SACRAMENTO, CA – A Merced County elementary school principal violated a Latina mother’s constitutional rights by banning her from campus in response to criticisms of her son’s treatment in class, a lawsuit filed in federal court alleges.
MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) is representing the mother, Claudia Macias, who complained in August 2015 to the then-principal of Romero Elementary School – the only school in an unincorporated community in Merced County – that her fourth-grade son’s assigned teacher behaved in a manner that triggered the boy’s acute anxiety.
Ms. Macias and her husband appealed to the principal, Lisa Filippini, to assign their son to a different classroom. The parents arranged to visit the classroom in September 2015, but were turned away by Ms. Filippini. The principal summoned the school’s resource officer, a Merced County Sheriff’s deputy, and told Ms. Macias she was indefinitely banned from the school after claiming she screamed at and harassed two teachers.
The deputy told Ms. Macias that she would be arrested if she ever returned to the school unless it was an emergency. The indefinite ban did not extend to her husband, but the deputy escorted them both out of the school.
In the subsequent days and weeks, Ms. Macias’ husband objected to the ban, to no avail. The school district provided no mechanism to contest the principal’s unsupported and retaliatory decision. The parents eventually transferred the son to a school in a different town and district.
“Educators should open their doors to parents like our client, not ban them,” MALDEF staff attorney Miranda Galindo said. “Defendants’ outrageous interference with Ms. Macias’ participation in her son’s education violated constitutional protections against such retaliatory and baseless actions.”
The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, alleges that the school officials violated Ms. Macias’ First Amendment right to criticize how they treated her son and further violated her free-speech rights by banning her from the school, thus preventing further discussion of her son’s needs.
The suit also asserts that the school officials and the district violated Ms. Macias’ Fourteenth Amendment rights under the Due Process Clause, which protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.
The lawsuit names Ms. Filippini, Gustine Unified School District Superintendent Bill Morones, who upheld her decisions and is currently on leave from his job, and the school resource officer, Brian Miller, as individual defendants.
Read the lawsuit here.