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Ison v. Madison Local School Board

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

July 19, 2019

Billy Ison, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Madison Local School Board, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          MICHAEL R. BARRETT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court upon Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction. (Doc. 2). Defendant Madison Local School Board filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. 13); and Plaintiffs filed a Reply (Doc. 14).

         During the telephone conference held on May 20, 2019, the parties informed the Court that the Court could rule on Plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief without a hearing. However, Plaintiffs later filed a Supplemental Evidence in Support of their Reply. (Doc. 19). Defendant filed a Motion to Strike, or in the Alternative Supplement the Record. (Doc. 22). Because the Court finds that the evidence submitted by Plaintiffs in their supplement has no bearing on the Court's decision, Defendant's Motion to Strike is DENIED as MOOT.

         For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The parties do not dispute the factual basis for Plaintiffs' claims.

         Plaintiff Sandra Ison has a son who attends school in the Madison Local School District (“the District”). (Doc. 1, ¶ 10). Plaintiff James Cullen is Sandra's partner. (Doc. 1, ¶ 13). Abby Ison and Billy Ison are the parents of Sandra Ison, and are the grandparents of her son. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 4, 5, 11, 12). Plaintiff Carolyn Patrick is a concerned citizen who lives in the District. (Doc. 1, ¶ 6).

         On February 29, 2016, a student in a District school stood up in the cafeteria, fired a gun, and injured four students. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 15, 16). As a result of the incident, Defendant Madison Local School Board (“the Board”) began to discuss arming some of its administrators, teachers, and support staff. (Doc. 1, ¶ 20).

         The Board first discussed the idea during its March 26, 2018 board meeting. (Doc. 13-4, Dr. Lisa Tuttle-Huff Decl., PAGEID# 118). At its next meeting, on April 24, 2018, the Board considered and voted on a resolution to allow armed staff in school safety zone. (Doc. 13-4, Tuttle-Huff Decl., PAGEID# 122). During the meeting, Sandra Ison, Abby Ison and Billy Ison all spoke. (Id.) During the Board's next meeting, on May 22, 2018, eight individuals spoke, including Sandra Ison, Abby Ison and Billy Ison. (Doc. 13-4, Tuttle-Huff Decl., PAGEID# 136-137).

         On July 13, 2018, the Board held an open forum in the high school gym to hear anyone who wanted to speak about the Board's decision to allow armed staff. (Doc. 13-2, David French Decl., ¶ 10, PAGEID# 99). Anyone who signed up to speak before the start of the meeting was allowed to speak. (Id.) During this meeting, there were no time limits placed on the speakers. (Id.)

         Between May 2018 and March 2019, Plaintiffs have spoken out against the District's policy authorizing staff to carry firearms a total of approximately thirty-five times. (Doc. 13-2, David French Decl., ¶ 9, PAGEID# 99).

         The Board has adopted Madison School District Rule 0.169.1, titled “Public Participation Policy” (the “Policy”), to govern comments from the public during its meetings. The current version of the Policy is as follows:

The Board of Education recognizes the value to school governance of public comment on educational issues and the importance of allowing members of the public to express themselves on school matters of community interest.
The Board is also committed to conducting Its meetings in a productive and efficient manner that assures that the regular agenda of the Board is completed in a reasonable period of time, honors the voluntary nature of the Board's time and using that time efficiently, and allows for a fair and adequate opportunity for input to be considered. Consequently, public participation at Board meetings will be governed by the following principles:
A. Any person or group wishing to place an item on the agenda shall register their intent with the Superintendent no later than seven (7) days prior to the meeting and include:
1. name and address of the participant;
2. group affiliation, if and when appropriate;
3. topic to be addressed.
Such requests shall be subject to the approval of the Superintendent and the Board President.
B. In order to permit the fair and orderly expression of such comment, the Board shall provide a period for public participation at every regular meeting of the Board and publish rules to govern such participation in Board meetings.
The presiding officer of each Board meeting at which public participation is permitted shall administer the rules of the Board for its conduct.

         The presiding officer shall be guided by the following rules:

B. Anyone having a legitimate interest in the actions of the Board may participate during the public portion of a meeting.
C. Attendees must register their Intention to participate in the public portion of the meeting at least two (2) business days prior to the meeting upon their arrival at the meeting by completing the public participation form. An attendee who desires to participate in the public portion of the meeting must complete the public participation form in person and provide proof of residence in Madison Township, Butler County, Ohio. . . .
E. Each statement made by a participant shall be limited to three (3) minutes duration.
G. All statements shall be directed to the presiding officer; no person may address or question Board members individually.

         I. The presiding officer may:

1. prohibit public comments that are frivolous, repetitive, and/or harassing
2. interrupt, warn, or terminate a participant's statement when the statement is too lengthy, personally directed, abusive, off-topic, antagonistic, obscene, or irrelevant;
3. request any individual to leave the meeting when that person does not observe reasonable decorum;
4. request the assistance of law enforcement officers in the removal of a disorderly person when that person's conduct interferes with the orderly progress of the meeting;
5. call for a recess or an adjournment to another time when the lack of public decorum so interferes with the orderly conduct of the meeting as to warrant such action; 6. waive these rules.
J. The portion of the meeting during which the participation of the public is invited shall be limited to ...

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