B. L. v. Mahtomedi Public School District,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 8 Plaintiff's Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, or in the Alternative, a Preliminary Injunction (Written Opinion). Signed by Judge Ann D. Montgomery on 04/26/2017. (TLU)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
B.L., by and through his Parent and Natural
Guardian, Carole Lundell,
Civil No. 17-1193 ADM/SER
Mahtomedi School District, ISD No. 832,
Andrea L. Jepsen, Esq., School Law Center, LLC, St. Paul, MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.
Michael J. Waldspurger, Esq., and Elizabeth J. Vieira, Esq., Rupp, Anderson, Squires &
Waldspurger, P.A., Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Defendant.
This matter is before the undersigned United States District Judge for a ruling on Plaintiff
B.L.’s Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, or in the Alternative, a Preliminary Injunction
[Docket No. 8]. B.L. is a high school student who was expelled from the Mahtomedi School
District (the “District”) for possessing and displaying an air-powered BB-gun on school grounds
on March 20, 2107. Larson Decl. [Docket No. 13] ¶ 3; Ex. D. On April 17, 2017, while the
expulsion proceeding was in progress, B.L. sued the District and sought emergency injunctive
relief to terminate the District’s expulsion process. See Am. Compl. [Docket No. 6]. B.L.
argues that the District failed to follow the Pupil Fair Dismissal Act, Minn. Stat. § 121A.40, et
seq., because he was not provided with the required alternative educational services. B.L. seeks
an order enjoining the District from continuing to attempt to expel B.L. and from continuing to
exclude B.L. from attending school. For the reasons set forth below, B.L.’s Motion is denied.
On March 20, 2017, B.L. was suspended for 10 days for possessing and brandishing a
BB-gun on school grounds. Larson Decl. Ex. B (“Hr’g Exs.”) at Ex. 4. During this period of
suspension, B.L. had access to his school work and many of his teachers met with him to discuss
his coursework. Larson Decl. Ex. A (“Hr’g Tr.”) at 97. Additionally, the District assigned B.L.
an intervention specialist to assist him in completing his academics and to help him make better
choices. Id. at 73.
On March 27, 2017, the District informed B.L. that he was being suspended for five
additional days pending expulsion. Hr’g Exs. at Ex. 6. The following day, B.L. received a
Notice of Proposed Expulsion, formally notifying B.L. that the District proposed expelling B.L.
pursuant to the Pupil Fair Dismissal Act (“PFDA”), and that a hearing on the matter was
scheduled for Monday, April 3, 2017. Id. at Ex. 7. The hearing date was later moved to April 12
to accommodate the schedule of B.L.’s attorney. Larson Decl. Ex. F.
The expulsion hearing was held before Hearing Officer Richard John Miller (“Miller”).
Miller heard testimony from B.L., the school bus driver who observed B.L. brandishing the BBgun, a school resource officer and Washington County deputy sheriff who spoke with B.L. about
the incident, the Mahtomedi High School principal and assistant principal, and the District
superintendent. See generally Hr’g Tr. On April 17, 2017, Miller submitted his
The parties both provide a thorough and fairly consistent background of the events
leading up to B.L.’s suspension and expulsion, including how and why B.L. came into
possession of the BB-gun on school property. Since resolving this Motion principally turns on
the District’s actions once it decided to suspend B.L., a detailed recitation of the facts leading up
to the suspension is omitted.
recommendation to the School Board.2 Larson Decl. ¶ 7. The School Board then met the
following day to consider Miller’s recommendation. Id. ¶ 8. After deliberating for
approximately 90 minutes, the School Board adopted a resolution expelling B.L. from the
District for the remainder of the 2016–17 school year and for the first semester of the 2017–18
school year. Id. ¶ 9; Ex. D.
B.L. filed this suit on April 17, 2017, seeking a temporary restraining order or a
preliminary injunction to enjoin the District’s expulsion proceeding. The gravamen of B.L.’s
Amended Complaint [Docket No. 6] is that his property right to education was impaired by the
District’s failure to provide the proper alternative educational services prior to initiating the
A. Younger Abstention
The District argues that this federal court should decline to interfere with a state
proceeding under the abstention doctrine announced in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971).
Under Younger, “[w]here vital state interests are involved, a federal court should abstain ‘unless
state law clearly bars the interposition of the constitutional claims.’” Middlesex Cty. Ethics
Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass’n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982) (quoting Moore v. Sims, 442 U.S.
415, 426 (1979)).
The District presents a persuasive argument for why abstaining under Younger is
appropriate, including that B.L. has and is able to continue to pursue his rights in the
The parties agreed to waive the requirement under Minn. Stat. § 121A.47, subd. 12 that
Miller’s recommendation be made within two days of the hearing.
administrative forum, including seeking judicial review of the administrative outcome at the
Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Younger abstention was raised by the District in its responsive memorandum, and B.L.
has not been able to present any counter-argument why Younger does not apply. A definitive
ruling on this issue is unnecessary here. Because B.L.’s Motion clearly has not met the
requirements for injunctive relief and denial of the Motion is dispositive of the federal case3,
further elaboration on the propriety of abstaining under Younger is unnecessary.
B. Preliminary Injunction
A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy, and the movant bears the burden of
establishing its propriety. Watkins Inc. v. Lewis, 346 F.3d 841, 844 (8th Cir. 2003). The court
considers four factors in determining whether a preliminary injunction should issue: (1) the
threat of irreparable harm to the movant in the absence of relief; (2) the balance between the
harm alleged and the harm that the relief may cause the non-moving party; (3) the movant’s
likelihood of success on the merits; and (4) the public interest. Dataphase Sys., Inc. v. C.L. Sys.,
Inc., 640 F.2d 109, 114 (8th Cir. 1981) (en banc).4 These factors do not carry equal weight, as
“[t]he basis of injunctive relief in the federal courts has always been irreparable harm and
inadequacy of legal remedies.” Bandag, Inc. v. Jack’s Tire & Oil, Inc., 190 F.3d 924, 926 (8th
Cir. 1999). Therefore, unless B.L. demonstrates that he will be irreparably harmed absent an
injunction, injunctive relief is not warranted. See Gelco Corp. v. Coniston Partners, 811 F.2d
The Amended Complaint filed with the Motion seeks only injunctive relief.
The same legal standard applies to both a request for a temporary restraining order and
a request for a preliminary injunction. See S.B. McLaughlin & Co. v. Tudor Oaks Condo.
Project, 877 F.2d 707, 708 (8th Cir. 1989).
414, 418 (8th Cir. 1987) (holding that irreparable harm is a threshold factor to obtaining a
B.L. argues that the District’s expulsion proceeding has impinged on his constitutionally
protected property right to education. As a result, B.L. contends that injunctive relief is required
to prevent irreparable harm because without an injunction, access to his education will be
interrupted, greatly increasing the likelihood of repeating a grade, failing to graduate from high
school, and becoming involved in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
Contrary to B.L.’s assertion, his access to education has not been critically interrupted.
During the expulsion proceeding, the District granted B.L. access to his classwork and his
teachers, and the District assigned him an intervention specialist to assist with his academics and
to coach him on making better choices. Hr’g Tr. at 73–74. Importantly, B.L. does not claim that
the District’s efforts have been lacking, as both B.L. and his mother stated that they have been
satisfied with the educational services the District has provided. Am. Compl. ¶ 62; Larson Decl.
¶ 11. Approving of the provided educational services critically undermines B.L.’s argument that
the District’s actions need to be enjoined because of the irreparable harm that will follow if his
access to his education is eliminated. Furthermore, even though the School Board has already
passed a resolution expelling B.L., the District has pledged to continue providing the same
educational services until he is enrolled in another school district, alternative learning center,
charter school, or on-line learning program. See Larson Decl. Ex. E. Finally, before initiating
the expulsion proceeding, the District offered to allow B.L. to withdraw, effectively mooting the
expulsion proceeding, and promised to assist B.L. enroll in another district by providing contacts
and making appointments with other schools. Hr’g Tr. at 72.
The District’s commitment to provide B.L. with continued educational services plainly
decreases the likelihood of the specific irreparable harm B.L. asserts will occur absent an
injunction. Since the threat of irreparable harm requires a presently existing actual threat of
injury rather than a possibility of remote future injury, B.L. has not demonstrated irreparable
harm will result without an injunction. See Rodgers v. Scurr, 676 F.2d 1211, 1214 (1982) (“The
dramatic and drastic power of injunctive force may be unleashed only against conditions
generating a presently existing actual threat; it may not be used simply to eliminate a possibility
of a remote future injury. . . .”).
Finally, although a detailed discussion on the merits is unnecessary given that the
irreparable harm factor is not satisfied, the District presents a strong likelihood that they will
succeed on the merits of the case. B.L.’s admitted possession of a BB-gun bearing striking
similarity to a handgun5, on school grounds, is strong evidence that B.L. created an immediate
and substantial danger to himself and others, excepting the District’s obligation to provide the
specific alternative educational services. See Minn. Stat. § 121A.45, subd. 1.6 Furthermore, the
District’s continued promise to provide B.L. with alternative educational services until he is
enrolled elsewhere likely satisfies the plain language of the PFDA, and B.L.’s arguments to the
contrary are unpersuasive at this stage of the litigation.
Hearing Officer Miller heard testimony from Deputy Sheriff Officer Justin McDonough
that the BB-gun in question “looked exactly like a handgun” and that if Officer McDonough had
observed B.L. with the BB-gun, “even knowing B.L. and how we know each other, . . . I would
have pulled my service weapon out.” Hr’g Tr. at 60.
Minn. Stat. § 121A.45, subd. 1 provides that “No school shall dismiss any pupil without
attempting to provide alternative educational services before dismissal proceedings, except
where it appears that the pupil will create an immediate and substantial danger to self or to
surrounding persons or property.”
Based upon all the files, records, and proceedings herein, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED
that B.L.’s Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, or in the Alternative, a Preliminary
Injunction [Docket No. 8] is DENIED.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.
BY THE COURT:
s/Ann D. Montgomery
ANN D. MONTGOMERY
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: April 26, 2017.
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