Family claims intimidation, censorship in Madison schools gun debate in federal lawsuit

The grandfather of an 18-year-old Madison schools student has sued the district in federal court claiming the board has tried to muzzle him and his family when they try to speak in opposition to the schools controversial concealed carry policy.

Billy Ison, his wife, their daughter and her significant other and a friend filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati on Wednesday. They claim the school board trampled their right to free expression and made it virtually impossible for them to speak their views during school board meetings.

RELATED: Docs in Madison schools gun lawsuit describe firearms training teachers received

“The school board has engaged in a concerted campaign designed to chill and silence plaintiffs from further public criticism of its actions by imposing prior restraints on plaintiffs ability to participate in public meetings and by fabricating requirements as barriers to public participation that do not appear in the school board’s written rules,” the lawsuit reads.

The suit claims the board had Ison physically removed from a meeting in May and now has banned him from using the words “pro-gun agenda.”

His daughter Sandra claims “two armed deputies” now flank her sides at meetings which “causes her to feel afraid.” The suit also claims the board now requires people who want to speak at meetings to register two days prior to the meeting and provide identification and proof of residency in the district — something that is not the district’s public participation rules.

The family has several other complaints and is seeking an injunction from the court and unspecified monetary damages.

At issue is the board’s April 2018 resolution authorizing armed staff in schools. The gun program came about after a school shooting there three years ago when four students were injured by a classmate.

This is the second lawsuit over the gun policy, the first is winding down in Butler County Common Pleas Court. It claims the policy violates an Ohio law requiring that armed school employees be trained and certified as peace officers.

Ison was at a hearing on Monday over whether the three school staff who are carrying weapons must have 700-plus hours of training or merely the 27 hours they have already taken. At that hearing he told the Journal-News rather than fighting this lawsuit, he wished the district would pay for additional school resource officers, “trained, uniformed, experienced law enforcement personnel in our schools, great idea.”

“I do not want my grandson or anyone else’s child going to school, in a school where teachers are allowed to carry guns with no training,” he said. “I would encourage everybody in our community to get out and get involved in this argument for the welfare of our children.”

District officials could not be reached for comment.

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