Newspaper Article Archive of
The Kalona News
Kalona, Iowa
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Newspaper Article Archive of
The Kalona News

November 20, 2018 Highland board apologizes for ‘likely’ rights violation
Article Pages -- as published on the The Kalona News website.

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ARTICLE DESCRIPTION:

A legal saga between the Highland school board and Abigail Sojka came to an end last week as the board formally apologized for restricting her First Amendment rights and ability to comment on school district personnel.

The board previously approved a settlement during an Oct. 16 special meeting that paid Sojka $150,000, pledged to change board policy and required an apology from the school board. The settlement did not admit fault by the district.

At the start of their Nov. 12 meeting, Board President Nate Robinson read an apology.

“The Highland community school board acknowledges that it likely violated Abigail Sojka’s First Amendment rights through board policies. This occurred by the board’s refusal to hear comments on personnel matters during board meetings over the last four years. As a result, the board has changed its policies to comply with the First Amendment. The board apologizes to Mrs. Sojka and her family,” he said.

In response to the settlement, the Iowa Association of School Boards has changed their sample policies for school boards on the matter. According to Tammy Votava, communications director for the Iowa Association of School Boards, the new sample policy balances the rights of employees with the citizen’s First Amendment rights.

After the apology, Sojka used her allotted five minutes of public forum to speak on what she thought the board should learn from this settlement.

Her statement covered thoughts on the First Amendment, what school board members are tasked to do and how she felt they had failed when it came to her First Amendment rights.

After the meeting, Sojka said she felt like the apology and her statement accomplished what she set out to do.

“My goals when I set out to write what I talked about in the meeting were that it is important the board realize and understand the severity of what happened over the last four years,” she said.

One of the biggest things she felt like she accomplished was the change in sample policy from the state school board association.

According to Highland Superintendent Ken Crawford, the district is hoping to move forward from this incident but wouldn’t comment beyond the terms of the settlement and the changing of board policy.

“We’re trying to move past this,” he previously told The News.

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