The Indiana Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of Seymour Community Schools in a decision on whether school districts can obtain a protective order against an individual that poses a threat to students.
The ruling was based under the Indiana Civil Protection Act and prompted by a protective order granted by Jackson County Superior Court II Judge Bruce MacTavish to Seymour Community Schools on Aug. 9, 2017.
The order was sought by the corporation after a man exercised a personal grievance against it by protesting outside Seymour Middle School.
Judge Christopher B. Monroe was appointed special judge Aug. 15, 2017, and extended the order for two years following two hearings in September 2017.
The man, identified only as S.B., appealed that decision contending the school corporation could not obtain a protective order because it is not a “biological person” able to petition for an order of protection; the protection order was erroneous; and the order violated the defendant’s First Amendment and Second Amendment.
In its March 26 ruling, the court stated it considered recent events in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in its decision to rule in favor of Seymour Community Schools.
“We conclude that school corporations, through their officials, are permitted to act on behalf of their students to seek orders for protection against such threats,” the court wrote in its decision.
The court also found the order was not erroneous and did not violate the man’s First Amendment or Second Amendment rights.
The order does allow the man to drop off and pick up his daughter from school and allow protesting near school property so long as he is not armed.
The man protested with a sign attached to a shovel on a public sidewalk adjacent to the school during the first day of the 2017-18 school year, according to court records. He never entered school property but carried a visible handgun holstered at his waist during his protest.
Police were called to the scene, and the man implied he had another gun in his pocket. Officers believed they did not have a basis to remove him from the property, according to a news release issued by the school corporation’s attorney.
The release said Superintendent Rob Hooker approached the man and asked him to put his guns in the trunk of his car, and he refused and asked how Hooker would feel if he brought an AK-47 instead. An AK-47 is an assault rifle.
The news release also stated he would go to the high school if his demands were not met.
“We are pleased the Indiana Court of Appeals has recognized that schools may seek protective orders to safeguard their students,” said Sara Blevins, an attorney at Lewis Kappes in Indianapolis, the law firm that represents Seymour Community Schools. “It is critical that schools have a range of tools available to them to help keep students safe, and protective orders are just one such tool.”
The Indiana ACLU appealed that decision on behalf of the man. The nonprofit organization works to protect individual freedom and rights for all, according to its website.
A representative from the Indiana ACLU could not be reached for comment.
The defendant has 30 days to appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court.