A Cabot woman has filed a federal lawsuit saying her right to enter Cabot Public School property has been illegally restricted after a recording of her talking about school shootings was taken out of context and posted on social media.
Melissa Bosch filed the lawsuit Monday against the Cabot Public School District, Superintendent Tony Thurman and the city of Cabot.
According to the complaint, Bosch attended a Moms for Liberty meeting at Crossroads Cafe in Cabot on June 9.
"This was the first 'working meeting' in months to discuss people running for school board, the status of the Open-Enrollment Charter school, and updates for those that are part of the Lonoke County Republican Committee," according to the court filing.
On June 13, someone posted a 30-second audio clip from the meeting on Facebook. The audio was "taken out of context to falsely make it sound like Melissa Bosch wanted to shoot up the school," according to the complaint.
Bosch called police to file a report.
So did Superintendent Thurman.
Thurman "also called the FBI, falsely stating that Bosch threatened to shoot employees at the school," according to the federal court filing.
"Thurman never contacted Bosch to find out the facts," according to the suit. "Without any proper investigation, Thurman had a Cabot police officer and a school resource officer (whose authority is limited to school property) hand deliver the letter to Melissa Bosch stating she is barred from all CPS property unless she calls 24 hours in advance."
According to the letter, at the June 9 meeting, Bosch was referring to School District staff when she said, "If I was ... any mental issues, they would all be plowed down with a freaking gun by now."
"The District will not tolerate threats against students or staff," Thurman wrote in the letter. "Effective immediately, you are not permitted on Cabot School District property except to attend to the affairs of your children. You will be able to drop off and pick up your children from school."
But Bosch must notify school officials 24 hours in advance if she plans to attend any meetings or events on campus, according to the letter.
"Failure to follow the directives of this letter will constitute trespassing, and we will request the assistance of local police for enforcement and legal action," wrote Thurman.
"Thurman acted recklessly and wantonly," according to Bosch's lawsuit. "No reasonable government official would act in such a manner."
Through the School District's general counsel, Thurman issued the following statement about the lawsuit: "The safety of students and staff is always a top priority. On advice of legal counsel, we have no further comment on pending litigation."
In her June 13 hand-written statement to Cabot Police, Bosch wrote that the moms were talking about school security and "hypotheticals -- shootings, getting into classrooms through doors propped open, etc."
"I said something about how the school board and superintendent have been so mean and hateful to us that without being mentally healthy we could 'just shoot them up,' but it's important that background checks, mental health, etc., need to be checked if anyone conceal carries around kids," wrote Bosch. "This audio was secretly taped and spliced and put on social media. An anonymous person posted this and put a spliced audio that sounded like I was going to 'shoot a librarian.'"
Bosch wrote that she was being harassed because of the out-of-context audio online.
In the police report initially filed by Thurman, an entry for June 21 refers to Sgt. Renee Baugh: "Sgt. Baugh obtained the copy of the recording from the Moms of Liberty meeting. Dr. Thurman stated that Melissa Bosch has been very outspoken at school board meetings. Due to her conduct, he was concerned about the comment on the recording. After listening to the full recording, the individual identified as Melissa Bosch did in fact make the statement 'If I had any mental issues they would all be plowed down with a gun by now.' However this statement was not made in the context of a threat. Sgt. Baugh spoke to Dr. Tony Thurman as well as to Melissa and informed her that she would not be charged in this case."
On June 22, Baugh told Bosch "that the investigation concluded that she was not threatening in any way and nothing would be filed against her or anyone at the meeting," according to the lawsuit.
"Sergeant Baugh also told Superintendent Thurman that the audio was not threatening in any way and no charges would be filed against Melissa Bosch," according to the suit. "Sergeant Baugh told Melissa Bosch that even though she didn't threaten or do anything wrong, Tony Thurman doubled down on his improper activity and reckless behavior: Thurman told the Sergeant to tell Melissa Bosch that Thurman would not rescind the letter and she was still prohibited from school property."
The defendants can't use their government authority or position to deprive someone of their right to attend public meetings "and otherwise interact with a public school without the due process of law," according to the lawsuit.
"Using their authority and responsibility under color of state law, the defendants illegally prevented Plaintiff from exercising her rights to enter public school property without having to provide special notice and receive special permission," according to the court filing.
Defendants should pay damages to the plaintiff, including punitive damages, as well as attorneys fees, according to the suit.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Little Rock on Bosch's behalf by attorneys Chris P. Corbitt, Clinton W. Lancaster and Robert Steinbuch.