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Dariano v. MHUSD Opn - 2011

Dariano v. MHUSD Opn - 2011

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Published by legalclips
A federal district court in California has ruled that a group of students, who were prohibited by their high school's former assistant principal and former principal from wearing American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo day, can proceed with their suit against the school district and the two former high school administrators in their individual capacities. The court also ruled that the students' parents did not have independent federal and state constitutional claims that they could pursue against the defendants. As a result, the district court denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the students' federal free speech, due process and equal protection claims and their state free speech claim, but granted the defendants' motion as to the parents' individual claims.
A federal district court in California has ruled that a group of students, who were prohibited by their high school's former assistant principal and former principal from wearing American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo day, can proceed with their suit against the school district and the two former high school administrators in their individual capacities. The court also ruled that the students' parents did not have independent federal and state constitutional claims that they could pursue against the defendants. As a result, the district court denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the students' federal free speech, due process and equal protection claims and their state free speech claim, but granted the defendants' motion as to the parents' individual claims.

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Published by: legalclips on Feb 24, 2011
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United States District Court
For the Northern District of California
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United States District Court
For the Northern District of California
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTFOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIASAN JOSE DIVISIONDianna Dariano, et al.,Plaintiffs,v.Morgan Hill Unified Sch. Dist., et al.,Defendants.NO. C 10-02745 JW
ORDER GRANTING IN PART ANDDENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS’MOTION TO DISMISSI.  INTRODUCTION
Unlike the general right of United States citizens to hold speeches, rally and picket on thesidewalks of our public streets and in the amphitheaters of our public parks, our Constitution grantspublic school children only limited First Amendment rights when they enter the schoolhouse gates.Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969).  However, these rights are never fullyextinguished.  Id.  Rather, as our public schools provide the equally fundamental democraticfunction of bestowing educational access to the next generation of citizens without to regardeconomic, social, ethnic, or racial background, the Constitution has seen fit to balance this firstpurpose of public schools against the individual autonomous right of First Amendment expression.Without the ability to protect and foster a safe environment in our public schools, educational equityand the democratic pillar it provides could crumble.  On the other hand, the framers of ourConstitution found fit to highlight the primacy of free speech by placing it first within theframework of our Bill of Rights.  Without free discourse, especially the right to express politicalviews and to engage with our government institutions, our democracy is equally jeopardized.  It is
Case5:10-cv-02745-JW   Document36    Filed02/17/11   Page1 of 16
 
United States District Court
For the Northern District of California
12345678910111213141516171819202122232425262728
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Dianna Dariano individually and on behalf of their minor child M.D., John Darianoindividually and on behalf of their minor child M.D., Julie Ann Fagerstrom individually and onbehalf of their minor child D.M., Kurt Fagerstrom individually and on behalf of their minor childD.M., Kendall Jones individually and on behalf of their minor child D.G., and Joy Jones individuallyand on behalf of their minor child D.G. (collectively, “Plaintiffs”).
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Individual Defendants are Nick Boden in his official and individual capacity as Principalof Live Oak High School, and Miguel Rodriguez in his official and individual capacity as AssistantPrincipal of Live Oak High School.
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(hereafter, “Motion,” Docket Item No. 12.)
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(hereafter, “Complaint,” Docket Item No. 1.)2this fragile balance that the First Amendment doctrine addressing student’s rights to free speech andfree expression in public schools has recognized and warily navigated over the last forty years.  Thecase before the Court requires the Court to traverse this important legal territory.  What is before theCourt today is a Motion to Dismiss for lack of standing that, if granted, would foreclose furtherinquiry into these vital considerations.  Thus, it is with utmost care that the Court approaches thisanalysis.Plaintiffs
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bring this action against Morgan Hill Unified School District and certainindividuals,
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(collectively, “Defendants”), alleging violations of their First and FourteenthAmendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and violations of their right to Freedom of Expression under the California Constitution, Art. I, § 2.  Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violatedtheir federal and state constitutional rights to freedom of expression, due process and equalprotection by disallowing them from wearing American flag shirts in a public high school on Cincode Mayo Day.Presently before the Court is Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject MatterJurisdiction.
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The Court conducted a hearing on February 7, 2011.  Based on the papers submittedto date and oral argument, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants’ Motion toDismiss.
II.  BACKGROUND
In a Complaint filed on June 23, 2010,
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Plaintiffs allege as follows:
Case5:10-cv-02745-JW   Document36    Filed02/17/11   Page2 of 16
 
United States District Court
For the Northern District of California
123456789101112131415161718192021222324252627283Plaintiffs John and Dianna Dariano are the parents and legal guardians of Plaintiff M.D., a minor, who is and was a sophomore student at Live Oak High School which islocated within the Morgan Hill Unified School District.  (Complaint ¶ 8.)  Plaintiffs Kurt andJulie Ann Fagerstrom are the parents and legal guardians of Plaintiff D.M., a minor, who isand was a freshman student at Live Oak High School.  (Id. ¶ 9.)  Plaintiffs Kendall and JoyJones are the parents and legal guardians of Plaintiff D.G., a minor, who is and was asophomore student at Live Oak High School.  (Id. ¶ 10.)  Defendant Morgan Hill SchoolDistrict (“District”) is a public entity established and organized under California law inMorgan Hill, California.  (Id. ¶¶ 8, 11.)  Defendant Nick Boden (“Principal Boden”) was thePrincipal of Live Oak High School and a policymaker for the District.  (Id. ¶ 12.)  DefendantMiguel Rodriguez (“Assistant Principal Rodriguez”) was an Assistant Principal of Live Oak High School and a policymaker for the District.  (Id. ¶ 13.)On May 5, 2010, Plaintiffs M.D., D.M. and D.G. (collectively, “Student Plaintiffs”)and two other students, who are not plaintiffs in this action, wore shirts depicting images of the American flag to Live Oak High School.  (Complaint ¶ 14.)  Student Plaintiffs wore theirAmerican flag shirts to school to express a message conveying a pro-U.S.A. viewpoint andhad done so on prior occasions without incident.  (Id. ¶ 15.)  Also on May 5, 2010, manystudents were expressing a pro-Mexico viewpoint through shirts and bodypaint, displayingMexican flags, and singing and dancing.  (Id. ¶ 21.)On the morning of May 5, 2010, Plaintiffs D.M. and D.G. arrived to school atapproximately 7:04 a.m. and Plaintiff M.D. arrived at approximately 9:15 a.m.  (Complaint ¶16.)  At no time, even during a “brunch break” in the high school courtyard, did StudentPlaintiffs’ American flag shirts cause a disruption on the school campus.  (Id. ¶¶ 17, 18, 22.)Shortly after 10:05 a.m., while Student Plaintiffs were on “brunch break,” they wereconfronted by Assistant Principal Rodriguez.  (Id. ¶ 20.)  Assistant Principal Rodriguezinformed Student Plaintiffs that they were not permitted to wear their American flag shirtsand gave Student Plaintiffs the option of either removing the shirts or turning them inside
Case5:10-cv-02745-JW   Document36    Filed02/17/11   Page3 of 16

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