Judge Orders Rejected Announcement Be Aired in Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Ann Arbor Public Schools

“Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success”


Skyline High School is facing a lawsuit filed by the Thomas More Law Center alleging viewpoint discrimination. Credit: Lucas Caswell (left), Dwight Burdette (right).

On November 1, 2022, the Thomas More Law Center filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan against Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS), Skyline Principal Cory McElmeel, and Skyline Secretary Jefferson Bilsborrow on behalf of a Skyline Parent representing their student and the Skyline Republican Club. 

The suit alleges that the Defendants deprived the Plaintiffs of their right to freedom of speech and equal protection under the law and the club’s right to equal access by not allowing the club to make an announcement against Proposal 3.

On November 4, 2022, an expedited hearing was held due to the time-sensitive nature of the case. The court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for an emergency ex parte temporary restraining order which orders the defendants to air a revised announcement. 

 The original announcement the Republican Club proposed read as follows:

Are you interested in joining our efforts to protect the health of women and children by joining us in our fight to defeat Proposal 3? If proposal 3 is passed it would eliminate health and safety regulations, legalize late term and partial birth abortion, no longer require physicians to perform abortions, and eliminate informed consent laws. If so email us at [email protected]

The altered announcement differs in that it omits “by joining us in our fight to defeat Proposal 3.”

In granting the restraining order, Judge Paul Borman found “Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on the merits of their First Amendment claim, and that they therefore have satisfied the requirements for obtaining a temporary restraining order at this early stage of the case.”

The suit alleges that the original announcement submitted on October 21, 2022, was rejected due to its “political nature,” violating an AAPS School Board policy not to advertise political activities. Per the lawsuit, soon after rejecting the announcement, Bilsborrow defended the school’s decision in a meeting with the student. McElmeel affirmed the decision on October 28, 2022, in an email to the student, stating it could not be aired because it violated campaign finance laws, in contrast with the initial reasoning.

The suit alleges that the school allows student groups to share announcements over the public address system but prohibits announcements that express viewpoints with which they disagree.

The plaintiffs are seeking validation of their claims by a judge, a change to AAPS policy, an action that will rectify the alleged unlawful actions, nominal damages, and attorney fees.    

In conjunction with the modified announcement being read, on November 7th, AAPS Superintendent Jenice Kerr Swift issued a press release regarding the announcement. It read in part: 

“We will continue to vigorously defend this case in court so that clarity in the district process in future situations is consistent with the Michigan Campaign Finance Act and other laws in ensuring the district maintains a viewpoint neutral position, without advocacy, on ballot proposals.”   

The Court will issue a full ruling at a later date.

The Post will continue to cover this story as it develops. 

Lucas Caswell (‘24) is a member of the National Honor Society (NHS), one of the clubs mentioned in the lawsuit as issuing a political announcement. 

Michael Mychaliska (‘23) is a member of the National Organization for Women (NOW) Club, National Honor Society (NHS), and Environmental Sustainability Club, clubs mentioned in the lawsuit as issuing political announcements.