Sep. 1—A Bangor-area school district must pay far-right conservative activist Shawn McBreairty $40,000 to settle a federal lawsuit in which McBreairty accused the district's school board and its chair of violating his First Amendment rights by banning him from attending board meetings and school events.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen ruled in favor of McBreairty in July, finding the school board's ban unconstitutional. The financial settlement was handed down Tuesday.
In May, Regional School Unit 22, which serves Hampden, Newburgh, Winterport and Frankfort, barred McBreairty from participating in school functions and entering school grounds to attend meetings until Dec. 31, 2022. The ban followed an April school board meeting at which McBreairty played an audio recording of a phone conversation that the school district said contained inappropriate language.
In the phone recording, McBreairty used the phrase "hardcore anal sex," which the school district said violated its public comment policy that prohibits abusive or vulgar language.
At the time of the ban, RSU 22's lawyer, Timothy Pease, said the district was banning McBreairty for his failure to comply with district rules.
As McBreairty was playing the recording, school board Chair Heath Miller told him that he was violating board policy and to stop playing the recording. When McBreairty refused, Miller asked that he leave the meeting and then moved the meeting into a recess until McBreairty was gone.
Torresen, however, hinted that the school board might have discriminated against McBreairty, banning him for his viewpoints rather than for a failure to adhere to district rules.
"It is hard to shake the sense that the school board is restricting the speech because the board disagrees with both McBreairty's opinions and the unpleasantness that accompanies them," Torresen said.
Torresen, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, also found that McBreairty's reference to "hardcore anal sex" was not obscene because it was used to make a political point. McBreairty, a far-right activist for parental rights in K-12 public schools, has made frequent claims that schools are teaching critical race theory and providing porn to students. He has harshly criticized books that highlight LGBTQ+ characters and teenagers discovering sexuality, calling them pornographic. He was discussing the presence of books he sees as a form of pornography in school libraries during his public comment at the April meeting.
McBreairty, 51, lives in Hampden but does not have children in the school district. RSU 22 is not the first school district he has sparred with in recent years. He pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor charge of improperly influencing a public official after threatening the Cumberland-area school district's then school board chair; he was barred from Cumberland school district grounds after violating district rules; and he is currently being sued by the Hermon school department for allegedly bullying and harassing one of its teachers.
McBreairty also authored an amendment to the Maine Republican Party platform that would discourage teachers from teaching "identity politics and kiddie porn," and bring "morals and family values" back to Maine's schools.