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Defenders of Chappell's free speech

After Kansas State Board of Education member Walt Chappell of Wichita recently was seen on KAKE, Channel 10, promoting his personal view that public schools should weather the state budget crisis by spending reserves and consolidating districts, he received a letter of reprimand from board chairwoman Janet Waugh. In response, the Topeka Capital-Journal's Ric Anderson wrote a column beginning, "And the Kim Jong Il Free Speech Award goes to . . . Janet Waugh." Anderson noted that Waugh’s complaint was focused mostly on Chappell's identification as a board member in the TV interview. "But those of us who aren't living in Pyongyang might argue that Chappell didn't give up his right to free speech when he got elected to the state board and began being identified, whether he wanted to or not, as a board member. We also might think that unless he yells fire in a crowded theater or slanders someone or issues a threat or otherwise uses his expression in an unlawful way, he can say what he wants about education issues even if it's out of step with Waugh or anybody else."In the Hays Daily News, columnist and Fort Hays State University political science professor Chapman Rackaway was similarly angry with Waugh, writing: "Just because you serve on a public board does not mean you lose the right to disagree with their decisions. The fact the board censured Chappell is appalling and a real violation not only of free speech but of the right we all have to disagree."