School Board Member Sues District

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By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent

Laguna Beach Unified School District board member Dee Perry filed a lawsuit Tuesday in California federal court, claiming Superintendent Jason Viloria and her fellow board members have violated her constitutional rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection.

The legal complaint in U.S. District Court is apparently the result of failed months-long negotiations between attorneys for Perry and the Laguna Beach Unified School District.

“Defendants’ retaliatory conduct has repeatedly tried to prevent [the] Plaintiff from exercising her civil rights and fully representing the constituents that elected her to the Board,” Perry’s attorney Maria Severson wrote in the complaint.

Leisa Winston, LBUSD deputy superintendent of human resources and instructional services, said Wednesday afternoon that the district had not yet seen the lawsuit.

In August, Perry said through her attorney that she would not move forward with suing the school district, pending an upcoming meeting with the district’s leadership and attorney, over claims she was defamed and humiliated by fellow board members.

The turmoil started last December when the board passed Perry over for appointment as board president after she served as clerk. Earlier this year, Perry publicly shared a letter from the school district’s attorney, Mark Bresee, which Bresee said included a confidential legal opinion. The retired teacher’s fellow school board members later admonished her and created a controversial subcommittee to privately discuss the matter in June.

Perry’s attorney issued a notice of intent to file a lawsuit on behalf of her client on June 26, challenging three actions by the board, including the decision to keep her off the subcommittee and publicly accusing her of misconduct. Perry claimed the statements made in the decision-making process were defamatory, discriminatory, and violated her rights.

Perry’s fellow board members have said the creation of a confidential affairs subcommittee was essential to discuss legal matters related to Perry’s grievances.

The notice stated an intent to file a lawsuit seeking a restraining order and at least $25,000 in damages for emotional distress and a hostile work environment.

Perry requested a permanent injunction restraining district officials from prohibiting her from speaking to her constituents, from participating in all board meetings and district events, obtaining requested information; and to mandate the district share the same notices of school board issues as other board members.

Perry also asked the court for a declaration that district officials violated her rights under the U.S. Constitution. Lastly, she requested reimbursement for her attorney fees and other legal costs.



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