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COA upholds school district’s protective order against parent

March 26, 2018

A Jackson County father may only enter Seymour Community Schools property for the limited purpose of dropping off and picking up his daughter from school after the Indiana Court of Appeals determined the school district’s protective order against the father is valid.

In S.B. v. Seymour Community Schools, 36A01-1710-PO-2252, a Seymour Middle School teacher molested S.B.’s daughter in 2015, resulting in the child having suicidal thoughts and needing extensive therapy. S.B. subsequently sought compensation from Seymour Community Schools but has not been successful.

Thus, on the first day of the 2017-2018 school year, S.B. stood on a sidewalk adjacent to the school grounds and held a sign reading, “We protect pedophiles” while carrying a handgun. SCS superintendent Robert Hooker asked S.B. to put the gun in his car, but S.B. declined and instead asked Hooker how he would feel if S.B. brought his AK-47 assault rifle onto school grounds. He then told the superintendent he would be present on the high school campus later that afternoon.

Hooker testified that S.B. became angrier as the conversation progressed and said he took the parent’s comments as a threat. Thus, Hooker petitioned the Jackson Superior Court for a protective order against S.B. on behalf of the school corporation and its students.

The trial court entered a two-year protective order against S.B., finding stalking had occurred and that S.B. presented a credible threat to the school corporation. S.B. was prohibited from harassing and directly or indirectly contacting the school district and was ordered to stay away from all school grounds.

S.B. appealed, but the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the protective order on Monday, with Judge Edward Najam first finding the school corporation had standing to seek the protective order on behalf of its students. Najam specifically wrote SCS is considered “another representative” capable of seeking a protective order on behalf of the students under Indiana Code section 34-26-5-2(a), (b) (2017), because it stands in loco parentis to the students. He also found the corporation qualifies as a “person” under the Civil Protection Order Act.

“As the recent tragic events in Parkland, Florida have reminded us, some persons who might present a threat to a school have had a relationship with the school that school officials are in a unique position to identify,” Najam wrote. “This would most often include students or former students who have a disciplinary history or have exhibited significant behavioral issues. We conclude that school corporations, through their officials, are permitted to act on behalf of their students to seek order for protection against such threats.”

The appellate court then determined the trial court appropriately found S.B. had committed stalking “by engaging in a course of conduct that involved continuing harassment” based on evidence that S.B. was armed, agitated and announced plans to continue his armed protest at the local high school. There was also evidence that Hooker and local parents were threatened by S.B.’s firearm, Najam said.

Finally, the court found the protective order does not infringe on S.B.’s First or Second Amendment rights. However, the court remanded the case with instructions for the trial court to clarify that S.B. is permitted on school grounds for the brief process of dropping off and picking up his daughter, if he is unarmed. The order must also be modified to reflect that S.B.’s right to protest near school property is not affected as long as he is unarmed.

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