United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
J.C., a minor, by and through his mother, LUISA FERNANDA SUTTON, Plaintiff,
LAVERNE PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT, ISD No. 1, HARPER COUNTY, OKLAHOMA; KYNDRA ALLEN; EDDIE THOMAS; RICHARD WELLS; ANDY CUNNINGHAM, Defendants.
MILES-LaGRANGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary
Injunction, filed March 13, 2018. On March 21, 2018,
defendants filed their response, and on March 23, 2018,
plaintiff filed his reply. On March 28 and 29, 2018, the
Court held a hearing in this matter.
a ninth grade student at Laverne High School in Laverne,
Oklahoma. The Laverne Public School District
(“District”) allows its middle and high school
students to walk or drive off campus for lunch during the
school day. On January 31, 2018, J.C. and another student
left campus at their lunch break, picked up marijuana at the
other student's house, drove to a country road, and
smoked marijuana. J.C. and the other student were stopped by
the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, and they were found to be in
possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. The Oklahoma
Highway Patrolman took J.C. home to his mother.
J.C. was not formally charged with a crime, the incident was
reported to defendant Kyndra Allen (“Allen”), the
principal at Laverne High School, around noon on January 31,
2018. That evening, Allen filled out the Laverne High School
Suspension Procedures form (“Suspension Form”),
stating that J.C. would be suspended for the rest of the
semester. In the Suspension Form, Allen indicated that she
had not considered any other options before deciding to
suspend J.C. Allen also stated in the Suspension Form that
J.C. had violated the Drug-Free Schools and Communities
morning of February 1, 2018, J.C.'s mother, step-father,
and J.C. went to Allen's office to find out whether J.C.
would be returning to school. Allen advised J.C. and his
parents that she could not meet with them at the time and
that she would call them when she was ready to meet with
them. J.C.'s step-father indicated that he had to go to
work and would not be able to meet with Allen later. Allen
stated that she could just talk to J.C.'s mother. Later
that morning, Allen called J.C.'s mother and asked if
they could return to the school.
and his mother came to Allen's office. During the
meeting, Allen went over the Suspension Form. Allen imposed
an out-of-school suspension of J.C. starting February 1, 2018
and ending May 18, 2018. During the meeting, J.C. did not
dispute that he was smoking marijuana on the country road
during his lunch break and that he was stopped by the
Oklahoma Highway Patrol. It is disputed whether during the
meeting, Allen, J.C., and his mother specifically discussed
other potential options for discipline. Allen states they
did; both J.C. and his mother state they did not. Allen
informed J.C. and his mother of their right to appeal the
decision to the Board of Education by making a request to the
February 2, 2018, Eddie Thomas (“Thomas”), the
superintendent of Laverne Public Schools, was informed that
J.C.'s parents were requesting an appeal of the
suspension to the Board of Education. Thomas included the
appeal on the agenda for the February 5th meeting
and posted the agenda later that day. Subsequently, on the
afternoon of February 5th, J.C.'s step-father
came to the district's main office confirming that J.C.
was appealing the suspension. Thomas asked J.C.'s
step-father if he wished to have the meeting at the regular
board meeting scheduled for that evening, and J.C.'s
step-father responded that he would.
Laverne Board of Education (“Board”) convened for
its regularly scheduled meeting on February 5, 2018 at 6:30
p.m. At approximately 7:10 p.m., the Board entered into
executive session to conduct J.C.'s requested appeal
hearing. Those present included three Board members:
defendant Andy Cunningham, defendant Richard Wells, and Gabe
Hope, as well as Thomas, Allen, J.C., his parents, and three
witnesses to testify on J.C.'s behalf. During the
meeting, J.C. and his parents were given the opportunity to
present evidence and witnesses, to question the
administration, and to make arguments to the Board. J.C., his
parents, and the three witnesses testified on J.C.'s
behalf. Allen presented the basic facts to the Board and
informed them of the length of the suspension. The only
policy that was discussed during the executive session that
J.C. was alleged to have violated was the Drug-Free Schools
and Communities Policy.
thirty minutes in executive session, the Board returned to
regular session and adopted the following findings of fact:
(1) Suspended student, was stopped by The Oklahoma Highway
Patrol, during lunch break, and was found to have in his
possession a Controlled Dangerous Substance and Drug
Paraphernalia; (2) According to school policy this act is
punishable by a suspension of up to the current semester and
the succeeding semester; (3) Student was suspended for the
remainder of the current semester. In a 2-1 vote, the Board
upheld J.C.'s suspension.
March 2, 2018, plaintiff filed the instant action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that J.C.'s procedural
and substantive due process rights have been violated. After
the instant action was filed, Allen provided J.C. with an
out-of-school education plan. Under that plan, J.C. will
receive weekly coursework for his core subjects, and J.C.
will receive up to 65% credit for any work done on the
educational plan while suspended. Plaintiff now moves this
Court, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(a), to
enter a preliminary injunction directing defendants to permit
J.C. to return to school during the pendency of this
movant seeking a preliminary injunction must show: (1) a
substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2)
irreparable injury to the movant if the injunction is denied;
(3) the threatened injury to the movant outweighs the injury
to the party opposing the preliminary injunction; and (4) the
injunction would not be adverse to the public interest.
Dominion Video Satellite, Inc. v. Echostar Satellite
Corp., 269 F.3d 1149, 1154 (10th Cir. 2001).
“Because a preliminary injunction is an extraordinary
remedy, the movant's right to relief must be clear and
unequivocal.” Id. (internal citation omitted).
Whether to grant a preliminary injunction rests within the
sound discretion of the trial court. United States v.
Power Eng'g Co., 191 F.3d 1224, 1230 (10th Cir.
however, a movant is seeking a disfavored preliminary
injunction - preliminary injunctions that alter the status
quo, mandatory preliminary injunctions, or preliminary
injunctions that afford the movant all the relief that he
could recover at the conclusion of a full trial on the merits
- the movant must satisfy a heightened burden. See O
Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal v.
Ashcroft, 389 F.3d 973, 975 (10th Cir. 2004).
“[A]ny preliminary injunction fitting within one of the
disfavored categories must be more closely scrutinized to
assure that the exigencies of the case support the granting
of a remedy that is extraordinary even in the normal
course.” Id. at 975. Specifically, ...