A state judge Tuesday denied the request of a Starpoint Central School District resident to overturn an order that bans her from school grounds until April 3.
School Superintendent C. Douglas Whelan banned Annmarie Reeb from the Mapleton Road campus, effective Jan. 3. Whelan maintains she was verbally abusive to him and his assistant, District Clerk Ruth D. Pirinelli, on the phone in December, and also threatened legal action against the district during a School Board meeting.
Reeb said she was discussing environmental problems she thinks may exist on campus and was not abusive. She also said she did not threaten legal action.
State Supreme Court Justice Amy J. Fricano ruled against Reeb's request because "it appears she failed to exhaust all administrative remedies" left to her to have the ban overturned, said Andrew M. Freedman, attorney for the school district.
"She could have appealed [the ban] to the School Board first and chose not to," Freedman said, "and then she could have appealed it to state Education Commissioner [Richard P. Mills]" before going to State Supreme Court.
Reeb's attorney, Steven M. Cohen, disagreed with the ruling.
"I believe she's mistaken," Cohen said of Fricano. "When a matter is a violation of the U.S. Constitution [First Amendment], there is an absolute right to seek redress or recourse before the New York State Supreme Court."
Cohen said Reeb's right of free speech was violated in several ways.
"She has the rights to speak out on issues, to redress grievances and to assemble," he said, but cannot because she is not allowed to attend School Board meetings.
"Even if she was rude and disrespectful, she is protected under the Constitution," Cohen said. "She did not try to incite violence [which would violate the law]. Case law is rife with examples supporting that."
Cohen said he will appeal the decision to the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Rochester.