UMLC Suit vs. Lakeville School District

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Lakeville schools (ISD 194) have put Critical Race Theory into practice - including violating First Amendment Free speech rights in publicly funded schools – according to a lawsuit filed against them by district parents and children. Lakeville Schools’  actions are outlined in the Upper Midwest Law Center’s (UMLC)  filed lawsuit Complaint  (read it at https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21038889-1-stamped-complaint? responsive= 1&title=1

If the lawsuit’s allegations are correct, ISD 194 might as well have hired a lawyer to list absolutely basic free speech law, and then proceeded to deliberately violate each and every item on the list.  

According to the Complaint against the district, the District approved entries into a school poster event that said “At Lakeville Area Schools we  believe Black Lives Matter and stand with the social justice movement this statement  represents. This poster is aligned to School Board policy and an unwavering commitment to our Black students, staff and community members.”  Black Lives Matter is a political organization.  Public schools are not allowed by law to take political positions, including ‘standing with’ a social justice movement,  and the District’s own rules forbid taking political positions, yet the District has publicly said that the District School board “fully supported” the political position taken on the posters.   

When students and parents tried to express opposing points of view in the poster event they were denied the right to do so, the school commenting in a letter to Bob Cajune, a parent of Lakeville students, that   “… All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter mottos were created specifically in opposition to Black Lives Matter” and that those messages “effectively discount the struggle the Black students have faced in our school buildings and that Black individuals face in our society as a whole.”  And that “[Lakeville Schools] does not approve of All Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter  posters in the classrooms or other areas of the school, and teachers/school staff are not allowed to wear shirts with these sayings to school.”

Completed posters like the one below were displayed in the school’s halls.

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The statement in small letters at the bottom of the poster says “At Lakeville Area Schools we believe Black Lives Matter and stand with the social justice movement this statement represents.  This poster is aligned to School Board policy and an unwavering commitment to our Black students, staff and community members.”

Not all Lakeville students were happy about this.  A nine-year old girl identified only as Novalee very calmly and rationally took the Lakeville School Board apart at a public meeting.  If you haven’t seen it, go to https://www.youtube.com/watc   h?v=AnXXeO-bpmA.  She is now one of the complainants in the lawsuit (through her parents).

It is basic and well-established law that public entities can’t suppress speech on the basis of the speech’s point of view. The Complaint alleges Lakeville did exactly that:   “By refusing to allow Plaintiffs to display the phrases “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” in classrooms, Defendants intentionally discriminated against those viewpoints in violation of the First Amendment.”

Lakeville violated its own policies in the process, policies which forbid “conduct that is intended to be or that reasonably could be perceived as endorsing or opposing specific political issues or political candidates.” ISD 194 Policy 535(IV)(A)(5).

The lawsuit asks the court for a ‘declaratory judgment’ that ISD 194:  A-Violated Plaintiff’s first amendment rights;  B-Violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and created a hostile educational environment for students who opposed the posters; and C-That ISD 194 violated its own policies in so doing.  A declaratory judgment establishes the rights and other legal relations of the parties, but does not order any particular enforcement action.  The suit also asks the Court for an injunction ordering ISD 194 to stop the complained-of behaviors.

I interviewed a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Bob Cajune.  He is the Vice Chair of the Lakeville Schools Native American Parents Advisory Committee, and an Army veteran.  Bob is from the Bad River band of Chippewa and his wife Cynthia has Japanese ancestry.  Bob had some interesting things to tell me.

Lakeville Schools are planning an event this school year theoretically similar to the Festival of Nations, called “Beautiful Places, Beautiful Faces”. It is an official school event sponsored by Lakeville Schools.  When Bob and his wife Cynthia asked to join the committee planning the event, and expressed the hope it would celebrate all cultures, a lawyer named Nkechi ‘Kiki’  Gillman wrote them the following in a June 24th email: 

“Let me be explicitly clear about the goal and objective of this committee…..{the event we are planning} focuses on centering equity and bringing awareness to the beautiful diversity that is becoming lakeville {sic}.  Fortunately for European heritage…it is overly represented 365 days a year and has been for centuries.  This event will only focus on Cultures and Communities of Color. This occasion will be positive, enlightening and an overall much needed experience for everyone in our district..

“Finally, let me be explicitly clear:  {you and your husband’s)  interests {and ours} are not aligned. So while there is no place for your or your husband on our Committee, you are welcome to attend the event in October and be enlightened.  Please only respond and engage in any dialogue.  If you would like to lend assistance by contacting {possible participants} from the BIPOC community you are more than welcome to do so and feel free to email me any leads.”  Emphasis added.

Lakeville Schools are planning an event which actively denies participation to anyone with the “wrong” ideas in their head.  Mr. Cajune provided me a copy of the email. 

More concerning, Bob reports that members of the teacher’s union and private citizens, many of whom Bob says are not from Lakeville, actively attempted to physical block Bob, Cynthia and other members of their group “Lion 194” from entering the Lakeville School Board meeting to speak to the board. Bob, a big man,  told me he was pushed so hard he almost fell into an elderly couple nearby.

We have not been able to verify all the other incidents reported to us as of press time. As we complete the story, we’ll provide those details to you.

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  • Randy Sutter
    published this page in NEWS & OPINION 2021-09-01 22:00:27 -0500

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