In early July, Mrs. Holdefer met with Superintendent Nelson to express her concerns about abusive incidents involving her 15-year-old daughter, Brittany, and Brittany's former boyfriend, Justin. Mrs. Holdefer described nothing to Superintendent Nelson that involved the District. He recommended that she call the police about the incidents she described to him. He also told the family that if Brittany were to be harassed at school, the administrators would work with the family and would grant an open enrollment application if appropriate.On July 29, 2004, Mrs. Holdefer filed the open enrollment application herein on behalf of Brittany. The Holdefer family resides in the PCM Community School District. She requested that Brittany be allowed to open enroll to Newton Community School District for the 2004-05 school year, where Brittany would be in 10th grade. As the reason for the late-filing, Mrs. Holdefer wrote, "Brittany has been physically, verbally and emotionally abused by ex-boyfriend who attends PCM. Harassment charges have been filed and no contact order is in place."
Superintendent Nelson testified that, upon seeing Mrs. Holdefer's attached letter in which she was alleging that one incident took place at school, he immediately arranged with Principal Griebel to investigate the matter. Mr. Griebel recalled a day during the 2003-04 school year when Justin was sent to his office because he was upset. Mr. Griebel testified that, on that day, Justin told him that he was upset because Brittany was "getting in his face," trying to talk to him about a disagreement they had had. She was blocking his way into Spanish class, so, according to what Justin told his principal, he gave her a push to get by.Mr. Griebel asked Brittany about the incident that same day. She affirmed Justin's accounting of the event, and told him that the push was not a big deal. Mr. Griebel also asked the Spanish teacher for her impression. The teacher's account was that Brittany wanted to talk to Justin, that Justin did not want to talk to her, and he pushed her aside so he could enter the classroom. She said she did not report it to anyone as "harassment" because, after she talked to Justin and Brittany, she felt that both agreed it was nothing more than a disagreement.The PCM administrators both stated that they were aware of no other problems between Brittany and Justin. Mr. Griebel that testified frankly his biggest challenge with the pair was keeping them from inappropriately displaying affection with each other at school. He also checked with all of the District's 9th grade teachers, and they reported no problems. To the contrary, the driver education instructor stated that Brittany and Justin requested to be driving partners during the course, which took place during June and July of 2004. The District introduced as evidence Brittany's written request (dated April 19, 2004 and co-signed by Mrs. Holdefer) and Justin's written request (dated May 30, 2004 and co-signed by Justin's father) to be driving partners. The instructor gave a written statement that he did not witness any form of harassment between the two in the classroom or in the vehicle.
Prior to the local Board meeting of August 16, Superintendent Nelson called the Jasper County District Court to learn the status of the no contact order. As a result of the hearing on August 10 (which was attended by Brittany, her mother, Justin, and his father), the Court entered a one-year protective order, but specifically wrote in the order, "The parties may attend the same school." Although Mrs. Holdefer called Superintendent Nelson before the local Board meeting and asked to be on the agenda, she did not appear at the local Board meeting on August 16. The Board voted 4-1 to deny the late-filed open enrollment application filed on behalf of Brittany. The controlling statute for this appeal is the open enrollment law, Iowa Code section 282.18. In general, open enrollment requests must be filed on or before January 1 of the school year preceding the school year for which open enrollment is requested. Subsection (5) of the law involves applications filed after January 1, seeking open enrollment due to "repeated acts of harassment of the student or serious health condition of the student that the resident district cannot adequately address."
We assume for the sake of argument that the one incident cited by Mrs. Holdefer occurred after January 1 (or that she was not aware of it until after that deadline). However, we conclude that that one incident falls short of the type of harassment requiring the open enrollment remedy. It is not unheard of, within the dynamics of personal relationships of young teenagers, for problems and misunderstandings to occur. We are sensitive to the fact that such relationships can be abusive, and we do not condone Justin for pushing Brittany from the doorway of Spanish class. However, this one incident is the totality of what the local Board and we are aware occurred in a school context. There is no pattern here of abusive behavior. PCM is a relatively small school district; its graduating classes average about 72 students. Teachers and administrators were aware that Brittany and Justin were girlfriend/boyfriend; no one reported observing any troubling aspects in the relationship.
Unique to this case is the presence of a no contact order issued by a district court judge. Initially, Justin was not allowed to attend the same school as Brittany. It is significant that, after hearing what Brittany had to say in court, the judge changed the order to allow Justin and Brittany to attend the same school. Justin remains in attendance at PCM High School. Brittany did not start the school year at PCM; she attends high school at the Newton Community School District. We conclude that the local Board committed no error in denying the open enrollment application of Brittany Holdefer.
That the decision of the Board of Directors of the PCM Community School District made on August 16, 2004, denying the open enrollment request filed on behalf of Brittany Holdefer, was affirmed.