This is Episode 21 in the story of the formation, rise and fall of the little education collective that used to exist up here on our mountain. I wrote and posted this account three years ago on my blog and then pulled it off because someone whose name I had not changed, objected. Now I have changed both the name of the little school itself, and the names of everyone who might be negatively impacted, and plan to re-post the story, one episode per day, until all 32 are again on my blog.
The Fat Lady Sings
All court cases were completed, and having heard Superintendent Linda-T-J’s sworn statement, we can officially say that the fat lady has sung, so the only thing left was to record Judge Susan Illston’s decision as regards the plaintiffs’ free speech complaint.
This is what she wrote: “To establish a claim for retaliation under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the plaintiffs must show that Corrine’s speech was protected by the first Amendment [Several cases have held that in order to obtain first amendment protection, speech must pertain to a matter of public concern.] and that this speech was a substantial or motivating factor for the defendants’ actions.
In particular, if the Chintzes can establish that a deprivation of Misha’s public educational opportunities was due to Corrine’s exercise of constitutionally protected rights of criticism, they are entitled to relief under Section 1983.
The plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that the defendants deprived Misha of equal education opportunities in retaliation for Corrine’s speech. The evidence is undisputed that none of the defendants excluded Misha from the contract teaching program. Misha was assigned a new contract teacher after Karen decided not to continue as Misha’s instructor.
The evidence is also undisputed that Misha met with contract instructors Lynn and Liz in Laytonville and not in the Bell Springs area pursuant to a school district policy permitting the contract teacher and student to decide jointly where the meetings would take place.
The evidence also shows that Liz was restricted to teaching eighth through twelfth grade students because she was overburdened and that Misha was offered a place on the waiting list that had been established for students also seeking contract instructors.
Finally, the plaintiffs have provided no admissible evidence in support of their allegations that defendant Linda T-J advised the plaintiffs that Misha could not be re-enrolled in the school district because of the Chintzes‘ ongoing lawsuit against school district defendants.
The Court therefore grants summary judgment in favor of the defendants and against the plaintiffs on the plaintiffs‘ free speech claim.
For the foregoing reasons and for good cause shown, the Court hereby grants summary judgment in favor of defendants Karen, O’Neill, Mark I, Richard M, Brian B, Linda T.J, Suzanne, Dan K, Lynn, and Bill W and against plaintiffs Misha and Corrine Chintz.
It is so ordered.
March 17, 1997
United States District Judge
I felt like Bilbo, upon his return from the adventure with Smaug the Dragon. This whole preposterous legal entanglement was history. The judge had explained the reasoning and the plaintiffs were told they had lost. Earlier, when I had summarized the series of decisions, leading up to the final March 17, 1997 decree, there were six different court dates, each of them representing court appearances, along the path to the final judgment. From 1992 through 1997, only 1994 escaped having a court date decide some issue.
As a community we continued to defend ourselves against Imika’s claims. As frustrated as we were, both individually and as a group, we still kept our focus and took the necessary steps to defend ourselves. Those of us who remember sitting down in the courthouse or in Barry’s office, know that it was no joke. Others may have thought the whole thing was blown out of proportion, but staring down the barrel of some hired gun out of Eureka, knowing that the ante was five million clams, was enough to keep any of us from thinking anything was blown out of proportion. I never feared that we were in the wrong; however, I did worry whether or not a United States District Judge would see it the same way.
After all that time, money, energy and angst, what did we learn from the experience? We learned that one person can twist the legal path to suit individual needs and then others have to respond accordingly. We also learned that we could count on one another to bolster each other and that if we continued to pay Barry, he would set things straight. We learned that bad stuff happens in the judicial system, but that good would prevail.
We learned that it costs to play the game, and that in unity there is strength. We had flexed our community muscles because we had to, not because we wanted to and the result was that justice had prevailed. These events took place more than thirty years ago now, but the lessons learned will remain for many years to come, as part of the foundation upon which our mountain community is built.
Our foundation is earthquake-proof.