Judge denies restraining order in band removal lawsuit

By Elliot Mann

The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

An Olmsted District judge has denied a legal request from a 14-year-old John Marshall High School student to return to his freshman band class pending a future decision on an injunction.

Judge Joseph Chase issued his ruling Monday afternoon, and the student will remain in the sophomore band class where the Rochester school district moved him for now.

A hearing on a temporary injunction to reverse the district's decision is scheduled for April 29.


The student and his mother filed a discrimination lawsuit in Olmsted District Court last week against the school district and an assistant principal at JM. The family requested a temporary restraining order so the student could return to his freshman band class while the case was pending, and Chase had a hearing on the request Friday.

The student was reassigned to a different band class while the district investigated a claim that he had inappropriately touched a female student. The student, represented by Rochester attorney James McGeeney, alleges he was discriminated against because of his race and sex.

The complaint seeks more than $50,000 in damages.

"Courts have a legitimate role in reviewing, and even sometimes enjoining, school decisions that implicate students' essential right to a public education," Chase wrote in his decision. "Here, however, the issue is ninth-grade band versus 10th grade band. This strikes me as a matter somewhat below the threshold of school-related issues into which courts need or should intrude."

According to the criminal complaint, the boy was suspended after the alleged incident, and police have also investigated the matter. It is unknown if the boy has been charged because criminal actions involving children younger than 16 are confidential in Minnesota.

Accounts vary about the sexual encounter, which was mentioned in the boy's lawsuit.

District officials say he admitted his part in the incident, but the boy claims the district forced him to provide a written statement before he spoke with his mother.

On March 16, the girl's family filed a harassment restraining order, and because both students were in the same band class, district officials moved the boy into the sophomore class.


That restraining order has since been dismissed by another judge, but Chase wrote that the school district still can handle the matter using its own conclusions.

McGeeney claims the boy has been harmed by having to catch up with the sophomore band.

Chase wrote in his ruling that any possible harm is limited to grading. Since the class isn't over yet, he said, any harm is "very possibly non-existent" and "in any event reparable."

Chase also wrote that the reassignment is not a denial of service and that courts shouldn't second guess the daily decisions of teachers and principals.

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