Judge Shenko Denies Motion for Temporary Injunction in Collier Textbook Case; Children Endure the Consequences

As many of you are aware, Florida Citizens’ Alliance and three Collier County parents filed suit against the Collier school board on May 31, 2017. The lawsuit is based on two counts related to Florida Sunshine Law and two counts relating to violations of Collier School District policy and Florida Statute 1003.42.

On June 6, we [plaintiffs] filed a Motion for Temporary Injunction to halt the Collier School Board from approving on June 13th the six-million-dollar purchase of textbooks reviewed and approved out of the sunshine.

The hearing on the injunction was held June 12, 2017 and on June 13, 2017 Collier Circuit Court Judge James R. Shenko denied the request.

Our legal team (including attorneys Brantley Oakey and Steve Bracci) along with all of the plaintiffs are assessing Judge Shenko’s ruling, but note several concerns including potential advanced bias of the judge.

  1. Judge Shenko’s judicial assistant contacted Mr. Oakey’s assistant on Wednesday of last week to schedule the emergency hearing. Mr. Oakey told his assistant to have Judge Shenko’s assistant conference in both Mr. Oakey and Mr. Bracci, but this request was denied, though Mr. Fishbane was on the line for the defendants. (Why deliberately exclude the plaintiff’s attorneys.) Mr. Oakey’s assistant indicated that the plaintiffs were requesting a full day for the hearing, but could get by with a half-day, if that’s all that was available. Judge Shenko’s assistant suggested Friday, June 9 because the Judge had a full day open. Mr. Fishbane objected because the School District is closed on Friday and he would have a hard time getting his witnesses to come in on their day off. Rather than tell Mr. Fishbane the courts don’t revolve around the schedule of the School District, Judge Shenko instead cancelled five hearings on Monday, June 12 to accommodate Mr. Fishbane and in doing so restricted the hearing time to two hours. Neither Mr. Oakey or Mr. Bracci were allowed to weigh in on this scheduling decision. At the hearing on Monday June 12, Judge Shenko forced the plaintiffs to cut out two of their witnesses to meet the time demands. However, Judge Shenko’s calendar for June 13 was wide open and the hearing could have simply been resumed the following morning to allow the Plaintiffs to present their full case. After all, the School Board hearing (where the judge’s decision would impact proceedings) was not scheduled to begin until 5:00 p.m. on June 13.  We are left to wonder why the judge accommodated the defendant’s request while canceling other hearings only to restrict the plaintiff’s time to present the case.
  2. Judge Shenko’s DENIAL ORDER is almost a direct quote from the defendant’s final argument and fails to even address the plaintiff’s primary legal precedent in the Silver Express case.
  3. In Judge Shenko’s order, he assured the plaintiffs that “Sunshine Law violations can be cured by ‘independent, final action in the sunshine,’ and ‘it is exactly this independent, final action in the sunshine’ that the Board intends to engage in today, June 13, 2017.”  Despite the judge’s assurances, on June 13 the School board did not engage in any discussion whatsoever on the merits of the adopted textbooks, and there was no cure.

This lawsuit has always been about the children.

The quality of textbooks and all instructional materials is paramount to every child’s future and the very fabric of our Republic. Materials that contain factual errors, half-truths, important omissions and bias have no place in our classrooms.

THIS IS NOT A PARTISAN ISSUE. It is about our children’s FUTURE, following FLORIDA LAW and adopting FACTUAL, UNBIASED TEXTBOOKS that are not used to indoctrinate our children.

“In this case we are only beginning to decode the process by which the liberal progressive machine has usurped the people’s public school governance in order to indoctrinate our next generation to a way of thinking that is inconsistent with our nation’s founding principles.  I would encourage other local school districts throughout the State and nation to review the procedures by which your textbooks are being reviewed and selected, to see if they properly follow applicable law or policy.  As a society, we must be vigilant.”

Steve Bracci, Plaintiff’s attorney and parent of children in Collier County Public Schools

Bottom line: Stay tuned.

This is a David and Goliath fight against a well-funded School Board.  To continue to press forward we will need both your prayers and financial support. Some of you have donated to this effort and we thank you but we are only at 28% of our $40K goal. We have exhausted these funds and seriously need additional donations

This Collier “Textbook Adoption” lawsuit is a line in the sand for EVERY county in Florida. 

Please help us continue this important fight.

Thanks for your perseverance for liberty!