Earlier in the month depositions had began for witnesses in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Western Division case Abbott vs. CVUSD et al. Then on Friday, November 9, 2018 depositions were suspended as both the Plaintiffs and Defendants in the case were evacuated during the Woolsey and Malibu Fires that threatened parts of Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park.
Plaintiff’s Dad, Mark Abbott has this to say about the situation. ” The absolute devastation that has occurred over the past few weeks throughout our State and our community is extremely disheartening. Friends and families and neighbors all around us have lost everything. My family was lucky, we got out during the evacuation with our important photos and documents, and then our condo survived and we were able to come home after a few days. But many others were not so lucky. I share a wall with my neighbor, he opened up his home to a recently divorced woman who lost everything. Right now I’m not even thinking about this case, It’s hard to prioritize anything other than protecting your family and your home.”
All remaining depositions were re-scheduled for later in the month. The Mandatory Settlement Mediation Hearing was also pushed to December 12.
The woolsey fire’s affect on the case’s schedule, along with the upcoming holiday season, present some challenges for all parties to the case, as the trial date quickly approaches in just a couple months. The Jury Trial is currently calendared to begin on Tuesday, February 19th, 2019.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017 the Defendants’ Attorneys in Abbott vs CVUSD et al. filed a Notice of Removal of Action for Trial of the case under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. The case was initially filed just before the Notice of Removal on the same day. Below is the Notice of Removal of Action.
On Tuesday, July 11, 2017 Attorney’s representing the Parents of a 4th Grade Student enrolled at EARTHS Magnet Elementry School, located in Newbury Park, California filed a Complaint for Damages and Injunctive Relief on behalf of the minor. The Complaint, that was filed in California Superior Court in and for Ventura County, summarizes allegations pertaining to all causes of action including: Violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act; Negligent Training and Supervision; and Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The full complaint as a public record is available for review below.
The lawsuit names Conejo Valley Unified School District; and Jeff Rickert, as an individual; and Lisa LaMontagne, as an individual. Mr. Rickert is the School Principal at EARTHS Magnet and Ms. LaMontagne is a veteran 4th Grade teacher at the School. Both individuals have been employed with CVUSD for several years.
E.A.R.T.H.S is an acronym that stands for Environmental Academy of Research Technology & eartH Sciences. EARTHS is a Magnet School for K-5 students.
The parents bringing the lawsuit are Mark Abbott and Christina Abbott, Their family has lived in the Thousand Oaks community for over 10 years and they have established the area as their home. As an incoming 4th grader, they transferred their child from Medronã Elementry School, in order to take advantage of the appealing Science based curriculum that EARTHS offers and also to facilitate better convenient morning drop offs.
Below is a copy of the Complaint that is public record.
Thousand Oaks, Monday June, 27, 2016, CVUSD Administrators release findings of their investigation into allegations of religious indoctrination against EARTHS Magnet Elementry School’s 4th Grade teacher, Ms. LaMontagne.
According to the UCP Findings, CVUSD Deputy Superintendent, Instructional Services, Mr. Robert Iezza states “Ms. LaMontagne also admitted that she shared teachings of Mr. Emoto with the class in connection with a rice water experiment. It is undisputed that Ms. LaMontagne taught students yoga and had students meditate in class during the 2015-2016 school year. — Ms. LaMontagne stated that she used meditation to reduce student’s stress. — Ms. Lamontagne stated that her students would meditate each day when they came into the classroom from lunch, and she played music with no lyrics in English during this time because she did not want the kids singing along.”
Even though Mr. Iezza presents admissions that arguably sustain several of the parent’s claims, his conclusions deny any wrongdoing by neither the District and School’s Principle, Mr. Rickert, nor Ms. LaMontagne.
Mr. Iezza goes on to conclude: “Ms. LaMontagne’s use of the rice experiment, Mr. Emoto’s teachings, meditation, and Yoga were done for a secular purpose. Additionally, we find no evidence that Ms. LaMontagne’s rice experiment lessons and use of Yoga or mediation in class advance or inhibited a religion from an “objective standard.” Thus, allegation 1 is not sustained.”
In addition to the Uniform Complaint Investigative Findings, there are exhibit correspondence documents in the form of emails and letters contained within the Redacted Uniform Complaint Findings document that is available to read below. The UCP Complaint, UCP Findings and identified exhibits are public record.