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Leal v. Everett Public Schools

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

February 19, 2015

MICHAEL LEAL, Plaintiff,
v.
EVERETT PUBLIC SCHOOLS, et al., Defendants

Page 1221

For Michael Leal, Plaintiff: Conrad Reynoldson, LEAD ATTORNEY, SEATTLE, WA; Kevin T Snider, Matthew B McReynolds, LEAD ATTORNEYS, PRO HAC VICE, PACIFIC JUSTICE INSTITUTE, SACREMENTO, CA.

For Gary Cohn, in his individual and official capacities as Superintendent of Everett Public Schools, Cathy Woods, in her individual and official capacities as Principal of Cascade High School, Laura Phillips, in her individual and official capacities as Assistant Principal of Cascade High School, Robert Aguilar, in his individual and official capacities as Assistant Principal of Cascade High School, Everett Public Schools, Defendants: Michael Alexander Patterson, Sarah E Heineman, PATTERSON, BUCHANAN, FOBES & LEITCH PS, SEATTLE, WA.

Page 1222

ORDER

THOMAS S. ZILLY, United States District Judge.

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, docket no. 8. This case presents a conflict between the First Amendment's

Page 1223

promise of free speech and a school district's interest in adopting policies aimed at maintaining orderly schools and educating our students. Plaintiff is a student who wishes to pass out religious literature to his classmates during the school day. Defendants are the school district and its administrators that have adopted a policy that restricts when and where students may distribute written materials and requires that these materials have been written or produced by a student. Plaintiff disagrees with this policy and has sought a ruling prohibiting defendants from enforcing it. On December 2, 2014, the Court denied plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order and deferred ruling on plaintiff's motion for the preliminary injunction pending additional briefing. Min. Ord. (docket no. 15). Having considered all the briefs filed in this matter and the argument of counsel at the hearing on January 21, 2015, the Court concludes that plaintiff has not made the requisite showing for a preliminary injunction. Accordingly, plaintiff's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Michael Leal is a senior at Cascade High School in Everett, Washington, which is part of the Everett Public Schools system (the " School District" ). Compl. (docket no. 1)¶ 1. Plaintiff, who identifies as a member of the Christian faith, wishes to communicate the claims of his faith with his peers on school property during the school day by passing out religious materials. Id. ¶ ¶ 14-15. Doing so, however, violates a School District policy. This policy provides in relevant part, as follows:

Procedure
Distribution of materials written and/or produced by students shall not cause a substantial disruption of school activities or materially interfere with school operations. Students responsible for distribution of materials will be subject to corrective action or punishment, including suspension or expulsion, depending on the nature of the disruption or interference resulting from distribution of materials.
The following guidelines are in effect in each school building:
A. Materials written and/or produced by students may be distributed before or after the school day at points of entry/exit of school buildings.
B. Students may also seek permission from the school principal or assistant principal to distribute materials written and/or produced by students at other times and locations.

Heineman Decl. (docket no. 13) Ex. 5.

To date, plaintiff has been disciplined several times for violating this and other school policies. Compl. (docket no. 1) ¶ ¶ 25-28, 33-36. Plaintiff also alleges that he has been threatened with expulsion. Id.¶ 37. In response, plaintiff filed suit against the School District and several school administrators under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on the basis that defendants have violated his rights to free speech and expression under the First Amendment. Id. ¶ ¶ 61-65.

Plaintiff claims that two aspects of the School District's policy are facially unconstitutional. In this motion, plaintiff seeks a preliminary injunction enjoining the School District from (1) restricting the distribution of literature to the school's entrances and exits before and after school, and (2) requiring that this literature be written or produced by a student.

DISCUSSION

1. Applicable Standards

a. Preliminary injunction

To obtain a preliminary injunction, plaintiff must " establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence ...


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