Schmidt v. Des Moines Pub. Sch., No. 10–3411.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore MURPHY, BEAM, and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.
Citation272 Ed. Law Rep. 841,655 F.3d 811
PartiesLisa SCHMIDT, Appellant,v.DES MOINES PUBLIC SCHOOLS; Helen Oliver, in his/her official and individual capacity; James Mollison, in his/her official and individual capacity; Alexander Henna, in his/her official and individual capacity; Diane Keum, in his/her official and individual capacity; Jane Dare, in his/her official and individual capacity; City of Des Moines; Officer M. Dahlen, Badge Number 4901, in his/her official and individual capacity; Officer M. Strausser, Badge Number 4904, in his/her official and individual capacity, Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 10–3411.
Decision Date14 September 2011

655 F.3d 811
272 Ed.
Law Rep. 841

Lisa SCHMIDT, Appellant,
v.
DES MOINES PUBLIC SCHOOLS; Helen Oliver, in his/her official and individual capacity; James Mollison, in his/her official and individual capacity; Alexander Henna, in his/her official and individual capacity; Diane Keum, in his/her official and individual capacity; Jane Dare, in his/her official and individual capacity; City of Des Moines; Officer M. Dahlen, Badge Number 4901, in his/her official and individual capacity; Officer M. Strausser, Badge Number 4904, in his/her official and individual capacity, Appellees.

No. 10–3411.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

Submitted: May 10, 2011.Filed: Sept. 14, 2011.


[655 F.3d 813]

Bruce Henry Stoltze, Sr., argued, Des Moines, IA, for appellant.Jason Michael Craig, argued, Andrew J. Bracken and Miriam Deborah Van Heukelem, on the brief, Des Moines, IA, for appellee Des Moines Public Schools.Gary D. Goudelock, Jr., Assistant City Attorney, argued, Des Moines, IA, for appellees City of Des Moines and Officers Dahlen and Strausser.Before MURPHY, BEAM, and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.

This case arises out of a contentious and long-running dispute between Lisa Schmidt and her ex-husband over the education and custody of their three minor children. Schmidt brought this action against two separate groups of defendants. The first is the City of Des Moines and police officers Michelle Strawser 1 and Matthieu Dahlen (the “City Defendants”); Schmidt alleges that they unlawfully impeded her access to the children. The second is the Des Moines Public Schools and five of its employees (the “School District Defendants”); Schmidt asserts that they unlawfully denied her access to the children and their educational records. Schmidt argued that the defendants' conduct violated her rights under the federal and Iowa constitutions. The district court 2 dismissed Schmidt's claims against the City Defendants for failure to state a claim and granted summary judgment for the School District Defendants. We affirm.

[655 F.3d 814]

I.

Schmidt's ex-husband, Michael Schmidt, filed for divorce in September 2005, and Schmidt moved from Iowa to the East Coast shortly thereafter. At the time, the Schmidts had three minor children who were enrolled in schools within the Des Moines Independent Community School District. In August 2006, an Iowa state court issued an order awarding the Schmidts joint legal custody of the children and granting Michael Schmidt primary physical custody and care of the children. The order also set forth a schedule granting Lisa Schmidt visitation periods with the children during certain holidays and school breaks. It provided for additional visitation only “as mutually agreed to by and between the parties so as not to interfere with the health, education and welfare of the parties' minor children.” A final divorce decree in February 2007 did not materially alter the terms of the August 2006 order.

During a visit to Iowa on November 20, 2006, Schmidt obtained a state court order allowing her to exercise “special visitation” with the children. The order provided for three hours of visitation on each of the evenings of November 20 and November 21, and for four hours on the evening of November 22. Schmidt exercised visitation with one of the children on November 20. When she arrived at her ex-husband's house on November 21, however, she encountered Officers Strawser and Dahlen of the Des Moines Police Department. The officers prevented her from approaching the residence.

Schmidt alleged that these officers told Schmidt that they would not allow her to exercise her visitation because the children did not want to attend. Schmidt was therefore unable to enter her ex-husband's property or speak with the children on the evening of November 21. Schmidt does not allege that she was unable to exercise the scheduled visitation with the children on the following day, November 22. All of Schmidt's claims against the City Defendants arise out of the incident on November 21.

Schmidt's claims against the School District Defendants arise out of a series of disputes between Schmidt and the children's schools from late 2006 to approximately 2008. On several occasions, Schmidt unsuccessfully attempted to visit the children at their schools during the school day. In some cases, school officials told the children that Schmidt was at the school and wanted to visit with them. The children told the officials that they did not want to see Schmidt, and Schmidt was not granted access to the children. On one occasion, Schmidt attempted to visit one of the children during a school performance, and a school official told her that the child was not at school. Schmidt believed, however, that an administrator escorted the children out the back door after Schmidt arrived so that she could not see them.

Schmidt testified that a swim coach responded to Schmidt's inquiries about the children's swimming activities by telling her to talk to her ex-husband or one of the children. According to Schmidt, when she asked an attendance clerk why one of the children had been absent from school, the clerk refused to give her all the information she had requested. Schmidt also recalled that school officials refused to send her schoolwork and certain school projects completed by one of the children, and did not allow her to speak to one of the children on the telephone on his birthday. Schmidt's ex-husband sent several letters and e-mails to school officials during this period. The correspondence informed them about the terms of the court orders and asked them not to permit Schmidt to visit the children during school hours or to withdraw them from school.

[655 F.3d 815]

The School District's written policy on the rights of noncustodial parents states that, as a general matter, noncustodial parents may receive reports and other correspondence from the school upon written request, and “[p]arents ... may be provided access to their students during school hours or school-related activities only so long as this access does not cause or threaten to cause material and substantial disruption to school or school-related activities.” The policy also provides that “[t]he district will obey all court orders relating to custody issues and parental rights,” and that therefore “the rights afforded parents under this policy may be limited in any individual situation.” The School District's general counsel, Elizabeth Nigut, reviewed the relevant court orders to develop a policy for school officials on how to deal with Schmidt's visits. Nigut informed school officials that the divorce decree established that Schmidt could not “just appear at school and demand to see the children unless there has been prior approval by” Schmidt's ex-husband. She also noted that Schmidt “is prone to become demonstrative in a negative way if she cannot see the kids,” and that the officials could advise Schmidt that the police would be contacted if she did not leave school premises and continued to conduct herself inappropriately.

Schmidt filed this action in November 2008. She alleged, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that each of the defendants violated her substantive due process and procedural due process rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that each of the defendants violated her rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by treating her differently than a married parent. She also alleged that each of the defendants violated her rights to substantive due process, procedural due process, and equal protection under the Iowa Constitution. Schmidt sought compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys' fees and costs.

The district court dismissed the claims against the City Defendants for failure to state a claim, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), concluding that Schmidt's allegations “do not rise to [the] level of a substantive due process violation,” and that the remedies available to Schmidt under state law were sufficient to ensure that she was afforded procedural due process. The district court also determined that Schmidt failed to state an equal protection claim against the City Defendants, because she was not similarly situated to a typical married parent. The court later granted summary judgment for the School District Defendants. The court ruled that Schmidt failed to demonstrate that she was deprived of a constitutionally protected liberty interest, that the defendants' conduct shocked the conscience, or that she had been treated differently than a similarly situated married parent. The court also denied Schmidt's motion for partial summary judgment against the Des Moines Public Schools. Schmidt filed a timely notice of appeal.

II.3

We first consider Schmidt's substantive and procedural due process claims against the City Defendants; Schmidt does not challenge the district court's dismissal of her equal protection claims. We review de novo a district court's decision to grant a motion to dismiss, accepting as true the facts alleged in the complaint. Carton v. Gen. Motor Acceptance Corp., 611 F.3d 451, 454 (8th Cir.2010). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege sufficient facts “to state a claim to

[655 F.3d 816]

relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).
A.

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that “[n]o State ... shall ... deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1.4 This provision contains a “substantive component” that “protects individual liberty against...

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155 practice notes
  • Bettor Racing, Inc. v. Nat'l Indian Gaming Comm'n, CIV. 13-4051-KES
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. District of South Dakota
    • September 19, 2014
    ...opportunity to be heard. See, e.g., Mullane v. Cent. Hanover Bank & Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306, 314 (1950); Schmidt v. Des Moines Pub. Schs., 655 F.3d 811, 817-18 (8th Cir. 2011). The NIGC is given subpoena and deposition power "in any proceeding or investigation pending before the Commission ......
  • Davids v. N. Iowa Cmty. Sch. Dist., No. C 14-3002-MWB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • July 16, 2015
    ...process of law." Gordon [v. Hansen], 168 F.3d [1109,] 1114 [(8th Cir. 1999)] (internal citation omitted).Schmidt v. Des Moines Pub. Sch., 655 F.3d 811, 817 (8th Cir. 2011). Notwithstanding the defendants' alleged failure to provide the Davidses with any process before denying their request ......
  • Guggenberger v. Minnesota, Civil No. 15-3439 (DWF/BRT)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
    • July 28, 2016
    ...without constitutionally adequate process. See Kroupa v. Nielsen, 731 F.3d 813, 818 (8th Cir. 2013); Schmidt v. Des Moines Pub. Schs., 655 F.3d 811, 817 (8th Cir. 2011). The first prong in the Court's due process inquiry requires the Court to determine whether Plaintiffs have properly alleg......
  • Bettor Racing, Inc. v. Nat'l Indian Gaming Comm'n, No. CIV. 13–4051–KES.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. District of South Dakota
    • September 19, 2014
    ...e.g., Mullane v. Cent. Hanover Bank & Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306, 314, 70 S.Ct. 652, 94 L.Ed. 865 (1950); Schmidt v. Des Moines Pub. Schs., 655 F.3d 811, 817–18 (8th Cir.2011). The NIGC is given subpoena and deposition power “in any proceeding or investigation pending before the Commission at ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
155 cases
  • Bettor Racing, Inc. v. Nat'l Indian Gaming Comm'n, CIV. 13-4051-KES
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. District of South Dakota
    • September 19, 2014
    ...opportunity to be heard. See, e.g., Mullane v. Cent. Hanover Bank & Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306, 314 (1950); Schmidt v. Des Moines Pub. Schs., 655 F.3d 811, 817-18 (8th Cir. 2011). The NIGC is given subpoena and deposition power "in any proceeding or investigation pending before the Commission ......
  • Davids v. N. Iowa Cmty. Sch. Dist., No. C 14-3002-MWB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • July 16, 2015
    ...process of law." Gordon [v. Hansen], 168 F.3d [1109,] 1114 [(8th Cir. 1999)] (internal citation omitted).Schmidt v. Des Moines Pub. Sch., 655 F.3d 811, 817 (8th Cir. 2011). Notwithstanding the defendants' alleged failure to provide the Davidses with any process before denying their request ......
  • Guggenberger v. Minnesota, Civil No. 15-3439 (DWF/BRT)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
    • July 28, 2016
    ...without constitutionally adequate process. See Kroupa v. Nielsen, 731 F.3d 813, 818 (8th Cir. 2013); Schmidt v. Des Moines Pub. Schs., 655 F.3d 811, 817 (8th Cir. 2011). The first prong in the Court's due process inquiry requires the Court to determine whether Plaintiffs have properly alleg......
  • Bettor Racing, Inc. v. Nat'l Indian Gaming Comm'n, No. CIV. 13–4051–KES.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. District of South Dakota
    • September 19, 2014
    ...e.g., Mullane v. Cent. Hanover Bank & Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306, 314, 70 S.Ct. 652, 94 L.Ed. 865 (1950); Schmidt v. Des Moines Pub. Schs., 655 F.3d 811, 817–18 (8th Cir.2011). The NIGC is given subpoena and deposition power “in any proceeding or investigation pending before the Commission at ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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