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Week in Review: Victory for Free Speech in Florida

October 24, 2020

An 18-year-old Florida high school senior had his freedom of speech taken away after coming to school with a “TRUMP” elephant statue in the bed of his pickup truck. Now, thanks to the Goldwater Institute, that student is free to participate in one of the most cherished of American political traditions and exercise his First Amendment liberties. 

In September, Tyler Maxwell—a supporter of President Trump—drove to Spruce Creek High School in Volusia County, Fla., with a new item in the bed of his pickup truck: a large red, white, and blue elephant statue with the word “TRUMP” painted on it. During his first period class, a school administrator pulled Maxwell out of class and told him that he had to take the elephant home immediately. Upon returning to school in his truck (with the elephant) the next day, Maxwell was met by school officials who demanded that he relinquish his parking permit, telling him that he would not be allowed to park his truck at the school again unless he removed the elephant. 

On Thursday, the Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit in defense of Tyler’s First Amendment rights and to ensure that all students have the freedom to take part in political speech. Thanks to a preliminary decision by a federal judge on Friday afternoon, Tyler can return to his school parking lot with his Donald Trump elephant statue in the back of his truck —and he can enjoy his freedom of speech.

“We’re pleased that the court acted quickly to protect Tyler’s First Amendment rights,” said Goldwater Institute Senior Attorney Jacob Huebert, who represents Maxwell. “Tyler looks forward to returning to school on Monday.” Huebert also noted that the Institute will continue to pursue the case, asking the court to issue a permanent ruling declaring that the school violated the First Amendment by revoking Tyler’s parking pass.

You can read more about the case here. 

School Choice Advocate Honored with 2020 Goldwater Freedom Award

Arizona mom Kayla Svedin wanted to give her kids the best education possible. But for her special needs children, the traditional public school education simply wasn’t enough to give her the educational experience she needed. Kayla knew her kids (and many other children across the state) needed options, and she began speaking out on behalf of Arizona families to give them more choice and more control over their kids’ education.

At this year’s Virtual Annual Dinner, the Goldwater Institute was proud to honor Kayla with our Freedom Award, commemorating her tireless work in fighting to give all Arizona families the ability to choose the educational path that sets their children up for success.

“If we want to have a just and equitable world, we have to make sure that these opportunities are accessible,” Kayla said upon accepting the Freedom Award. “And I will continue to fight for those options and for those families.”

From Courts to Capitols, Home-Sharing Wins

The Credit and Lang families each own vacation homes on Gull Lake in Ross Township, Michigan, and their homes have been respites for the families for generations—over 100 years each. Like so many other homeowners—not just in Ross Township, but across the country—they share their special getaways with others via short-term rentals. But they may not be able to do that much longer.

Over a year ago, the two families began battling for their right to rent. Even though neither family’s property had violated a single noise or traffic ordinance in their many years of renting out their homes, Ross Township declared both families in violation of a rule against rental of permanent residences. 

Thankfully, the Goldwater Institute’s American Freedom Network, our network of pro bono attorneys litigating for liberty in all 50 states, was there to help. AFN attorney Nick Curcio represents the Credits and the Langs, and thanks to Nick, these families recently won a victory in trial court affirming their right to rent. The case is now on appeal.

But Goldwater’s fight to protect homeowners’ property rights doesn’t stop in the courtroom. We’ve also authored the Home-Sharing Act, which empowers individuals to embrace the economic opportunity that comes with home-sharing while allowing local governments to address issues like noise and parking so long as they do not discriminate against vacation rentals or ban home-sharing. Nebraska passed a version of the law last year, and legislators in South Carolinaand Florida have introduced similar measures this year. You can read more about the Credit and Lang families’ case and Goldwater’s work on homesharing here.



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