STEVENSVILLE — A Stevensville man is taking the Lakeshore school district and Superintendent Philip Freeman to federal court, saying his constitutional rights were violated when he was banned from coming onto school property and wasn’t given a chance to appeal at a school board meeting.
The problem stems from an incident on April 24, 2017, when school officials said that Zachary Zientarski of Stevensville climbed a fence to enter Roosevelt Elementary School through an unauthorized door and became argumentative when discovered by a teacher.
Zientarski said he was trying to pick up his child from school.
After Zientarski sent what school officials said were several threatening emails to Freeman and other administrators, court records show that Freeman issued a “no trespass” order against Zientarski on June 1, 2017. Later, Freeman obtained a personal protection order against Zientarski for himself and the principal at Roosevelt due to Zientarski’s “obsessive, irrational and threatening emails and advice from law enforcement that the Plaintiff was likely a threat to their personal safety.”
After Zientarski sent an email asking if the ban included school board meetings, Freeman sent him a letter stating that the “no trespass” order was still in force and that he could not appeal the ban.
Zientarski’s lawsuit, filed in September, states that he did not attend any school board meetings to appeal the “no trespass” order because he was afraid of being arrested.
In his lawsuit, he states that his right to not be subjected to a prior restraint, his right to engage in protected speech without government interference and his right to not be subjected to retaliation were violated.
Later, the lawsuit states that he was arrested on a stalking charge of another person, after which he spent several months in jail because he didn’t have the money to bail himself out of jail.
Zientarski wants the court to award him “nominal or actual” damages and reasonable attorney’s fees, along with granting “such other and further relief as this court deems fair and just.”
In their answer to the complaint, school officials are asking the court to “enter a judgement of no cause for action in their favor” and to have the plaintiff pay the district’s attorney fees and costs.
Zientarski has requested a jury trial. A scheduling conference is set for Oct. 28 in the Federal Building in Grand Rapids before Judge Janet Neff.
Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege