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B.K. v. Nielsen

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

December 18, 2013

B.K., a minor, through Greg Kroupa, her guardian ad litem, Plaintiff,
v.
PETER A. NIELSEN, individually and in his official capacity as Assistant Director of 4-H Youth Development; ROD GEPPERT, individually and in his official capacity as Brule County Extension 4-H representative; JOHN DOES, of the South Dakota 4-H Livestock Ethics Committee unidentified in any communication from the other Defendants or in the 2011 South Dakota 4-H Division Handbook of the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service in their individual and official capacities; and MARY DOES, of the South Dakota 4-H Livestock Ethics Committee unidentified in any communication from the other Defendants or in the 2011 South Dakota 4-H Division Handbook of the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

KAREN E. SCHREIER, District Judge.

Defendants Peter Nielsen and Rod Geppert move for summary judgment on the remaining claims against them. Plaintiff, B.K., through her father and guardian ad litem Greg Kroupa, resists that motion. For the reasons below, the court grants in part and denies in part the motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

The facts, viewed in the light most favorable to B.K., the nonmoving party, are as follows:

B.K. is a high school student who lives with her family in Brule County, South Dakota. B.K. has participated in 4-H since she was eight years old and has won substantial monetary awards in various competitions.[1] Greg owns and operates a farm and livestock breeding business, and all four of Greg's children have participated in 4-H. Nielsen is the Assistant Director of 4-H Youth Development. In 2011, Geppert was the 4-H Livestock Project Leader, and he is currently the Extension Field Specialist I-4-H Livestock Show Manager.

The South Dakota 4-H program requires that all animals exhibited must be in the possession of the exhibitor by the enrollment date for each competition season. The enrollment date for the 2011 season was June 1, 2011. Additionally, the South Dakota 4-H code of ethics requires each participant to affirm that he or she has owned and cared for each project animal throughout the season.

On August 11, 2011, B.K. entered Moe, a crossbred belted barrow swine, in the 4-H Achievement Days at the Brule County Fair. She qualified to compete with Moe at the South Dakota State Fair, which was held from September 1, 2011, to September 6, 2011. At the state fair, B.K. won a reserve champion award with Moe and received $500 plus the market value of Moe's carcass. Because the state fair is a terminal event, Moe was sent directly to slaughter from the fair.

Following the state fair, other 4-H members claimed that B.K. showed a different swine at the state fair than she had shown at the Brule County Fair. Those members claimed B.K.'s state fair entry was actually a swine previously owned by Parker Henley for which Mr. Henley had won an award at the Missouri State Fair on August 13, 2011. According to the allegations, Henley sold his swine to Jeff Grings, who sold the swine to Greg Kroupa, and B.K. entered and won the South Dakota state fair with the imposter swine rather than her original swine.

As the cheating allegations against B.K. mounted, B.K. received harassing text messages, e-mails, and Facebook posts. To stem the allegations, B.K. deleted her Facebook account and reported the messages to her parents. B.K.'s parents contacted 4-H in an effort to stop the harassment.

On September 8, 2011, the 4-H Livestock Ethics Committee met to discuss the allegations surrounding B.K.'s swine. Nielsen and Geppert were both at the meeting. The next day, Greg met with Geppert about the allegations of cheating and the harassment. Nielsen and Geppert both contend that Greg admitted B.K. had not owned or cared for B.K.'s entry in the state fair. Greg denies making any such admission.

The livestock ethics committee met again on September 20, 2011. At that meeting, the committee determined that B.K. misrepresented the ownership of her winning swine at the state fair in violation of 4-H's rules and ethics. B.K. was not given a chance to present any evidence or argument at this meeting-in fact, B.K. was not even informed of the meeting. The committee decided to permanently ban B.K. from showing livestock at 4-H exhibitions. The committee sent B.K. a letter on October 3, 2011, which stated:

This letter is to inform you that you will no longer be allowed to participate in South Dakota 4-H exhibition programs.... After being shown pictures on September 9, 2011, your father, Mr. Greg Kroupa, admitted to Mr. Rod Geppert and then, to Mr. Peter Nielsen that you have not owned or cared for your recent swine entry for the project season. He also admitted that your swine entry had been submitted and competed in this year's Missouri State Fair. The South Dakota 4-H Livestock Ethics Committee met on September 20, 2011 and concluded that you misrepresented the ownership of this animal and violated the code of ethics.
Based on the events surrounding the misrepresentation of ownership of your Reserve Champion Overall 4-H Market Swine Entry, the State 4-H Office has permanently removed you from the South Dakota 4-H exhibition program and any future eligibility or participation in such programs. In addition, you are ineligible to receive any awards or premium monies from the 4-H Swine Project or 4-H Beef Project areas of the 2011 South Dakota State Fair. The South Dakota 4-H program takes the Behavioral Expectations and Code of Conduct... very seriously and does not take this action lightly.

Docket 25-1. After receiving the letter, Greg traveled to Brookings, South Dakota, to request an appeal of the committee's decision, but Nielsen told him that no appeal was available.

Subsequently, B.K. filed this suit, alleging various constitutional violations and seeking both monetary and injunctive relief. The court dismissed 4-H as an entity defendant and dismissed the damages claims against Nielsen and Geppert in their official capacities. The court granted B.K.'s request for a ...


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