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Judge dismisses suit by member of school board

U.S. District Court Judge John T. Elfvin has dismissed a suit filed against the Jamestown School District by Deann Nelson, a school board member who claimed the district interfered with her First Amendment rights by denying her access to individual education performance records on special education students.

School Board President Joseph Pawelski expressed relief that the suit was thrown out and said he hopes this ends Nelson's claims.

"As I stated eight months ago, it distressed me and disappointed me that this lawsuit was filed, because it takes up so much time for the administrative staff and the Board of Education, and it takes a lot of taxpayer dollars to defend these lawsuits," he said.

Pawelski quoted from Elfvin's 11-page ruling, which said the board resolution preventing board members from seeing the performance records did not violate the First Amendment.

"If an elected official could assert a First Amendment retaliation claim for every enactment or intraboard vote that ran contrary to her or her own political agenda, the already glacial pace of government activity would grind to a complete halt," Elfvin wrote.

Art Giacalone, Nelson's attorney, said he and his client were "disappointed" by the decision, but pleased that Elfvin allowed them recourse to take the case back to State Supreme Court.

Martin Idzik, school board attorney, said the district also is ready to go back to State Supreme Court if necessary.

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