New Jersey Mom Fights Banishment from Kids’ School

SOMERDALE, N.J. – A parent who was banished from her children’s school for violent tendencies is fighting back, citing that she is an active and concerned parent who angered the school district by asking about a sexual harassment complaint geared towards the district superintendent.

In September, the Somerdale school board unanimously voted to ban Laura Dieterle, a 37-year-old crossing guard, from Somerdale Park School. The board said the ban was due to “health and safety reasons,” while the district attorney said she has shown violent tendencies.

John Kennedy, the school board’s attorney, said Dieterle, who has two children, has been repeatedly confrontational with school staff.

In November 2006, the conflict between Dieterle and the school reached its breaking point, resulting when Business Administrator Kelly Peters accused Dieterle of taking off a cover for a storm drain pipe in front of the institution. Dieterle said she was concerned about student safety so she pulled the cover off because it was loose over an open hole.

The two had a verbal dispute, during which Dieterle referred to Peters as a “wench.”

At that time, no charges were filed; however, in a Nov. 6, 2006 letter, Superintendent Debra Bruner warned Dieterle that she could lose her visiting privileges on the campus.

Despite the warning, Dieterle continued to attend board meetings, asking for information about a lawsuit filed by a former grounds supervisor against the district, board and superintendent.

In that case, Joseph Fallon Jr., the grounds supervisor who had been fired in 2003, accused Bruner of brushing her body against his and petting his arm. The wrongful termination suit has since been settled, said Kennedy. However, Dieterle made over 75 copies of the lawsuit and passed the information out to residents before the case was settled.

Dieterle believes the last act she committed that led to her banishment involved her writing about the lawsuit in white marker on three sides of her car in September 2007. She then parked the vehicle in front of the administration building on the first day of school. She said she did it to encourage more parents to ask about the safety of their children at the school.

The same day, the district responded by filing a criminal mischief charge against Dieterle for the drain pipe incident that occurred 10 months earlier. The district requested between $300 and $2,000 for repairs.

By late September, the school board banned Dieterle from school property in a 6-0 vote. Kennedy denied Dieterle’s interest in the lawsuit had anything to do with the drain pipe charges or her banishment.

Recently, Dieterle sent a letter to the board asking them to reconsider the ban. In the document, Dieterle wrote that she would stay away from board meetings as long as she is allowed to attend activities at the school. She hopes her request will be considered at the Jan. 16 board meeting.

The ban cites a similar incident at Shawnee High School where a federal judge limited one father’s presence on the school’s campus after threatening his son’s wrestling coach. In the case, the father was to inform school officials when he arrived and when he left school grounds; he also could not speak to staff or students.

According to staff attorney for the School Boards Association, Tom Hutton, the only outright bans from schools are usually for registered sex offenders.

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