Thursday, Oct. 18 2012 9:15AM
Appeals court reverses decision in Wilson brothers’ case
Steven and Sean Wilson were granted a preliminary injunction allowing them to return to school before their suspensions were served
By Toriano Porter
An appeals court has reversed a preliminary injunction granted in a case involving a pair of Lee’s Summit North High School students who sued the R-7 school district and remanded the case back to the district court level after determining the district court erred in granting the students’ injunctive relief allowing them to return to the school.
The United States Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today (Oct. 17) that the district court’s findings in the case did not support the relief granted to twin brothers Steven and Sean Wilson, and that the findings “do not establish sufficient irreparable harm to justify a preliminary injunction.”
The Wilson family – including parents Brian and Linda Wilson – sued the district for a violation of free speech, and in March asked for a preliminary injunction so that the brothers could finish last school year at North.
A federal judge in United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri ruled March 23 that the Wilson brothers, who were involved with a blog site that contained racial and sexual slurs against Lee’s Summit North students, could return to the school to complete their junior years despite being suspended by the school district for 180 days.
Attorneys for the Wilson brothers, who are currently enrolled at Lee’s Summit North, argued during the appeals process in district court that the brothers needed to return from the district’s alternative school to the more rigorous educational setting at Lee’s Summit North in order to get into honors classes, prepare for college entrance exams and audition for leadership positions with the school band.
U.S. District Judge Howard Sach ruled in favor of the Wilson brother’s motion for a preliminary injunction, allowing them to return to Lee’s Summit North before the end of the 180-day suspensions. Sachs ordered the school district to allow the twins to return April 9 and continue their studies at North while their First Amendment case against the district proceeded.
However, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that they “were not convinced the Wilsons were at risk of any real academic harm, much less any ‘certain and great’ harm that could be prevented by an injunction.
Wednesday’s ruling from the Eight Circuit Court stated in part: “We leave to the district court the unenviable task of fashioning a remedy several months after the entry of the injunction and the Wilsons’ return to school. However, based on the record and findings of the district court, we conclude the entry of the injunction in March 2012 was in error. We vacate the district court’s order and reverse the preliminary injunction.”
The original case originated with creation of northpress.tk in December of last year. Steven Wilson testified during the injunction hearing that he used a school computer during a Dec. 13 class to download some tools needed for building site. But he said he created it at home that night, using a server in the Netherlands to limit access to his small circle of friends, and never accessed it from school.
Attorneys for the district stated the brothers created and accessed the website on school property, using school computers during school hours, resulting first in 10-day suspensions for both students, and then 180-day suspensions approved by David McGehee, the district’s superintendent, and the rest of the R-7 school board.