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Case Name Schultz v. Medina Valley Independent School District FA-TX-0001
Docket / Court 5:11-cv-00422-FB ( W.D. Tex. )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Speech and Religious Freedom
Case Summary
On May 26, 2011, an agnostic graduating senior at Medina Valley High School; his agnostic older brother, a former student at the school; and their agnostic parents filed suit against the Medina Valley Independent School District in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San ... read more >
On May 26, 2011, an agnostic graduating senior at Medina Valley High School; his agnostic older brother, a former student at the school; and their agnostic parents filed suit against the Medina Valley Independent School District in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division. The plaintiffs, represented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and by private counsel, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, nominal damages and attorneys' fees, alleging that the School District had violated their First Amendment rights. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the school district, by engaging in a course of conduct that included "presenting, sponsoring, encouraging, inviting, or coercing prayers at school and school-sponsored activities and events; displaying and permitting the display of crosses and other religious icons; and retaliating against students who complain about the unlawful promotion of religion or who decline to participate in religious prayers, practices, or rituals," was in violation of the Establishment Clause.

The plaintiffs moved for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on the same day that they filed their complaint, hoping to enjoin defendants from featuring prayer at the upcoming high school graduation ceremony scheduled for June 4. After a hearing on May 31, the District Court (Judge Fred Biery) granted their motion on June 1, finding that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits and that failing to issue an injunction would result in irreparable harm to them. It ordered the terms "invocation" and "benediction" stricken and any official group prayer removed from the graduation program.

The defendant made an emergency interlocutory appeal to the Fifth Circuit, and on June 3, 2011, a three-judge panel (Judge W. Eugene Davis, Judge Jerry E. Smith and Judge Leslie H. Southwick) issued a per curiam opinion granting the motion to dissolve the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. The panel stated that they were not persuaded that the plaintiffs were "substantially likely to prevail on the merits, particularly on the issue that the individual prayers or other remarks to be given by students at graduation were, in fact, school-sponsored."

The injunction was dissolved, and though the terms "invocation" and "benediction" had already been removed from the program, the graduation ceremony the following day included prayer as originally planned.

On July 11, 2011, the District Court (Judge Biery) urged the parties to attempt to settle rather than engage in protracted litigation, and the parties agreed to try mediation. At the end of the summer, however, they reported that they had been unable to reach an agreement.

On September 6, 2011, the defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint for lack of jurisdiction. This motion was mooted by the plaintiffs' submission of an amended complaint on November 2, but the defendant submitted a second motion to dismiss the amended complaint for lack of jurisdiction on December 9, 2011.

On January 4, 2012, the defendant moved for summary judgment, and the following day the plaintiffs moved for partial summary judgment on the issue of school prayer.

The court never ruled on any of these motions, however, because the parties were able to settle their dispute in February 2012. On February 8, they submitted a joint motion to approve their proposed agreement. Under the terms of the settlement, the school district agreed to stop initiating, soliciting, or directing prayers at school events, displaying religious icons and texts at schools, inviting religious speakers to proselytize, and playing any part in writing or editing student graduation speeches. It further agreed to train its staff in how to comply with the agreement, educate students on religious diversity, and refrain from retaliating against or disparaging the plaintiffs. The District Court was to retain jurisdiction to enforce the settlement for ten years.

On February 9, 2012, the Court (Judge Biery) entered a consent decree approving the settlement. 2012 WL 517518.

The following month, the Court was called upon to enforce it--the school superintendent and the high school band director each made statements that could be construed as disparaging of the plaintiffs (the former referring to the lawsuit as a "witch hunt" and the latter calling the plaintiffs liars) shortly after the settlement was approved.

On March 19, 2012, the Court (Judge Biery) issued an order requiring the defendant to apologize and the plaintiffs to accept the apology. 2012 WL 933115. Both did so.

The case is closed, though the court retains jurisdiction for purposes of the settlement agreement.

Christopher Schad - 06/13/2012
Virginia Weeks - 11/12/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Establishment Clause
Free Exercise Clause
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Retaliation Prohibition
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
Discrimination-basis
Religion discrimination
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) Medina Valley Independent School District
Plaintiff Description two agnostic former students at schools in the Medina Valley Independent School District and their agnostic parents
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2012 - 2022
Case Closing Year 2012
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Schultz v. Medina Valley Independent School District
https://www.au.org/
Date: Jul. 18, 2012
By: Americans United for Separation of Church and State (Americans United for Separation of Church and State)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
5:11-cv-00422-FB (W.D. Tex.)
FA-TX-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/22/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
FA-TX-0001-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/26/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Order [Granting] Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 18] (W.D. Tex.)
FA-TX-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/01/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
[Fifth Circuit] Order [Dissolving Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction] [Ct. of App. ECF# 00511498424 ]
FA-TX-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/03/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Advisory and Order Concerning Procedures to Reach Resolution of the Merits of This Case [ECF# 31] (W.D. Tex.)
FA-TX-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/11/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 75]
FA-TX-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/02/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Order on Pending Motions [ECF# 76] (W.D. Tex.)
FA-TX-0001-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/07/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant's Second Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction [ECF# 98]
FA-TX-0001-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/09/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF# 118]
FA-TX-0001-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/04/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs’ Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [ECF# 122]
FA-TX-0001-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/05/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Press Release
FA-TX-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/09/2012
Opininon and Order of the Court Concerning Joint Motion to Approve Settlement and Enter Consent Decree [ECF# 136] (2012 WL 517518 / 2012 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 19397) (W.D. Tex.)
FA-TX-0001-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/09/2012
Settlement Agreement and Release Arising During Mediation [ECF# 136-1]
FA-TX-0001-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/09/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Non-Kumbaya Order [ECF# 140] (2012 WL 933115 / 2012 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 37130) (W.D. Tex.)
FA-TX-0001-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/19/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Biery, Samuel Frederick Jr. (W.D. Tex.)
FA-TX-0001-0001 | FA-TX-0001-0004 | FA-TX-0001-0006 | FA-TX-0001-0011 | FA-TX-0001-0013 | FA-TX-0001-9000
Davis, W. Eugene (W.D. La., Fifth Circuit)
FA-TX-0001-0005
Smith, Jerry Edwin (Fifth Circuit)
FA-TX-0001-0005
Southwick, Leslie (Fifth Circuit)
FA-TX-0001-0005
Plaintiff's Lawyers Flanary, Donald H. III (Texas)
FA-TX-0001-0003 | FA-TX-0001-0009 | FA-TX-0001-0010 | FA-TX-0001-0012 | FA-TX-0001-9000
Khan, Ayesha N. (District of Columbia)
FA-TX-0001-0003 | FA-TX-0001-0009 | FA-TX-0001-0010 | FA-TX-0001-0012 | FA-TX-0001-9000
Lipper, Gregory M. (District of Columbia)
FA-TX-0001-0003 | FA-TX-0001-0009 | FA-TX-0001-0010 | FA-TX-0001-9000
Luchenitser, Alex J. (District of Columbia)
FA-TX-0001-9000
Wilgus Null, Taryn C. (District of Columbia)
FA-TX-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Castillo, Stacy Tuer (Texas)
FA-TX-0001-0007 | FA-TX-0001-0008 | FA-TX-0001-0010 | FA-TX-0001-9000
Wood, D. Craig (Texas)
FA-TX-0001-0007 | FA-TX-0001-0008 | FA-TX-0001-0010 | FA-TX-0001-9000

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