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Federal judge finds Vermont school district discriminated against critic by keeping him away

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MONTPELIER, Vermont — A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a Vermont school district discriminated against a man who criticized it by banning him from school property and not allowing him to attend school board meetings.

U.S. District Court Judge J. Garvan Murtha ruled the Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union discriminated against Marcel Cyr, formerly of Benson, for not allowing him to go onto any school property in the district.

Cyr was critical of the education his son was getting in the district.

Murtha's decision said the district took the action it did because some staff members were afraid of Cyr.

The Cyrs were also known to put up lawn signs and decorate their car with slogans encouraging defeat of the school budget.

The Vermont Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Cyr in the suit, said Murtha ruled the district's no trespass order amounted to a "categorical ban on expressive speech."

"This is a great ruling for free speech and open government in Vermont," said Vermont ACLU Executive Director Allen Gilbert. "What the ruling says is that schools and towns cannot skirt the Constitution by deciding that they don't want to hear someone's critical voice."

The school district's attorney, Pietro Lynn, said he was deeply disappointed by the decision and the district is considering all its options, including a possible appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"We believe this places a very heavy burden on school districts and school administrators when confronted with potentially dangerous members of the community," Lynn said.

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