Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dike v. School Board case brief

Dike v. School Board case brief summary
650 F.2d 783 (5th Cir. 1981)

SYNOPSIS: Plaintiff teacher sought review of an order of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, which dismissed plaintiff's complaint as frivolous and awarded attorney's fees to defendants, school board and superintendent, in plaintiff's case alleging undue interference by defendant of her constitutional right to breastfeed her baby, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983.

-Plaintiff teacher wanted to breastfeed her baby during her lunch hour, and defendants, school board and superintendent, refused.
-She filed suit against defendant under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983, characterizing breastfeeding as a constitutional right with which defendant had unduly interfered.
-The district court dismissed plaintiff's complaint and awarded attorney's fees to defendant, deeming the action frivolous.
-The appeals court reversed the dismissal.

-The court held that plaintiff's interest in breastfeeding was entitled in some circumstances to protection against state infringement because it was similar to marriage, procreation, contraception, abortion, and family relationships, which were afforded special protection.

-However, the court also found that the justifications that defendant may have had for restricting plaintiff's exercise of her right during the work day were equally critical, and that defendant had a legitimate interest in preventing disruption of performance of duty.
-Therefore, plaintiff's complaint should not have been dismissed, nor attorney's fees awarded, because a question remained as to whether plaintiff could prove facts that would have entitled her to relief.

OUTCOME: The court reversed the order dismissing plaintiff teacher's complaint. In light of specially protected interests, excessive interference in plaintiff's decision regarding breastfeeding had to be weighed against the interests of defendants, school board and superintendent, in avoiding disruptions; therefore, the claim should not have been dismissed and attorney's fees waived because facts existed that could have entitled plaintiff to relief.

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