United States District Court, D. Vermont
For Marcel Cyr, Plaintiff: Dan Barrett, American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, Montpelier, VT; Edwin L. Hobson, Jr., Burlington, VT.
For Addison Rutland Supervisory Union, Defendant: Pietro J. Lynn, Esq., Lynn, Lynn & Blackman, P.C., Burlington, VT.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER (Doc. 25.)
Honorable J. Garvan Murtha, United States District Judge.
The defendant in this civil rights action, the Addison Rutland Supervisory Union (" ARSU" ), has filed a partial motion to dismiss. (Doc. 25.) The ARSU seeks to dismiss the claims of the plaintiff, Marcel Cyr, on the grounds that: (1) he possesses no First Amendment rights with respect to school property; (2) he possesses no liberty or property interest in accessing school property under the Fourteenth Amendment; and (3) the remainder of his Fourteenth Amendment claim duplicates his First Amendment claim. Id. at 1-2. Mr. Cyr has opposed this relief. (Doc. 30.) The ARSU has filed a reply. (Doc. 31.) As set forth below, the ARSU's motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.
II. Factual Background
At this procedural stage, the Court takes the allegations in the Amended Complaint as true and outlines the relevant facts accordingly.
Mr. Cyr and his spouse (" the Cyrs" ) have a son and a daughter, who have both attended the Benson Village School (" BVS" ). (Doc. 22 at ¶ ¶ 9, 11.) The Cyrs' children have suffered assaults and harassment on BVS property. Id. at ¶ ¶ 9-11. Their son also has a significant learning disability. Id. at ¶ 9. The Cyrs have complained to school officials, as well as the Vermont State Police, about these challenges. Id. at ¶ ¶ 10-11. They have also criticized the special education and student harassment policies and practices at the BVS and advocated for changes to them. Id. at ¶ 12. The BVS is part of the Addison Rutland Supervisory Union (" ARSU" ). Id. at ¶ 5.
In addition to complaining to school officials, the Cyrs have offered their views to elected officials at school board meetings. Id. at ¶ ¶ 10, 13. These meetings also allow them to stay informed about school business. Id. at ¶ 13. As part of these advocacy efforts, Mr. Cyr has spoken during the public comment portion of school board meetings; distributed printed material critical of school policies and educational test results; emailed his views to friends and acquaintances; displayed yard signs advocating for the defeat of the school budget; and posted public comments critical of the school principal during a school strike. Id. at ¶ 15.
The BVS issued a notice against trespass  barring Mr. Cyr from school property in September 2011. Id. at ¶ 19. The notice contained no information about why the BVS had banned him. Id. at ¶ 20. Nor did it provide any information about how Mr. Cyr could contest the ban. Id. at ¶ 21. Following an investigation by Vermont Legal Aid, Mr. Cyr learned the BVS had issued the notice because he had honked his car horn in the school parking lot. Id. at ¶ 18. He did so in an attempt to attract the attention of one of his children's favorite staff members. Id. at ¶ 22. The BVS rescinded the notice about two weeks after its issuance. Id. at ¶ 23.
The ARSU served Mr. Cyr with a second notice against trespass in March 2012. Id. at ¶ 24. The notice bars Mr. Cyr from any school property in the entire supervisory union for two years. Id. at ¶ 25. The ARSU served the notice during a series of meetings to evaluate an educational plan for Mr. Cyr's son. Id. at ¶ 24. According to the BVS, Mr. Cyr had not sufficiently complied with its demands during these meetings. Id. Just as with the September 2011 notice, the March 2012 notice provides no information about either the basis for the ban or opportunities to contest it. Id. at ¶ 27; Doc. 22-1 at 1. The ARSU issued the trespass notice pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 3705(a), which makes it a crime to enter property in violation of a notice against trespass. Doc. 22 at ¶ 26.
When Mr. Cyr contacted the ARSU about the March 2012 notice, the ARSU informed him it had received a tip he posed a danger to the schools. Id. at ¶ 28. The ARSU refused to disclose the basis for the tip. Id. at ¶ 29. Mr. Cyr made multiple attempts to contest the notice against trespass. Id. at ¶ 30. The ARSU refused to provide him with an opportunity to contest the notice unless he agreed to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, with the results furnished to the ARSU. Id. at ¶ 31.
In search of more information about the ban, Mr. Cyr submitted a public records request to the ARSU. Id. at ¶ 33. Instead of complying with this request, the ARSU sued Mr. Cyr in Vermont Superior Court, seeking a declaration that it need not disclose the information. Id. at ¶ 35. As a counterclaim, Mr. Cyr asserted a violation of the public records act in Vermont. Id. He ultimately prevailed on his counterclaim and obtained the records. Id. at ¶ 36. Mr. Cyr learned the ARSU based its trespass ban on a letter written by a psychologist. Id. She had never met Mr. Cyr, wrote the letter at the ARSU's request, and relied on discussions with school employees. Id.
Mr. Cyr asserts First and Fourteenth Amendment violations in the Amended Complaint. His first count claims the trespass ban " impermissibly burdened his ability to express himself, obtain information, and participate in the political process" in violation of the First Amendment. Id. at ¶ 38. His second count alleges a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of procedural due process. Id. at ¶ 39. It claims the ARSU issued trespass notices " in a way that creates a high risk of the erroneous deprivation of rights" and that one of these notices deprived him of " his rights without notice or a meaningful opportunity to be heard." Id. Mr. Cyr seeks a declaration that the ARSU has violated his constitutional rights and damages for these violations. Id. at ¶ 40. He also seeks to enjoin the ARSU from enforcing the March 2012 notice against trespass and from issuing future notices without sufficient process. Id.
1. Standard of Review
A motion to dismiss tests the legal rather than the factual sufficiency of a complaint. See, e.g., Sims v. Artuz,230 F.3d 14, 20 (2d Cir. 2000). A court should grant a motion to dismiss only if the pleader fails to show a " plausible entitlement to relief."
Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 559, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). A court accepts the facts alleged in the pleading as true, draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the pleader, and dismisses only " if the facts as alleged are insufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level."
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