SACRAMENTO, CA – A federal court dismissed a First Amendment lawsuit today after a Northern California school district agreed to a settlement with a mother who charged the district with barring her from her son’s elementary school.
MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) sued Gustine Unified School District officials in September 2017 on behalf of Claudia Macias, whose son attended Romero Elementary School in unincorporated Merced County. The settlement took over a year to negotiate after the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California denied the school district’s request to dismiss the case in May 2018.
“No school district should react to a mother advocating for her child by taking steps to silence her and to prevent her from further participation in her child’s education,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “This settlement vindicates important legal principles in California law that encourage all parents to be involved in their children’s schooling.”
In August 2015, Macias complained to the then-principal of Romero – the only elementary 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. Macias and her husband asked the school’s principal to assign their son to a new classroom.
According to Macias, when she and her husband tried to visit her son’s classroom in September 2015, the principal turned the couple away and summoned the school resource officer. Macias alleged that the principal told her that she was banned from the school indefinitely after claiming that Macias had harassed two teachers.
The resource officer, a Merced County Sheriff’s deputy, escorted the couple off the campus and, according to Macias, told her that the principal had the authority to ban her from school grounds and that she would be arrested if she returned.
The school district and defendants in the suit — the principal, school resource officer, and the district superintendent — deny all wrongdoing.
The case was dismissed by United States Magistrate Judge Erica P. Grosjean after the two sides agreed to a settlement that includes compensation to Macias, as well as payment of attorneys’ fees and other costs. The district also agreed to notify Macias and MALDEF if Macias is ever banned from a Gustine Unified School District campus in the future.
“School districts should understand today’s settlement to mean that they cannot prevent parents from taking part in their children’s education by banning them from their schools indefinitely, under threat of arrest, and without a way for them to defend themselves,” said Juan Rodriguez, MALDEF staff attorney.
Read our lawsuit HERE
Read the settlement agreement HERE
Read the order to dismiss HERE