MADISON — Attorney Brent Eisberner at the request of concerned parents spoke at Monday night’s Lodi School Board meeting. He questioned the district’s stringent mask and COVID-19 quarantine policies.
Someone called the police.
It’s not clear exactly why or who made the call, but Eisberner — the attorney behind several liberty lawsuits in Wisconsin — believes he knows why.
“I view it as another intimidation tactic,” the Madison attorney said. “Not towards me. I was in the Marine Corps. I can take it.”
“When it comes to the First Amendment, you don’t necessarily have to punish people, you just have to do some action that would chill free speech,” the attorney said, adding that he is requesting the police department dispatch log to find out why an officer was sent to the meeting. “There was no reason for a police officer to be there.”
Lodi District Administrator Vince Breunig did not return Empower Wisconsin’s request for comment.
What we do know by multiple accounts is that several parents had asked Eisberner to speak on their behalf during the comment period of Monday night’s school board meeting. They’re concerned about the district’s mask mandate and a COVID quarantine policy they say is excessive and discriminatory. While the district has granted some religious exemptions to its mask policy, children covered under the exceptions have been isolated. One student was told to play in a corner by himself during group time, sources say.
Eisberner told the school board excluding students presents a serious constitutional issue, and flies in the face of state laws that prohibit discrimination.
The attorney also told the board that its quarantine policy is confusing and disparate, forcing unvaccinated students to stay out of school longer. Quarantine rules, Eisberner said, should go through the local health department, not the school system. He informed the school board that “various members of the community have reached out” to him to represent them in potential future potential litigation against the district.
When his time to speak was up, Eisberner went back to his seat. Other parents who had signed up to speak “donated” their time to the attorney.
He told the board that a raft of studies have shown social distancing, quarantine policies and locking kids out of schools have hurt children more than the virus.
“Yes, COVID is a disease. Yes, it’s real. But it does not appear to be affecting children anywhere near the way the mental health issues are. We should be educating and supporting the mental health and well-being of students.”
At one point, the board president grew upset because Eisberner wasn’t wearing a mask. The attorney said he then put on a mask.
Sometime later, a parent told Eisberner that the police were on their way.
The officer showed up and remained in the back of the room. Eisberner told the board that he thought it was ridiculous that somebody had called police. He said the officer, who was very professional, should have gotten overtime.
“What that told me is, ‘We don’t like what you’re saying so we’re going to call the cops,” the attorney said.
No one acted disorderly, and there were no incidents or arrests, Eisberner added.
But some district residents say the message was clear. Just as it was last month when U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced he was siccing federal law enforcement agents on parents who heatedly speak out at school board meetings. Garland’s infamous memo came out about the same time Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” McAuliffe lost in last week’s election.
The Lodi School District is now looking to curb speech from the public. During Monday night’s meeting the school board talked about trimming the 5 minutes allotted to each speaker during the public comment portion of the meetings, and they asked whether they could exclude anyone who lives outside the school district from commenting at board meetings. That would include the Madison attorney whose clients just might ultimately sue the school district.
Breunig, according to a media account, said the changes may be needed in the wake of “some very difficult board meetings” elsewhere in the state.
‘I’d say for us, our public input has been very respectful all the way through. But that’s not the case everywhere in Wisconsin and when you write policy, you have to look at all of those things,” the administrator said.
It seems “difficult” meetings make district officials uncomfortable.