mr. Cyr poten­tial­ly posed, a threat that was nev­er artic­u­lat­ed as any­thing more spe­cif­ic than a poten­tial risk of vio­lence to (the school’s prin­ci­pal and its direc­tor of spe­cial ser­vices) or their staff,” accord­ing to Ver­mont Today.

In Sep­tem­ber 2011 and March 2012, Cyr had been giv­en no tres­pass orders by the dis­trict. School offi­cials appar­ent­ly feared the man for his large stature, loud voice and harsh com­ments about his son’s edu­ca­tion. Cyr and his fam­i­ly moved out of Ben­son lat­er in 2012.

No threats had ever been attrib­uted to Cyr and his wife, who expressed their dis­con­tent main­ly by hang­ing signs on their cars and pass­ing out fly­ers detail­ing their var­i­ous griev­ances with the school.

Cyr’s sec­ond no-tres­pass order was issued after a psy­chol­o­gist- who was hired to eval­u­ate Cyr as part of an agree­ment end­ing his first no-tres­pass order- expressed seri­ous con­cerns about the risks he appar­ent­ly posed to school offi­cials. Notably, this psy­chol­o­gist nev­er inter­viewed Cyr dur­ing her inves­ti­ga­tions into his psyche.

ACLU exec­u­tive direc­tor Allen Gilbert said Mon­day that “This is a par­tic­u­lar­ly wor­ri­some case. We’re talk­ing about a guy who was wor­ried about his kid’s edu­ca­tion and was try­ing to bring atten­tion to what he thought the prob­lems were and he was told he couldn’t come to the meet­ings,” accord­ing to Ver­mont Today.