HANNEMANN v. SOUTHERN DOOR COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT (March 15, 2012)

Late in his freshman year at Southern Door County High School, Derek Hannemann was expelled for violating the school district’s weapons policy. He was conditionally reinstated the following school year so long as he engaged in no further gross misconduct. In May of his sophomore year, the school district decided to reinstate the permanent expulsion because of several additional instances of misconduct. Hannemann enrolled in a neighboring high school but continued to frequent Southern Door County’s weight room and grounds. After a confrontation with a teacher in the weight room the following May, the school district sent Hannemann a letter informing him that he was “no longer to enter upon the property of the Southern Door County School district for any purpose effective immediately.” Hannemann filed suit pursuant to § 1983, alleging that the ban violates his rights to procedural due process. Judge Griesbach (E.D. Wis.) entered summary judgment for the defendants. Hannemann appeals.

In their opinion, Seventh Circuit Judges Flaum and Rovner and District Judge Castillo affirmed. The Court considered whether the ban violated a liberty interest. The Supreme Court has recognized the “stigma plus” test for a liberty deprivation based on reputation. Under that test, there must be an injury resulting from defamation as well as “an alteration of legal status.” Although the Court determined that Hannemann waived the argument by not making it in the district court, it also concluded that the argument failed on the merits. Hannemann neither identified any defamatory statements made by the District nor established any alteration in his legal status. He alleges that he has been deprived of his right, as a member of the public, to have access to school property. But members of the public do not possess that constitutional right. Hannemann also argued that the ban interfered with his right to intrastate travel. Even if such a right exists, the Court concluded that the ban could not violate it. The ban has not limited his ability to move from place to place or to get from one location to another. The inability to access a particular public place is not an infringement of intrastate travel. Finally, the Court noted that Hannemann was correct in his challenge to the district court’s alternative basis of qualified immunity because qualified immunity does not bar declaratory or injunctive relief. Since he loses on the merits, however, the district court error is irrelevant.