Judge Denies Stillwater Public School’s Dismissal Request – ROPE/Chaffin Lawsuit Scheduled for Pre-Trial Hearing in November
In an awesome victory for ROPE’s case with Stillwater parent Brice Chaffin against Stillwater Public Schools (SPS) and Stillwater School Board members filed May 4th (2022), Maria Seidler successfully argued against the dismissal of our lawsuit requested of the court by SPS. ROPE and Chaffin, led by attorney Seidler, will meet SPS again in court in November for a pre-trial hearing.
Friday, July 22 (2022) at 9:00am, approximately 12-15 members of the Stillwater community, Brice Chaffin, ROPE Board Members Nancy Blalock and Tracey Montgomery, Attorney Maria Seidler and I waited in courtroom 302 of the Payne County Courthouse for Judge Kistler to hear our response to the dismissal request by Stillwater Public Schools of our lawsuit against SPS and individual SPS Board Members.
Attorney Maria Seidler won her argument against the dismissal request of SPS by pleading that the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act does provide a mechanism by which a party can initiate a lawsuit for relief of violations of their religious freedom.
Though Judge Kistler did remove ‘The Board’ as a collective from the lawsuit, the Stillwater Public Schools District and each individual Board Member – in their role as SPS Board Member – involved in the meeting the night of April 12, 2022 when Brice Chaffin was removed from the podium by Stillwater police for reciting scripture, will remain in the suit.
This was excellent news. The public elects each individual Board Member and every member of the public should expect that each individual school board member will follow the Constitution and the laws of the State of Oklahoma in commission of their duties as they are sworn to do when taking their seat on the Board.
A rather jaw-dropping moment occurred in the courtroom after the Judge denied the dismissal and declared a pre-trial hearing would be scheduled for November. One of SPS’ attorneys (there were two) addressed the judge. He noted that the specific school board meeting addressed by the ROPE/Chaffin lawsuit had been recorded and widely disseminated. He then told the Judge that SPS did not want a jury trial.
Gosh, why could that be? The fact that if a jury had to rule on the way SPS School Board Members treated Chaffin based on the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act during that meeting it would result in a slam dunk decision in our favor? Most likely, yes.
ROPE and Chaffin are asking for nothing more in the lawsuit than for a public apology to be made to Chaffin and fees to reimburse attorney Seidler. We are not asking for anything else.
Here are a couple things to think about:
- Taxpayers paid for TWO ATTORNEYS to deal with a lawsuit that could have been resolved via a PUBLIC APOLOGY for mistreatment of a parent and community member by SPS Board Members during one of their regularly scheduled open meetings.
- How much money will it cost taxpayers – and how much will the ATTORNEYS MAKE OFF TAXPAYERS – to fight a suit in which SPS is clearly in the wrong and over a simple public apology?
Government schools are out of control. Parents know this, but many don’t know what to do about it, or want to overlook the fact because they don’t want to go against teachers and administrators who might single out their child for retribution.
Hopefully – if we win the lawsuit and SPS is forced to publicly apologize – it will go a long way toward giving accountability of school board members back to their communities and the citizens who elect them.
The only way it doesn’t, is if parents and citizens don’t capitalize on the win and work to hold their own school boards just as accountable for their behavior.