The district superintendent and the high school principal in Middleton, Wisconsin are trying to end this activity, which started in 2014, when some parents began meeting with their own children and their children's friends, and has grown to the point were the authorities are worrying about whether it's legal (and not worrying enough about whether stopping it is illegal).... A city park is a traditional speech forum where free-speech rights are at their strongest.... These are private citizens, not government employees, and they're speaking on a subject of their choice with their own point of view. That's plain old freedom of speech. You can't discriminate against it because the religious message is making some people uncomfortable or because you're reminded of things like prayer in the classroom that would present a problem under the Establishment Clause.A fine point was that the school had some kind of lease on the park that let it impose school rules on the students, but the park was still open to the general public, to whom the school rules didn't apply.
The news today is that the school officials are planning to ask the city to cancel the lease, so the school will have no authority over the park. Email from the district superintendent Don Johnson to employees and parents suggested that this was the best move, in view of the potential for lawsuits from both sides of the controversy.
Johnson wrote in his message that Fleming believes the district’s authority to enforce school rules in Fireman’s Park under the lease “is questionable, and that the city has no interest in litigation to resolve the ambiguities in the language.”In Fleming's view, canceling the lease doesn't make a difference. But I'd say that since some people thought the school's lease mattered, getting that out of the picture could help them adjust to the reality of life in the United States of America.
[City attorney Matt] Fleming didn’t disagree. “The only legal problems they might have right now, they brought on to themselves,” he said. “Their school rules only apply to school people. It is a public park, and I don’t think anything untoward was happening.”
Fleming says the situation "needs to calm down," but "there isn’t anything the city will do, if there’s no lease, to fundamentally change anything." He's right about that. The city shouldn't do anything (other than enforce the neutral rules that apply to everyone using the park, whatever they're talking about Jesus or geometry or whatever).