American Civ. Lib. Union v. Miami-Dade Sch. Bd.

Decision Date24 July 2006
Docket NumberNo. 06-CIV-21577.,06-CIV-21577.
Citation439 F.Supp.2d 1242
PartiesAMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF FLORIDA, INC., Greater Miami Chapter; Miami-Dade County Student Government Association, Plaintiffs, v. MIAMI-DADE COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD; Rudolph F. Crew, in his official capacity as Superintendent of Schools, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida

Rosalind J. Matos, Randall C. Marshall, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Florida, Miami, FL, Jonel Newman, University of Miami, School of Law, Coral Gables, FL, for Plaintiffs.

Julieann Rico Allison, Miami—Dade County School Board, Enrique Daniel Arana, Jorden Burt LLP, Miami, FL, Richard J. Ovelmen, for Defendants.


GOLD, District Judge.

THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon Plaintiffs' Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order which this Court converted to a Motion for Preliminary In junction at a status conference held on June 27, 2006. Following the hearing on the Emergency Motion, I entered an Order establishing a briefing schedule for the parties to follow in submitting materials on the Motion for Preliminary Injunction to this Court [DE 10].

On July 7, 2006, Plaintiffs filed a Supplemental Memorandum of Law and Statement of Facts in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction [DE 17 and 18]. On July 11, 2006, pursuant to this Court's requests, Plaintiffs filed a supplemental memorandum of law on organizational standing [DE 23]. Also on July 11, 2006, Plaintiffs filed a supplemental memoranda on the elements of injunctive relief. [DE 22].

On July 14, 2006, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint [DE 24], and a Response to Plaintiffs' Statement of the Case and Facts [DE 25]. On July 18, 2006, Defendants filed a Memorandum of Law in Response to Plaintiffs' Memorandum on Organizational Standing [DE 29], and a Response to Plaintiffs' Supplemental Memorandum of Law on Certain Preliminary Injunction Elements [DE 30].

On July 19, 2006, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint that adds Mark Balzli, individually and as next friend to his son Aidan Balzli, as Plaintiffs [DE 39].1 That same day, Plaintiffs also filed a Reply to Defendants' Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [DE 38].

On July 17, 2006, I held an evidentiary hearing on Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Counsel for Plaintiffs presented testimony from Ronald Bilbao, Dr. Howard Simon, Mark Balzli, Pat Scales, Lucia M. Gonzalez, Lisandro Perez, Maria Tavel-Visiedo, and Antoinette Dunbar. Plaintiffs also introduced into the record as evidence their Exhibits one through thirty-six, Exhibit thirty-nine, and forty-three through forty-four. Defendants presented testimony from Alberto Pimienta, Professor Juan Clark, Lydia M. Usatequi, M.D., and Maria Elena Sardinas. Defendants also introduced into the record as evidence their Exhibits A through D, with accompanying sub-exhibits, and Exhibits A through D as attached to the Affidavit of Maria Elena Sardina.


There are four named Plaintiffs in this case as stated in the First Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief. The first is the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Inc., Greater Miami Chapter (the "ACLU"). The ACLU is the Florida affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, and defines itself as an organization "dedicated to advancing and preserving the constitutional protections found in the Bill of Rights, and in particular, the First Amendment." (Plaintiffs' Exhibit 26, Declaration of Dr. Howard L. Simon, ¶ 12). Its membership numbers approximately 3,500 people within the Miami-Dade County School District (the "School District"), a number of whom have children who attend school in Miami-Dade County and wish to retain the challenged book within the school libraries. (Id. at ¶ 8). The second Plaintiff in this case is the Miami-Dade County Student Government Association (the "Association"), a student-run organization representing the opinions and concerns of students attending Miami-Dade County Public Schools. (Plaintiffs' Exhibit 24, Declaration of Ronald Bilbao, ¶ 3). Among other goals, the Association devotes resources to protecting and defending the First Amendment rights of its student body, including the right to "freely select a wide range of reading materials." (Id.). The Third Plaintiff is Mark Balzli. Mr. Balzli seeks relief both individually and as next friend of his son, Aidan Balzli, the fourth Plaintiff. Mr. Balzli is currently a member of the ACLU. (Plaintiffs' Exhibit 27, Declaration of Mark Balzli, "Balzli Declaration," ¶ 1). Mr. Balzli's six year-old son, Aidan, attends North Beach Elementary School, a school in the School District. (Id. at ¶ 2). Until recently, IVamos a Cuba! was part of the library collection at North Beach Elementary School. (Id. at ¶ 3). Mr. Balzli desires to check the book out to read it with his son. (Id.).2

There are two named Defendants in this lawsuit. The Miami—Dade County School Board (the "School Board") is responsible for establishing, organizing, and operating public schools within Miami—Dade County. (Amend.Compl., ¶ 8).3 The School Board operates within the Miami—Dade County School District (the "School District"), a geographical region that embodies all of Miami—Dade County. Defendant Rudolph F. Crew is the Superintendent of Schools for Miami—Dade County (the "Superintendent"). (Id. at ¶ 9). He is named as a Defendant in this lawsuit because it is his responsibility to carry out School Board orders, including the order that is the subject of this case. (Id.).

Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief to enjoin Defendants from executing an order entered by the School Board authorizing the removal of a series of books from school libraries within the School District. I will now turn to the history that preceded the filing of this case.

A. The Cuba Books and the Complaint

On April 4, 2006, a parent of a student attending Marjory Stoneman Douglas Elementary School filed a formal complaint pursuant to School Board Rule 6G×13-6A-1.26 (the "School Board Rule") requesting that IVamos a Cuba! (the "Book," or together with its English counterpart, A Visit to Cuba, the "Cuba Books") be removed from the "total school environment" at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Elementary School. (Plaintiffs' Exhibit 32, Citizen's Request for Reconsideration of Media). In response to the complaint form question, "To what do you object? (Please be specific; cite pages or sections.)," the parent responded: "The contents and photographs of the book." (Id.). In response to the complaint form question, "Why do you object to this material?", the parent responded: "As a former political prisoner from Cuba, I find the material to be untruthful. It portrays a life in Cuba that does not exist." (Id.)4

The School Board Rule prescribes a list of 15 criteria for teachers, library media specialists, and administrators to apply in evaluating library materials. (Plaintiffs' Exhibit 11). Some of those criteria include educational significance, appropriateness (to age, maturity, interest and learning levels), and accuracy. (Id.). These guidelines help library specialists to develop a "comprehensive collection" of materials "in all areas of knowledge." (Id.).

The School Board Rule also prescribes certain procedures to be followed whenever a citizen complains about a library book. (Id.). Specifically, the School Board Rule provides an initial, school level review of the complaint, followed by a district level review, and finally, a review before the School Board itself. (Id.).

The books about which Mr. Amador complained, the Cuba Books, are picture books in a larger series of books called the "A Visit To" series published by Heinemann Library (the "Series"). (Plaintiffs' Exhibit 35). The "A Visit To" series targets readers between the ages of 4 to 8 years old, and are written to provide basic information about what life is like for a child in twenty countries. The English language series—of which A Visit to Cuba is part covers twenty countries: Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, The United Kingdom, and Vietnam. (Id.).5 The Spanish language series, of which IVamos a Cuba! is part, covers four countries: Columbia, Cuba, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico. (Id.).

According to Plaintiffs' Exhibit 17, there are currently 49 copies of the book IVamos a Cuba!, or its English counterpart, in 33 public elementary and middle schools in the School District.6 Five of those schools are middle schools. (Id.). Marjory Stoneman Douglas Elementary, where Mr. Amador's son attended school, had purchased three copies of the Cuba Books. (Id.). Copies of the Cuba Books were obtained by the schools at different times between the years 2001 and 2006. (Id.).7 According to the undisputed testimony at the evidentiary hearing, students attending any of those schools may obtain a copy of either book at their leisure, and students and their parents at any other public school within the School District may check out the book through the inter-library system loan program. Moreover, parents may visit school libraries with their children both before and after school hours at any time throughout the school year to locate and check-out books for recreational reading.

B. Review Process
1. School Level Review

In response to Mr. Amador's complaint, the School Board convened a School Materials Review Committee ("SMRC") to review the matter. (Plaintiffs' Exhibit 10, Memo dated April 21, 2006 to Dr. Manuel C. Barreiro, Principal of Marjory Stoneman Douglas Elementary from Mrs. Janet S. Hupp, Regional Superintendent Regional Center V Operations). Represented on the SMRC were eight individuals,...

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