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Wishek officials deny claims made in mom's lawsuit over school access

Katie Pinke

WISHEK, N.D. — The Wishek School Board and the school district's superintendent are denying allegations that they acted improperly by restricting a mother's access to the elementary school.

In a response to a federal lawsuit filed last month by the mother, Kathryn Pinke, attorneys for the board and superintendent requested the suit be dismissed and the board be granted attorneys' fees.

Pinke, who has two children attending Wishek Elementary School, alleges in her suit that school officials infringed on her rights as a parent by restricting her access to school property and events.

Pinke's attorney, Micheal Mulloy, said Tuesday, March 6, that discovery, the sharing of evidence between the two sides in the case, will now start. He declined to say whether there have been discussions about a potential settlement. "We're at the very, very early stages," he said.

According to the suit, the visitation restrictions stemmed from Pinke's questioning of how officials handled an Oct. 9 incident in which a fourth-grader brought a gun and showed it at school. School officials later said the gun was a non-functioning starter pistol.

Pinke is the publisher of Agweek, a farm publication owned by Forum Communications Co. She also sits on the Wishek City Council.

Her suit claims that the Wishek School Board's unanimous vote Nov. 13 to require her to get approval from Superintendent Shawn Kuntz before visiting school property was made in retaliation because of her complaints about how school officials handled the gun incident.

The lawsuit seeks to block visiting restrictions and requests a monetary judgment for unspecified damages and attorney's fees. It was served to six defendants: Kuntz, board President Curt Meidinger, Vice President Melissa Kaseman-Wolf and members Bruce Herr, Trina Schilling and Dynette Ketterling.

The response to Pinke's lawsuit also puts forward several defenses, including:

• The statute of limitations has expired.

• The school board and Kuntz acted in good faith and in compliance with all laws.

• The board and Kuntz are immune from liability by statute or qualified immunity.

• That Pinke hasn't exhausted her available administrative remedies.

• That Pinke's rights haven't been violated.

• That Pinke's damages are the fault of her own actions or the actions of others over whom the school district has no control.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.

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