A settlement agreement is pending between the York City School District and two people who filed a federal lawsuit last month alleging the district's school board violated their rights to free speech.

Their attorney, Sean Summers, said he expects the district to promise to abandon the practice of restricting the subject of public comments at public meetings.

"There will be no doubt in people's minds that people can speak about whatever they want during the public comment section," he said.

On March 19, nearly 200 supporters of New Hope Academy Charter School attended a district board meeting. Many of them — including some students — had filled out forms before the meeting to speak during the public-comment session.

But the board's solicitor announced before the session began the board would not accept comments related to New Hope. The board also limited comment to people 18 or older.

That decision triggered two lawsuits. The other lawsuit, filed in the York County Court of Common Pleas, alleges violations of the state's Sunshine Act.

Summers is representing the plaintiffs in both cases.

The settlement agreement is pending in the case filed by Cal Weary, New Hope's performing-arts teacher, and Shannon Garcia, a parent of a New Hope student.

Weary and Garcia both tried to address the board on March 19 but were prevented from doing so.

Attorneys for both sides met with a judge in Harrisburg on Wednesday.


Paul Cianci, an attorney representing the district, confirmed a settlement agreement is pending. He declined to comment on the terms of that agreement.

The school board will need to approve the agreement at a public meeting, Cianci said.

Summers said his clients will be satisfied with a change in the board's public-comment policy, but "what they really want is New Hope to stay open."

That issue is the subject of a third lawsuit filed on behalf of nearly 60 New Hope students and their parents, who have also alleged violations of their constitutional rights. That lawsuit is pending in the federal court system.

Tension between New Hope supporters and district officials has increasingly escalated since the district decided in 2012 not to approve New Hope's application for a charter renewal.

A state appeals board backed that decision and has ordered New Hope to close at the end of this academic year. New Hope has asked the Commonwealth Court to keep the school open.

That appeal is also pending.

— Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.