Lawsuit Filed Against Seekonk School Officials
The Seekonk School Committee, Superintendent Rich Drolet, and Committee chair Kim Sluter are being sued by Luis Sousa, a parent of two students at Aitken Elementary School. The suit was filed October 20 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Sousa is being represented by attorney Marc Randazza, who has offices in Gloucester.
Drolet had issued a No Trespass Order to Sousa as a result of incidents at two school committee meetings. The complaint says Drolet and the members of the school committee committed violations of Sousa’s rights under the first and fourteenth amendments, pertaining to free speech and equal protection, along with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Sousa claims he suffers from bipolar disorder. “On October 4, 2022, the Seekonk Public Schools issued a No Trespass Order to a district parent following two incidents of disruptive behavior during School Committee meetings,” Drolet said via email November 16. “It is the goal of Seekonk Public Schools to conduct our meetings with civility, order and decorum. All speakers who participate in our meetings are encouraged to present their remarks in a respectful manner,” Drolet noted.
Randazza had sought a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction in a memorandum filed on November 11. This was to allow Sousa to attend the November 14 School Committee meeting. Randazza explained “a preliminary injunction is needed to generally avoid the no trespass order during this litigation.”
“Through this unconstitutional action, Defendants have barred Sousa from participating in government meetings, picking his children up at school, attending community events, and have even impeded his right to vote,” Randazza wrote. “The only exceptions are that, upon at least forty-eight hours’ written notice, Sousa may attend a parent-teacher conference or a back-to-school night and, at Drolet’s discretion and upon forty-eight hours’ written notice, Sousa may request to attend other events. Drolet has, in his sole discretion, banished Sousa from events like Halloween parties for his children – in the context of 5 and 6 year old children, this is far from frivolous. Drolet has also banished Sousa from attending school committee meetings.”
“On September 27, 2022, Defendant Superintendent Drolet sent a letter to Sousa putatively admonishing him for his “highly inappropriate and disruptive behavior that required the School Committee to temporarily enter into a recess,” said Randazza, adding Drolet falsely alleged that Sousa “caused a disturbance during the September 26, 2022, School Committee Meeting, yelling and screaming and disrupting…”
The Reporter obtained a report filed by Seekonk Patrolman Brian T. DiCristoforo, who responded to a “disturbance” in the parking lot of Hurley Middle School on January 5. DiCristoforo spoke with Sluter, “who informed me Sousa is a known party to her and the other members. Sluter stated once (the school committee) were in their closed door session, Sousa began banging on the windows and yelling at them. Sluter stated she was in fear for her safety due to Sousa's behavior and all members in the meeting were nervous to leave the building to go to their vehicles. I asked if Sousa had threatened anyone during the incident. No one could recall any direct threats, just yelling about the meeting.”
“I informed Sousa the committee members stated it was not a "secret meeting" and that it was posted in/on a public forum. They also stated the members of the public who were present at the beginning of the meeting were allowed to speak. I advised him members were in fear for their safety as a direct result of his behavior. Sousa stated he understood but that this outcome was unacceptable. I then informed Sousa (who was alone) that he was free to leave. Sousa then left the scene without further incident,” DiCristoforo wrote.
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