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B.L. v. Mahtomedi Public School District

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 26, 2018

B.L., by and through his Parent and Natural Guardian, Carole Lundell, Plaintiff,
v.
Mahtomedi School District, ISD No. 832, Defendant.,

          Andrea L. Jepsen, Esq., School Law Center, LLC, St. Paul, MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.

          Michael J. Waldspurger, Esq., and Elizabeth J. Vieira, Esq., Rupp, Anderson, Squires & Waldspurger, P.A., Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ANN D. MONTGOMERY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On March 28, 2018, the undersigned United States District Judge heard oral argument on Defendant Mahtomedi School District, ISD No. 832's (the “District”) Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 29]. Plaintiff B.L., by and through his Parent and Natural Guardian, Carole Lundell (“B.L.”), opposes the Motion. For the reasons set forth below, the District's Motion is granted.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         On March 20, 2017, B.L. was suspended for 10 days for possessing and brandishing a BB-gun on school grounds. Larson Decl. [Docket No. 13] Ex. B (“Hr'g Exs.”) at Ex. 4. During this period of suspension, B.L. had access to his schoolwork and many of his teachers met with him to discuss his coursework. Larson Decl. Ex. A (“Hr'g Tr.”) at 97. Additionally, the District assigned B.L. an intervention specialist to assist him in completing his assignments and to help him make better choices. Id. at 73.

         On March 27, 2017, the District informed B.L. that he was being suspended for five additional days pending expulsion. Hr'g Exs. at Ex. 6. The following day, B.L. received a Notice of Proposed Expulsion, formally notifying B.L. that the District proposed expelling him pursuant to the Pupil Fair Dismissal Act (“PFDA”), Minn. Stat. §§ 131A.40-121A.56.

         On April 12, 2017, an expulsion hearing was held before Hearing Officer Richard John Miller (the “Hearing Officer”). The Hearing Officer heard testimony from B.L., a school bus driver who observed B.L. brandishing the BB-gun, a school resource officer and Washington County deputy sheriff who spoke with B.L. about the incident, the Mahtomedi High School principal and assistant principal, and the District superintendent. See generally Hr'g Tr. After the hearing, the Hearing Officer submitted his recommendation to the School Board, which met the following day to consider the recommendation. Larson Decl. ¶¶ 7, 8. After deliberating for approximately 90 minutes, the School Board adopted a resolution expelling B.L. from the District for the remainder of the 2016-17 school year and for the first semester of the 2017-18 school year. Id. ¶ 9; Ex. D.

         B.L. appealed the School Board's expulsion decision to the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education (“MDE”). Vieira Decl. [Docket No. 32] ¶ 3. On June 30, 2017, the MDE upheld the expulsion decision, but decreased the length of the expulsion to the end of the 2016-17 school year and not to the first semester of the 2017-2018 school year. Id.

         B.L. and the District appealed the MDE decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Id. ¶ 4. Pursuant to Minnesota law, the MDE's decision was stayed pending the outcome of the appeal, meaning that the School Board's decision expelling B.L. through the 2016-17 school year and the first semester of the 2017-18 school year remained in effect. See Minn. Stat. § 121A.50. The first semester of the 2017-18 school year ended on January 18, 2018. Id. ¶ 2. The Minnesota Court of Appeals heard oral argument on the parties' appeal of the MDE's ruling on February 22, 2018. The appeal is pending.

         B. Procedural Background

         On April 17, 2017, B.L. filed a Amended Complaint [Docket No. 6] alleging that his property right to education was impaired by the District's failure to provide the proper alternative educational services prior to initiating the expulsion proceeding. B.L. also alleges that his due process rights were violated when the District's Superintendent ...


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