Teufel v. Princeton City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ.

Decision Date11 January 2013
Docket NumberCase No. 1:12-cv-355
PartiesMICHAEL TEUFEL, Plaintiff, v. PRINCETON CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio

MICHAEL TEUFEL, Plaintiff,
v.
PRINCETON CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al., Defendants.

Case No. 1:12-cv-355

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO WESTERN DIVISION

Date: January 11, 2013


Judge Timothy S. Black

ORDER THAT: (1) PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
(Doc. 23) IS GRANTED; and (2) DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (Doc. 24) IS DENIED

This civil action is before the Court on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment (Docs. 24, 26) and responsive memoranda (Doc. 30, 31, 32, 33).

I. BACKGROUND FACTS

Plaintiff Michael Teufel filed this civil action against Defendants1 alleging that his constitutional rights were violated when Defendants denied him access to the public forum of the public comment portion of the public meeting of the Princeton Board of Education held on April 12, 2012. Plaintiff claims that he is entitled to an award of nominal damages for the violation of his fundamental constitutional rights, together with a declaratory judgment that such action by the Defendants did, in fact, violate his constitutional rights. Additionally, Plaintiff requests that the Court issue a permanent injunction that enjoins the Princeton Board of Education from denying any resident of the

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Princeton City School District the right to speak during the course of the public comment portion of any regular meeting of the Princeton Board of Education based upon the viewpoint of the comments such individual makes or is anticipated to make during that portion of such meeting.

II. PLAINTIFF'S UNDISPUTED FACTS2

1. Plaintiff Michael Teufel (aka Mick Teufel) is a resident and taxpayer in the Princeton City School District, located in Hamilton County, Ohio. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 18).
2. Defendant Board of Education of the Princeton City School District is, pursuant to Section 3313.17 of the Ohio Revised Code, a body politic and corporate. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 8; Doc. 9 at ¶ 8).
3. The duties of the Board of Education includes, inter alia, the formulation and approval of policies for the Princeton City School District, as well as the general oversight of the operations of the Princeton City School District. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 8; Doc. 9 at ¶ 8).
4. The Board bears responsibility for the existence of the policies challenged in this litigation. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 8; Doc. 9 at ¶ 8).
5. Defendant Steven Moore is a member of the Board of Education and, at all times relevant in this litigation, served as the president of the Board of Education. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 9; Doc. 9 at ¶ 9; Doc. 21 at 6).
6. The Board of Education has formally adopted various policies which provide, inter alia, the following:
a. Policy No. 0148 provides that "[t]he Board President functions as the official spokesperson for the Board." (Doc. 1 at ¶ 10; Doc. 9 at ¶ 10).
b. Policy No. 0169.1 provides that the Board of Education of the Princeton City School District "shall provide a period for public participation at every regular meeting of the Board." (Doc. 1 at ¶ 15; Doc. 9 at ¶ 15).

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c. Policy No. 0169.1 provides that "[t]he presiding officer of each Board meeting at which public participation is permitted shall administer the rules of the Board for its conduct." (Doc. 1 at ¶ 12; Doc. 9 at ¶ 12).
d. Policy No. 0169.1 acknowledges and recognizes "the importance of allowing members of the public to express themselves on school matters of community interest." (Doc. 1 at ¶ 16; Doc. 9 at ¶ 16).
7. The public participation or public comment portion of the meetings of the Board of Education is a designated period of time at each regular board meeting which is included as an agenda item for each such meeting. (Doc. 21 at 21-22).
8. In order for a member of the general public to speak during the public comment portion of the meetings, an individual desiring to speak must fill out a form which identifies his or her name and the subject matter that he or she intends to discuss. (Doc. 21 at 16-18).
9. Prior to proceeding with the public comment portion of the meetings of the Board of Education, the presiding officer of the meeting typically reads aloud a statement of the general ground rules for such participation which are: (i) the time limit for an individual's comments, i.e., 3 minutes; (ii) for the speaker to identify himself or herself; (iii) that a person desiring to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting must reside in the school district; and (iv) not to mention people by name or use inappropriate language. (Doc. 21 at 10-11).
10. According to Steven Moore, the "recognition of visitors", i.e., the public comment portion of the meetings is a minor part of the agenda. (Doc. 21 at 27-28).
11. Since January 1, 2009, during the public comment portion of the meetings, Plaintiff addressed or attempted to address the Board at a total of 6 meetings, viz., the meetings held on: (i) March 14, 2011; (ii) April 1, 2011; (iii) May 2, 2011; (iv) March 12, 2012; (v) April 12, 2012; and (vi) May 7, 2012. (Doc. 21, Ex. 2).
12. The Board of Education approves the meeting minutes of the regular Board meetings and the characterization of the topics that Plaintiff addressed at such meetings. (Doc. 21 at 76-77).

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13. The official minutes of the meeting of the Board of Education held on March 4, 2011, characterized Plaintiff's comments during the public comment portion of that meeting as follows: "Mick Teufel expressed concern over administrative support at Princeton High School." (Doc. 21, Ex. 3).
14. The official minutes of the meeting of the Board of Education on April 4, 2011, characterized Plaintiff's comments during the public comment portion of that meeting as follows: "Mr. Mick Teufel expressed concern with the lack of collaboration and two-way communication with the school administration." (Doc. 1 at ¶ 21; Doc. 9 at ¶ 21, Doc. 21, Ex. 4).
15. The official minutes of the meeting of the Board of Education held on May 2, 2011, characterized Plaintiff's comments during the public comment portion of that meeting as follows: "Mr. Mick Teufel expressed concerns over student safety matters." (Doc. 21, Ex. 5).
16. "Administrative support" which was discussed by Plaintiff at the board meeting on March 14, 2011, and "student safety" which was discussed by Plaintiff at the Board meeting on May 2, 2011, are different topics. (Doc. 21 at 74).
17. Sometime between May 2, 2011, and March 12, 2012, Steven Moore spoke with the school district's attorneys and Gary Pack, the superintendent of the Princeton City School District, about Mr. Moore's ability, as board president, to prevent Plaintiff from addressing the board during the public comment portion of future Board meetings. (Doc. 21 at 48-49, 53).
18. At the time that Steven Moore consulted with his attorneys and Mr. Pack concerning his ability to prevent Plaintiff from addressing the board at future meetings, Plaintiff had addressed the Board during the public comment portion at only three different meetings. (Doc. 21 at 55).
19. Following Plaintiff's participation during the public comment portion of the meeting of the Board of Education held on March 12, 2012, Mr. Moore, in his capacity as president of the Board declared the following:

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Mr. and Ms. Teufel, we have heard your concerns and - about your experiences and your concerns about personnel systems, over the last - over the last year in mailings, telephone calls and six, now seven, meetings, as you mentioned. We consider this and these matters closed, and will not be allowing you to speak again at future meetings. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 26; Doc. 9 at ¶26).
20. When Steven Moore stated that "this matter is considered closed" during the meeting of the Board of Education of the Princeton City School District on March 12, 2012, Mr. Moore was referring to the discussion concerning the subject of Mrs. Teufel's experience at Princeton High School. (Doc. 21 at 67).
21. At the Board of Education meeting held on April 12, 2012, when the time for the public comment portion of that meeting arrived, Mr. Moore, in his capacity as president of the Board and on behalf of and as official policy of the Board, made the following declaration:
Next item on the agenda is recognition of visitors. We only have one visitor request but I'm going to deny it. It was the request, was from Mr. Mick Teufel, since he informed me he was going to talk about-items that talked in the past, I think we've heard enough of that per our last statement. So, we're going to pass on that. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 30).
22. After Mr. Moore indicated that he would not permit Plaintiff to speak during the public comment portion of the Board of Education meeting held on April 12, 2012, the following exchange between Plaintiff and Mr. Moore on behalf of the Board ensued:
Mr. Teufel: May I speak -Mr. Moore: well, no, but -
Mr. Teufel: -- I have new information also, and I'd also like to get that information on the record
Mr. Moore: You can put it on the record through - you can write a letter and let us know, Mick
Mr. Teufel: Are you denying me my public speaking tonight?
Mr. Moore: Per the statement that I read last meeting, the answer is "Yes".
(Doc. 1 at ¶ 31).

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23. With respect to the public comment portion of the Board of Education meeting held on April 12, 2012, Mr. Moore publicly declared his denial of allowing Plaintiff to speak during that portion of the meeting prior to Plaintiff making any public comment at such meeting. (Doc. 21 at
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