Opinion:Western Heights Independent School District v. State, 2022 OK 79
Subject matter:School law
Date Decided:October 4, 2022
Trial Court:Oklahoma Count; Judge A. Timmons
Route to this Court:Interlocutory appeal of trial court order denying requests for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction; OKSCT granted the motion to retain. 
Facts:Petitioners (the school district and its superintendent) brought suit to stop the Oklahoma State School Board  from taking actions against the school district in the meetings of the State Board and sought a restraining order, preliminary injunction, and declaratory judgment to prevent the State Board from taking further actions until both the school district and its superintendent obtained administrative individual proceedings. The trial court denied the requests and the State Board subsequently placed the school district on probation and required an interim superintendent as a condition of probation. Petitions appealed the denial of the preliminary injunction (they also appealed denial of the TRO and declaratory relief, but the OKSCT declined to take up those matters as they found them not appealable in the case of the TRO and not ripe in the case of the declaratory judgment).
Standard of Review:The standard of review for an order denying an injunction is whether there was  an abuse of discretion by the trial judge and the order will be reversed only if the trial court’s discretion is clearly against the evidence or is contrary to a governing principle of law. 
Analysis:To obtain a preliminary injunction, the plaintiffs must show that four factors weigh in their favor: (1) the likelihood of success on the merits; (2) irreparable harm to the parties seeking injunctive relief in the injunction is denied; (3) the threatened injuries the opposing party will suffer under the injunction; and (4) the injunction is in the public interest. The right to this equitable remedy must be established by clear and convincing evidence and the nature of the injury must not be nominal, theoretical or speculative. 

The school district argues that the State Board has no statutory authority to “take over and/or operate a local district, conduct an ‘intervention’ or employ or appoint a local school superintendent.” However, the Constitutional provision vesting the power of supervision of instruction in the State Board is not a limitation, but a grant of power. The State Board is expressly empowered by statute to place a school district on probation and “shall take action as required by this act to ensure that students affected are enrolled in schools that are able to maintain state accreditation.” The State Board is free to employ necessary solutions to preserve a school district’s accreditation and when doing so it is exercising necessarily implied and lesser powers to effectuate a statutory mandate. 

The school district also argues that it is entitled to an administrative individual proceeding when the State Board is providing a warning, or imposing a probation, or a loss of accreditation status. The State Board has statutory power and authority to place a school district on probation status. There is a statutory procedure for this process and it does not contain a provision for an administrative individual proceeding when the State Board takes these actions. 

The superintendent argues that his teaching certificate was not subject to “suspension” by the State Board. The State Board has the power to revoke the certificate after a hearing and this includes by implication the lesser power to suspend temporarily pending such hearing. Also, the superintendent is not entitled to an individual proceeding prior to the emergency suspension of his certificate. Due process is flexible and calls for such procedural protections as the particular situation demands. Where a State must act quickly, or where it would be impractical to provide pre-deprivation process, post-deprivation process satisfies the requirements of due process.  Further, the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it found that the superintendent failed to exhaust his administrative remedies (participation in the post-deprivation hearing concerning his teaching certificate) prior to seeking an injunction. 

Petitions have failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims and that they were entitled to a preliminary injunction. 
Vote:9-0; Edmonson, J (author)