Brands v. Sheldon Community School, No. C 87-4015.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
Writing for the CourtDONALD E. O'BRIEN
Citation671 F. Supp. 627
PartiesTom BRANDS, Plaintiff, v. SHELDON COMMUNITY SCHOOL, Defendant.
Decision Date18 February 1987
Docket NumberNo. C 87-4015.

671 F. Supp. 627

Tom BRANDS, Plaintiff,
v.
SHELDON COMMUNITY SCHOOL, Defendant.

No. C 87-4015.

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, W.D.

February 18, 1987.


671 F. Supp. 628

John Samore, Sioux City, Iowa, for plaintiff.

Thomas Whorley, Keith Thompson Sheldon, Iowa, for defendant.

DONALD E. O'BRIEN, Chief Judge.

This matter comes to the Court on plaintiff's motions for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction. Upon the filing of this action at 3:37 p.m. on Friday,

671 F. Supp. 629
February 13, the Court held an immediate hearing. At 8:18 p.m. that evening, the Court entered a temporary restraining order effective until 1:00 p.m. the following Monday, February 16, when a second hearing was held. For the reasons stated below, the Court declines to enter a second restraining order or preliminary injunction

FINDINGS OF FACT

The plaintiff is a student at Sheldon Community High School. As a member of his school's wrestling team, he has amassed a nearly perfect record in four years of competition, and is a defending state champion. His performance and the equally outstanding performance of his twin brother have attracted the attention of the state media and college coaches (Exhibit 14), and each brother hopes to attend college on a wrestling scholarship.

The events leading to this decision began on January 25, 1987. The plaintiff has been understandably reluctant to give his account of what took place at his home that day, but the Sheldon Community School Board ultimately concluded that the plaintiff "as well as three other male youths engaged in multiple acts of sexual intercourse with a sixteen-year-old female student of the Sheldon Community School District. ..." (Exhibit 12 at 5). The Court makes no judgment as to whether a preponderance of the evidence, clear and convincing evidence, or evidence beyond a reasonable doubt supports this finding.

As rumors about this incident spread throughout Sheldon Community High School, Principal David Kapfer began an investigation and interviewed the plaintiff and other parties rumored to have been involved. On February 4, the plaintiff and his mother were sent letters from Kapfer declaring the plaintiff ineligible for the remainder of the wrestling season. (Exhibits 2 and 3). These letters stated that he "committed a breach of discipline by engaging in conduct which interfered with the maintenance of school discipline and by engaging in behavior which was antagonistic to the rights of (name redacted)1 to attain her education." The letters further stated that he violated Section III of the Discipline Policy because his conduct on January 25 was "detrimental to the best interests of the Sheldon Community School District." In a section of the letter to the plaintiff, Kapfer stated that the plaintiff's conduct "was a breach of discipline in that you: 1) engaged in bullying behavior; 2) committed an assault on (same name) in that you took acts against her resulting in physical contact which was insulting and offensive and which caused her emotional injury; 3) willfully injured (same name) by doing an unjustified act causing her serious emotional and mental injury; and 4) participated in multiple acts of sexual intercourse involving (same name) which took place on January 25, 1987." (Exhibit 2). The Court makes no judgment as to whether a preponderance of the evidence, clear and convincing evidence, or evidence beyond a reasonable doubt supports these charges.

The period of ineligibility declared by the principal included the dates of the sectional, district and state wrestling tournaments. Thus, any reinstatement which would preserve the plaintiff's chance to again become a state champion would have to occur before 8:30 a.m. on February 14, when weigh-ins would take place for the sectional tournament.

Following an appeal to Superintendent Jerry Peterson on February 5 (Exhibit 4), Peterson sent letters to the plaintiff and his mother affirming the principal's decision which were nearly identical to the February 4 letters. These letters were dated February 9. (Exhibits 5 and 6). On February 10, the plaintiff and his mother requested a closed hearing before the School Board (Exhibit B) which began Thursday morning, February 12, and ended late that night. The Board deliberated for several hours on February 12 and 13 before reaching a decision which affirmed the administration's decision. Extensive findings of

671 F. Supp. 630
fact were made by the Board. (Exhibit 12). The complaint and motions presently before this Court were filed within three hours of the Board's decision

It became clear at this Court's February 13 hearing that the Court could not fairly consider all of the evidence admitted in time to fully resolve this matter prior to weigh-ins.2 This dilemma significantly increased the risk of irreparable harm, and for this reason, the Court entered a temporary restraining order which permitted the plaintiff to compete and advance in the sectional tournament. The TRO expired at the beginning of the February 16 hearing.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

Whether a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction should issue involves consideration of (1) the threat of irreparable harm to the movant; (2) the state of the balance between this harm and the injury that granting the injunction will inflict upon other parties litigant; (3) the probability that movant will succeed on the merits; and (4) the public interest. Dataphase Systems, Inc. v. C L Systems, Inc., 640 F.2d 109, 113 (8th Cir.1981) (en banc). For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that the probability that the plaintiff will succeed on the merits is not great enough to satisfy that element of the Dataphase test, even if the plaintiff's allegations of irreparable harm, a favorable balance of interests and the public interest were accepted as true. Such relief is therefore improper.

The plaintiff asserts that he has been deprived of five constitutional rights — his Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection, substantive due process and procedural due process, his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, and his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The equal protection claim must be rejected because the plaintiff has not alleged that he was treated differently because of his race, ethnicity, gender, or any other suspect classification, and his interests in wrestling or receiving a college scholarship are not among the small set of rights fundamental enough to warrant separate protection under the equal protection clause. San Antonio Ind. School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 29-39, 93 S.Ct. 1278, 1294-1300, 36 L.Ed.2d 16 (1973). Likewise, the Eighth Amendment claim must be rejected because school discipline does not implicate Eighth Amendment concerns, as the Supreme Court held in Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 668, 97 S.Ct. 1401, 1410, 51 L.Ed.2d 711 (1977). Because the Constitution limits the scope of Sixth Amendment rights to "all criminal prosecutions," U.S. Const.Amend. VI, that argument must be rejected. If any rights were violated, they can only be substantive or procedural due process rights.

Procedural Due Process

The majority of the plaintiff's complaints — including those concerning the vagueness of the school's standard of conduct, the School Board's reliance upon hearsay, the timing of his hearing, and the sufficiency of the evidence — are most relevant to his right to procedural due process. To consider those complaints, however, the Court must first find that the plaintiff is being deprived of liberty or property by the defendant. If not, no procedural protections were "due" to the plaintiff under the Constitution. Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 92 S.Ct. 2701, 33 L.Ed.2d 548 (1972).

The Supreme Court has consistently held that the existence of a protected liberty or property interest does not depend upon the seriousness of the loss the plaintiff would suffer as a result of the government's action. "To determine whether due process requirements apply in the first place, we must look not to the `weight' but to the nature of the interest at stake." Smith v. Organization of Foster Families, 431 U.S. 816, 841, 97 S.Ct. 2094, 2107, 53 L.Ed.2d 14 (1977); Roth, 408 U.S. at 571, 92 S.Ct. at 2706. The critical question is whether the

671 F. Supp. 631
plaintiff has a legitimate claim that he is entitled to participate and not a "mere expectation" that he will be permitted to do so. Roth, id.

A clear majority of courts addressing this question in the context of interscholastic or intercollegiate athletics has found that athletes have no legitimate entitlement to participate. See, e.g., Colorado Seminary v. NCAA, 570 F.2d 320 (10th Cir. 1978); Hamilton v. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Ass'n, 552 F.2d 681 (6th Cir.1976); Mitchell v. Louisiana High School Athletic Ass'n, 430 F.2d 1155 (5th Cir.1970). In In re U.S. Ex. Rel. Missouri State High School Activities Association, 682 F.2d 147 (8th Cir.1982), the Eighth Circuit stated that "a student's interest in participating in a single year of interscholastic athletics amounts to a mere expectation rather than a constitutionally protected claim of entitlement." Id. at 153 n. 8, quoting Walsh v. Louisiana High School Athletic Association, 616 F.2d 152, 159-61 (5th Cir.1980)...

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19 practice notes
  • Nieshe v. Concrete School Dist., No. 54451-9-I.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • August 9, 2005
    ...v. Tallassee High Sch., 907 F.Supp. 364, 366-67 (M.D.Ala.1995) aff'd, 104 F.3d 372 (11th Cir.Ala.1996); Brands v. Sheldon Cmty. Sch., 671 F.Supp. 627, 631 (N.D.Iowa 1987); Haverkamp v. Unified Sch. Dist. No. 380, 689 F.Supp. 1055, 1058 (D.Kan.1986); Paschal v. Perdue, 320 F.Supp. 1274, 1276......
  • Indiana High School Athletic Ass'n, Inc. v. Carlberg by Carlberg, No. 29S02-9610-CV-681
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • December 19, 1997
    ...sports ... do not establish any legally protected interests."), aff'd, 864 F.2d 1309 (7th Cir.1988); Brands v. Sheldon Community Sch., 671 F.Supp. 627, 631 (N.D.Iowa 1987) (no protectable interest in expectation of earning college scholarship); Scott v. Kilpatrick, 286 Ala. 129, 237 So.2d 6......
  • Equity in Athletics, Inc. v. Department of Educ., Civil Action No. 5:07CV00028.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
    • August 21, 2007
    ...... in participating in extracurricular activities, including sports ...") (internal quotations omitted); Brands v. Sheldon Comm. Sch., 671 F.Supp. 627, 631 (N.D.Iowa 1987) ("A clear majority of courts addressing this question in the context of interscholastic or intercollegiate athletics h......
  • Palmer v. Merluzzi, Civ. No. 86-4673.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • May 2, 1988
    ...Additionally, the extracurricular suspension was not based on a suspect classification. Brands v. Sheldon Community School, 671 F.Supp. 627, 630 (N.D.Iowa 1987). See Blue v. University Interscholastic League, supra; Kulovitz v. Illinois High School Assoc., supra. Because neither a fundament......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
19 cases
  • Nieshe v. Concrete School Dist., No. 54451-9-I.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • August 9, 2005
    ...v. Tallassee High Sch., 907 F.Supp. 364, 366-67 (M.D.Ala.1995) aff'd, 104 F.3d 372 (11th Cir.Ala.1996); Brands v. Sheldon Cmty. Sch., 671 F.Supp. 627, 631 (N.D.Iowa 1987); Haverkamp v. Unified Sch. Dist. No. 380, 689 F.Supp. 1055, 1058 (D.Kan.1986); Paschal v. Perdue, 320 F.Supp. 1274, 1276......
  • Indiana High School Athletic Ass'n, Inc. v. Carlberg by Carlberg, No. 29S02-9610-CV-681
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • December 19, 1997
    ...sports ... do not establish any legally protected interests."), aff'd, 864 F.2d 1309 (7th Cir.1988); Brands v. Sheldon Community Sch., 671 F.Supp. 627, 631 (N.D.Iowa 1987) (no protectable interest in expectation of earning college scholarship); Scott v. Kilpatrick, 286 Ala. 129, 237 So.2d 6......
  • Equity in Athletics, Inc. v. Department of Educ., Civil Action No. 5:07CV00028.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
    • August 21, 2007
    ...... in participating in extracurricular activities, including sports ...") (internal quotations omitted); Brands v. Sheldon Comm. Sch., 671 F.Supp. 627, 631 (N.D.Iowa 1987) ("A clear majority of courts addressing this question in the context of interscholastic or intercollegiate athletics h......
  • Palmer v. Merluzzi, Civ. No. 86-4673.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • May 2, 1988
    ...Additionally, the extracurricular suspension was not based on a suspect classification. Brands v. Sheldon Community School, 671 F.Supp. 627, 630 (N.D.Iowa 1987). See Blue v. University Interscholastic League, supra; Kulovitz v. Illinois High School Assoc., supra. Because neither a fundament......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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