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Court sanctions school corporation a third time

January 26, 2009

A Northern District magistrate judge has issued sanctions for the third time against Gary Community School Corp. for its lack of cooperation in a suit involving a transgender student.

Magistrate Paul Cherry of the Northern District of Indiana granted plaintiff Kevin "K.K." Logan's third motion for sanctions against the school corporation Jan. 23 in Kevin Logan v. Gary School Corp., et al., No. 2:07-cv-431.

Logan filed suit against the school in December 2007 after he was denied admittance to his high school's prom in 2006 by principal Diane Rouse because he was wearing a pink dress. Rouse cited school policy for not allowing Logan in; however, a female wearing a tuxedo attended the prom.

Magistrate Cherry granted Logan's motion for sanctions, citing the school corporation's long history of non-compliance with court orders as well as federal and local Rules of Civil Procedure. In the Jan. 23 order, the District Court cited the school corporation's failure to comply with some outstanding discovery requests. Even though the school corporation's current attorneys appear to be making a good faith effort to bring the school corporation into compliance, it has "displayed a willful failure to obey court orders and have displayed a pattern of dilatory tactics and contumacious conduct such that additional sanctions are appropriate at this time under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(b)," wrote Magistrate Cherry.

Three of Gary School Corp.'s affirmative defenses were struck because they relate to the substance of the discovery sought by Logan. The defenses are that Logan failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted against the school corporation; Logan wasn't permitted to enter the school-sponsored function wearing a pink party dress because the school corporation sought to ensure the safety and welfare of Logan and other students at the event; and Logan wasn't permitted to enter the event wearing the dress because the school corporation sought to prevent substantial disruption and interference at the function.

The school corporation also must pay Logan's reasonable expenses caused by its failure to comply with a Nov. 21, 2008, order. Magistrate Cherry noted that if the school corporation continues non-compliance with court rules and orders, further sanctions may be necessary. Gary School Corp. already had been sanctioned for failure to comply, ordered to pay Logan's costs and expenses for filing his motions to compel, and precluded from introducing any testimony of witnesses or documentary evidence that wasn't initially disclosed under Rule 26(a) without first seeking leave of the District Court and establishing its failure to produce was substantially justified or harmless.

The District Court also granted Gary School Corp.'s revised motion for extension of time to supplement answers to plaintiff's request for production, extending the original Dec. 5, 2008, deadline to Dec. 19, 2008.

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