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Some Pennridge School District parents fear 2 proposed policies jeopardize free speech: "It's a slippery slope"

Some Pennridge School District parents fear 2 proposed policies jeopardize free speech
Some Pennridge School District parents fear 2 proposed policies jeopardize free speech 02:20

BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) -- The Pennridge School District in Bucks County is proposing two policies that opponents say will jeopardize students' freedom of speech. On Monday night, parents voiced their concerns during a school board meeting.

The school board policies under review come from the School Board Association of Pennsylvania. It's up to the local districts to decide what happens. No vote happened Monday and one of the issues may have left more questions than answers. 

Parents came out by the dozens to seek clarity on two policies being discussed by the Pennridge School Board. The first, No. 220, is titled "student expression."

"So it says student expression. I understand why that is a nerve but it really is the dissemination of non-school-related materials and if you read the policy that is really all it addresses," Pennridge superintendent David Bolton said.

The second, No. 321, deals with teacher advocacy.

"I became concerned that this policy would have a chilling effect on our school and our students," a man said.

At the start of the meeting, school board member Ronald Wurz expressed his concerns for the current draft.

"The way it was written could prevent anything personal from being displayed in the classroom, including signs of support for many areas like mental health, autism, suicide prevention, the environment, gender," Wurz said.

Parents, including Adrienne King, who is also the lead of the education subcommittee for Bucks County's NAACP, cites the vagueness as a primary point of issue.

"I don't have the trust in this board or the school district that they are going to be enforced equally across the board," King said.

She argues previous anti-LGBTQ comments by board members leave students, especially minority groups, at risk.

"I do feel like these policies that they are enacting right now or trying to enact right now that it is infringing on free speech," King said.

The debate has also drawn the attention of civil liberties groups.

"I worry it's a slippery slope," Human Rights Campaign Pennsylvania director Ryan Matthews said.

School board officials say this meeting is only a first read and a final vote isn't expected until September.

The Pennridge School Board president did not attend Monday night's meeting. The next board meeting is on Aug. 22. 

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