Virginia Federal Judge Moon and Civil Rights Lawsuits Against Bedford County Public Schools
Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Judge Moon has ruled on two cases in the past month involving constitutional civil rights issues and public schools.

In L.E.A. v. Bedford County School Board, Judge Moon denied a preliminary injunction prohibiting the School Board from closing Body Camp Elementary School pursuant to its redistricting plan.  Plaintiffs argued that the decision to close Body Camp -- which has a higher percentage of African American students than other elementary schools that were not closed -- violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Judge Moon, however, denied the requested preliminary injunction after determining that plaintiffs failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits.  The Court pointed to evidence

"that the School Board closed Body Camp because the school's long-term maintenance needs were substantially greater than those at Moneta Elementary School [the other school under consideration for closing], which is supported by the findings in [an independent consultant's] review.  Moreover, the circumstances surrounding the School Board's decision do not necessarily indicate an intent to discriminate against minority students."

In R.M.B. v. Bedford County School Board, Judge Moon considered another civil rights action brought by a student claiming that his 364-day suspension from Bedford Middle School violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

The student was suspended for possession of marijuana after the assistant principal found "crumpled leaves" and a lighter in his backpack after hearing rumors that the student was bragging about possessing marijuana.  A sheriff's deputy and school resource officer field tested the leaves twice and the results were negative for marijuana.  Plaintiff claims that he and his parents were not told about the negative test results at the suspension hearing, and only learned about them when the criminal charges were dismissed.  Judge Moon denied the School Board's motion to dismiss the student's civil rights case and is allowing the case to proceed to discovery.

I should disclose that my father is a member of the Bedford County School Board and that, many years ago prior to law school, I was a teacher at Bedford Middle School.


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