Parents: Hamburg School District Lawsuit Violates First Amendment

May 14, 2013 Updated May 14, 2013 at 11:31 PM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

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May 14, 2013 Updated May 14, 2013 at 11:31 PM EDT


Hamburg, NY (WKBW) - A school board meeting in Hamburg turned fiery Tuesday, after parents and a school board member sounded off against a lawsuit that they say violates first amendment rights.

Parents believe the school board is violating their freedom of speech.

"This is the school board's way of trying to bully us for calling them out on the school administration's shortfalls," says Kenneth Kubik.

These men have been subpoenaed about posts they wrote on the Hamburg Educational Ethics blog.

Few people, if anyone, knows who is behind this website, which doles out harsh criticism to school officials.

The subpoenas go back to an illegally recorded executive board session that was posted on the blog three years ago.

"There's no physical evidence, and that's why they're searching and wanting my information. To see if I knew who did it," said Robert Johnstun, a parent getting subpoenaed.

No criminal charges have been filed, but a civil lawsuit blames three people for the blog -- school board member Sally Stephenson, her daughter and a teacher.

"It's been a witch hunt, and they found nothing a year ago in February," says Stephenson, referring to a five-hour deposition. "I've come out of my pocket, and they just want to bankrupt me."

The President of the school board told the crowd that the school district has spent about $10-thousand on the lawsuit. However, two school board members say they believe that number is higher.

In court documents, school board members say they are the ones who have been violated.

Thomas Flynn, a Hamburg School Board member, says the recording puts students' private information at risk.

"Anyone who's involved in an executive session meeting, whether it's a school board or town board, has the expectation of privacy," says Flynn.

Some members even offered to drop the lawsuit and subpoenas, if the person behind the recording came forward.

A resolution to dismiss the lawsuit failed in a three-to-two vote.

The Superintendent would not comment on the lawsuit, because it is a legal issue.