CAJON VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT FILES RESTRAINING ORDER AGAINST BOARD TRUSTEE JILL BARTO

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CVUSD contends Barto interfering at school meal handouts; claim disputed by CVUSD Personnel Commission member

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

April 16, 2020 (El Cajon) The ongoing legal clashes between embattled longtime Cajon Valley Union School District Board member Jill Barto continued last week when the district lobbed another salvo at her by filing a temporary restraining order (TRO) against her.

The injunction enjoins Barto from being present at the district's student food distribution efforts at its schools. Like other districts around the state, Cajon Valley continues to provide meal services to its 17,000 students, although it has shut down regularly scheduled instruction at its schools until further notice. According to a video release produced by the district, it produces 4,000 lunches a day at its child nutrition center.

The legal action was filed by the district’s attorney, Daniel Shinoff, and signed by San Diego Superior Court Judge Daniel F. Link last Monday -- the same morning when a federal court judge issued its order refusing to dismiss Barto's civil rights lawsuit against the district.

Specifically, the “Stay-Away Order” requires Barto to stay at least 100 yards away from district schools and prohibits from Barto from showing up to schools to “participate in school meal handouts or any school activities.”

It says that the order was needed “because of refusal to adhere to program social distance issues imperiling safety of staff, parents, students and families.” A checked off box on the form claims further that Barto “made a credible threat of violence against the employee by making knowing willful statements or engaging in a course of conduct that would place a reasonable person in fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or immediate family.”  

While the district has specifically prohibited Barto from observing the food distribution to students per the court order, the CVUSD district web page states, “Students may see familiar teacher and staff faces at our distribution areas as we have had an outpouring of volunteerism. We are excited about this opportunity to maintain connection with our students and families.”

The court document names Assistant District Superintendent Michelle Hayes (photo, left)  as the “Employee in Need of Protection.” The restraining order also prohibits Barto to “enter the workplace of the person.”

East County Magazine sent an e-mail to Hayes asking for the names and contact information of the staff, parents, student and families to back up her claims referenced in the restraining order, but as of Tuesday afternoon did not receive an answer.

But it may be premature for the District to declare a “Hail Mary” in its latest action against Barto.

Hayes’ and the district’s claim against Barto could be further complicated by Tim McKay, a member of the Cajon Valley Union School District Personnel Commission disputing the incident.

In a statement e-mailed to ECM, McKay indicated, “There was no harassment by Mrs. Barto to anyone there at the school site or the people driving up with their children to get food. All of us there were keeping social distance six feet or more. Smiling at all and just happy to be able to help,” he said.

ECM has also learned that Barto’s attorneys have filed a California Public Record Acts request asking for the names of individuals cited by Hayes as having direct knowledge of the alleged interference by Barto.

The temporary restraining order does not specify whether Barto would be able to continue her elected role as a school board member. This, by itself, could run afoul of federal Judge Hon. William Q. Hayes’ order which enjoined (prohibited) the CVUSD board and the district from interfering with Barto’s mandate as a board member.  

In a brief e-mail statement to ECM, Barto’s attorney Maria Severson wrote, “It is most unfortunate that the District has used the COVID-19 pandemic as an alleged basis for its abusive litigation tactics. Mrs. Barto is being punished for her selfless service to the students and families in the school district.”

A hearing has been scheduled for Apr. 30 at 9 a.m. in Dept. 61 of San Diego Superior Court on whether to make the injunction against Barto permanent.

The court is only open for emergency matters due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it remains to be seen whether the court will reopen with regular sessions or if it will proceed through video conference. Since Apr. 6, the court has been testing a new video conferencing system in which all participants in a court session appear via streaming internet video.

Follow Paul Kruze at facebook.com/paulkruze and Twitter @paulkruzenews


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