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L.F. v. Lake Washington School District #414

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

July 16, 2018

L. F., in his individual capacity and as a parent of K.S.F. Student 1 and K.S.F. Student 2, Plaintiff,
v.
LAKE WASHINGTON SCHOOL DISTRICT #414, Defendant.

          ORDER

          THOMAS S. ZILLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Regarding First Amendment Violations and § 504 Retaliation, docket no. 33 (“Plaintiff's Motion”), and Lake Washington School District's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, docket no. 36 (“Defendant's Cross-Motion”). Having reviewed all papers filed in support of, and in opposition to, the motions, the Court enters the following order.

         Background

         I. L.F.'s History of Abusive Communications

         Plaintiff L.F. is a divorced parent of two students who attended schools located within the Lake Washington School District (the “District”). See Declaration of Jonathon Hedin, docket no. 38 (“Hedin Declaration”) at ¶¶ 2, 4; Declaration of Robert Johnson, docket no. 40 (“Johnson Declaration”) at ¶¶ 2, 4. L.F. alleges that both of his children suffer from anxiety and behavioral disorders which, in turn, adversely affect their school performance. See, e.g., Amended Complaint, docket no. 29 (the “Complaint”), at ¶¶ 6, 7, 10-12, 72, 95.

         L.F. has a history of angry, aggressive, and hostile encounters with District staff. See, e.g., Declaration of Matt Livingston, docket no. 37 (“Livingston Declaration”), at ¶¶ 17, 36-37; Hedin Declaration at ¶¶ 6, 8. L.F.'s communications were extraordinarily time-consuming and made District staff feel threatened and intimidated. See Hedin Declaration at ¶¶ 8, 10, 11, 13; Declaration of Sue Anne Sullivan, docket no. 39 (“Sullivan Declaration”), at ¶¶ 7, 10. Through his communications, L.F. attempted to address issues concerning his children's education and to discuss the possibility of implementing a plan under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”). See Sullivan Decl. at ¶ 11.[1]

         II. The District Implements the Communication Plan

         On November 23, 2015, the District issued to L.F. a plan in response to L.F.'s troublesome communications. Declaration of Carlos A. Chavez, docket no. 42 (“Chavez Declaration”), Exhibit 20 (the “Communication Plan” or “Plan”). The Plan informed L.F. that his communication pattern with the District was not “a productive use of valuable District resources.” Id. at 1. The Plan further notified L.F. that “the tone and manner of some of [his] communication and interaction with District staff and administrators has regrettably made several of these individuals feel intimidated and bullied.” Id. Because of the “unproductive communication pattern” that had developed, the Plan set forth various procedures designed to process and respond to any issues L.F. wished to raise with the District or its staff. Id. These procedures centered on a biweekly meeting that would be held between L.F. and three District personnel. See generally Id. The Plan stated that all of his communications with District staff should be made at these meetings and that District employees would not respond to other attempts to communicate. It confirmed that “[a]ll of [L.F.'s] issues with the District involving [his] students should be addressed . . . at our biweekly meetings.” Id. at 1.

         The Plan did not restrict L.F.'s normal access to school records or his attendance at any school activities ordinarily open to parents, and did not apply in emergency situations. Id. The District advised L.F. that the Plan was a final decision from which he could appeal under RCW 28A.645.010 and that, should he choose to ignore the Plan, the District could seek an Anti-Harassment Order against him. Id. at 2. L.F. never challenged or appealed the Communication Plan under the statute.

         Consistent with the Plan, the designated District personnel met with L.F. to discuss any issues pertaining to his students' education. See Sullivan Decl. at ¶¶ 28-33; Livingston Decl. at ¶¶ 21-25. Despite numerous subsequent meetings with District staff and opportunities to advocate on behalf of his children consistent with the Plan, L.F.'s communications with the District remained problematic. See, e.g., Sullivan Decl. at ¶¶ 33-34; Johnson Decl. at ¶ 14; Chavez Decl., Exhibit 32.

         On January 28, 2016, the District notified L.F. that he had violated the Communication Plan and that the District would “be imposing additional sanctions” for the violations. Chavez Decl., Exhibit 34. These sanctions included reducing the District's periodic meetings with L.F. to once a month. Id. (LWSD006728); Sullivan Decl. at ¶ 35.[2] L.F. violated the Plan again at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. Sullivan Decl. at ¶ 41; Chavez Decl. Exhibits 39, 40. The District met with L.F. on October 28, 2016, during which time he was visibly angry, speaking in an extremely loud voice, and physically intimidating District personnel. Sullivan Decl. at ¶ 43. After this meeting, the District concluded that in-person meetings with L.F. were counterproductive and potentially dangerous for District personnel. Sullivan Decl. at ¶ 45; Livingston Decl. at ¶ 32-33. Accordingly, on November 3, 2016, the District revised the Communication Plan a second time to remove in-person meetings and, instead, require L.F. to communicate with District personnel via email. Sullivan Decl. at ¶ 46, Livingston Decl. at ¶ 33; Chavez Decl., Exhibit 48.

         III. The District Implements a Section 504 Plan and L.F. Initiates This Lawsuit

         On November 22, 2016, the Guidance Team met and determined that one of L.F.'s children should be evaluated for a Section 504 plan. On December 16, 2016, that child was found eligible for a 504 Plan, which went into effect in January 2017. Sullivan Decl. at ¶ 48.

         L.F. initiated this lawsuit on March 10, 2017. See docket no. 1. The operative complaint asserts three claims: (1) violation of Section 504; (2) 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 1983, 1988 for violation of L.F.'s First and Fourteenth Amendments' right to free speech; and (3) violation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination, RCW 49.60 ...


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