FoCo schools to pay two Mama Bear members $17.91 in damages, cover legal fees in settlement

Justine Lookenott
The Forsyth County Board of Education December 2022 meetingPhoto byForsyth County School District

(Forsyth County, GA) The Forsyth County Board of Education (BOE) has reached a settlement with the Mama Bears of Forsyth County.

The lawsuit started back in July of 2022 when several moms alleged that their constitutional rights were being violated by the BOE when they were forced to stop reading explicit material out loud at BOE meetings to protest the books being available in schools.

One of the participants, Alison Hair, was banned from BOE meetings until she signed a written guarantee that she would obey the Chair’s directives, which prohibit “inappropriate language.”
Alison Hair speaks at the Forsyth County Board of Education meeting on December 13Photo byForsyth County School District

Last November, United States District Judge Richard W. Story ruled in favor of Mama Bears, who were represented by the Institute for Free Speech (IFS).

A consent judgment and injunction was reached on Tuesday, January 31.

“If it can be checked out in a school library, you should be able to read from it during a school board meeting,” said Del Kolde, senior attorney at the IFS.“This consent injunction provides long-term protection for the Mama Bears or any other Forsyth County parents who want to read from books available in schools in order to make a political or philosophical point during a school board meeting.”

Details of settlement

The settlement essentially tosses out many of the BOE’s “respectfulness requirements.”

This means that:

  • Speakers will be allowed to read or quote verbatim from books or written works available on school grounds while addressing the BOE during public comment times at BOE meetings
  • Speakers will be allowed to personally address specific BOE members
  • Speakers will be allowed to use “profane, uncivil or abusive” language
  • While the injunction does not prevent the BOE from amending the FCS public participation policy, future policies will have to abide by the injunction

The settlements agreed on include payments of $17.91 each in damages to Hair and Cindy Martin from Mama Bears. This amount signifies the year 1791, when the First Amendment protecting free speech was ratified.

“I'm going to be framing it right next to the Bill of Rights on my wall,” Martin said. “… It blows my mind that I was actually able to literally defend the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights and the rights to free speech.”
Cindy Martin speaks at the Forsyth County Board of Education meeting on December 13Photo byForsyth County School District

The BOE has also agreed to cover all legal fees and costs for Mama Bears.

Martin said that while Mama Bears was suing for their right to free speech, she hopes others will see that this victory for them protects everyone else’s right to free speech as well.

“I hope they'll be able to see that this was for all people,” Martin said. “This was for all people to be able to say what they want, to say and address whatever concerns they have to the Board of Education. It's for all people.”

FCS Chief Communications Officer Jennifer Caracciolo told NewsBreak in an email that the settlement agreement is scheduled as an action item for the BOE meeting on Thursday, February 2.

“We have no additional comments beyond what is contained in the settlement agreement,” Caracciolo stated.
The Forsyth County Board of Education building in Forsyth County, GAPhoto byJustine Lookenott

Martin said Mama Bears will continue to fight to remove explicit books from Forsyth County schools.

The consent judgment and injunction for Mama Bears of Forsyth County v. Forsyth County Schools can be read here. More information on the case can be found on the Institute for Free Speech website.

If you have a news tip in Forsyth County, contact Justine Lookenott at

To learn more about the Mama Bears v. Forsyth County Schools case, read “Parent group sues Forsyth County Schools claiming constitutional rights violated” and “Parent group suing Forsyth County Board of Education gets a win in federal court” and “Woman banned from FoCo School Board meetings returns after lawsuit win.”

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I cover local news in Forsyth County, GA. My debut into the writing world began at the age of 10 when I won an essay contest in Around Acworth Magazine in which I wrote about spending the summer with my pet goat, Eclair. Since graduating from Kennesaw State University, I have been published in several newspapers and magazines in the Atlanta area including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Atlanta School Guide, What Now Atlanta, Newcomer Magazine, the Marietta Daily Journal and the Cherokee Tribune.

Forsyth County, GA

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