Oh, Yeah – that Little Lawsuit in Mountain Lakes…

MOUNTAIN LAKES – It’s been about nine months since a federal lawsuit charged the school board here with discriminating against white students.

This was an attention-grabbing suit to be sure.

The affluent Morris County town is predominately white and the basis for the litigation were programs the district created after the death of George Floyd, an incident that galvanized the country in the summer of 2020.

Litigation tends to move deliberately and this one is no exception.

Defendants include the district, the superintendent of schools, other senior district officials and members of the school board.

The plaintiffs are …

Well, that’s the latest battle in the larger legal war.

The plaintiff is identified as B.L on behalf of J.L, his child and at the time, a student at Mountain Lakes High School. This is done to protect the identity of the student, a minor.

But as is often the case with legal battles and politics – and this case obviously has political implications – things are not that simple.

The defendants want the plaintiffs to formally identify themselves. This prompted review by a federal magistrate who agreed.

In an opinion issued about a month ago, magistrate Jessica Allen referred to “the universal level of public interest in access to the litigants’ identities.”  She added that it is “quite plausible” that parents of students in the district would like to know the names of the people “purporting to challenge the curriculum on behalf of their children.”

In dismissing the plaintiffs’ wish for anonymity, the magistrate ordered them to file an amended complaint by Feb. 24 fully identifying themselves.

Instead, the plaintiffs appealed.

And in a highly rhetorical filing, attorney Ronald Berutti suggested that the defendants were showing their “true colors” by not caring about the safety, security and privacy of students and former students who challenge school curricula.

He adds that the district’s stance appears to be, “Ours is a political agenda that may not be questioned; question it and we will make your life difficult and even dangerous.”

This brings us to an interesting dynamic.

And that is that the identities of the plaintiffs are not a secret.

Mountain Lakes is a small town and as the saying goes, “things get around.”

In fact, in this very filing, Berutti contends that the plaintiffs already have been targeted with “doxxing, negative press attention, personal confrontation and threats.” Clearly, all of these unpleasantries can only occur if people know who the plaintiffs are.

As must be mentioned, nothing happens in a vacuum.

The ongoing litigation in Mountain Lakes comes when what gets taught in schools has become a hot political issue nationwide, especially for those on the right.

This has prompted debate at school board meetings, efforts by some Republicans to recruit school board candidates and at times, attempts to ban books.

The next step in the case at hand is a hearing set for later this month when the plaintiffs’ lawyer will seek to overturn the magistrate’s order that his clients publicly identify themselves.

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6 responses to “Oh, Yeah – that Little Lawsuit in Mountain Lakes…”

  1. Good article. It’s definitely true that Mountain Lakes is a small town, and the identities of the plaintiffs are not a secret at all.

  2. So, they passed a law in NJ and US Congress to protect Federal Judge’s safety by concealing their family members’ names, addresses and phone numbers. I guess it’s O.K. to protect judges, politicians and all other sundry government workers, but when it comes to the general public, the Courts say: “Screw you all, you’re nothing but cannon fodder for our ‘dog and pony show’ trial system. If you want to litigate in OUR courts, you must drop your pants and hold on to your ankles.

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