In the end it didn’t matter how many judges Santa Clara Unified Trustee Christopher Stampolis objected to, how many reasons he offered for postponing the hearing, or how much legal precedent he cited. On Jan. 21, Judge Steven Yep dismissed his Dec. 5, 2014 lawsuit against SCUSD because Stampolis hadn’t properly served district officials with his claim.
Stampolis, who was acting on his son’s behalf, claimed that his son was falsely imprisoned at Peterson Middle School on Sept. 23 when the child was sent to the office to wait for his father, who was half an hour late. School officials had tried repeatedly to speak with Stampolis about picking up his child late and violating school rules for visitors, but he refused to talk with them.
In October, Peterson Middle School Principal Susan Harris received a permanent restraining order for harassment against Stampolis, after he “physically came at me, invading my personal space, made violent gun-like gestures, fist gestures, and aggressively yelled at me not to talk to him” on Aug. 27.
Others testified in Harris’ case to being threatened and harassed by Stampolis, who has been censured by the board and isn’t allowed to represent the board or district. The terms of the censure also permit district employees to refuse contact with him.
As a response to Harris’ concerns, the district prepared an initial 14-day “stay away” order against Stampolis, and intended to serve him with it on Sept. 23. Since he had refused previous meetings, school officials insisted he come to the office to pick up his son in order to force a meeting. Subsequently, Stampolis tried to file a criminal false imprisonment charge with the Sunnyvale Public Safety Department, but the department refused to even make a report.
Stampolis presented the district with a complaint, but, he complained, they had not taken action. On Dec. 5 he filed the small claims lawsuit asking for a financial judgment on his son’s behalf.
There is no proof of service in the court record, and Yep asked Stampolis pointedly if he had served the district. Stampolis responded that the child “filed his complaint” and the small claims action noted that.
By law, the judge answered, “you have to give them a notice you intend to sue them.”
“The complaint that [the child] wrote on his own, that’s reasonable notice,” replied Stampolis.
“Did you really mean that this … was notice of a claim?” said Yep, holding up the green sheet of paper with the child’s statement. A child couldn’t understand this kid of technicality, Yep continued, which was why his father was acting for him.
Stampolis then launched into a long-winded explanation of why he had to act quickly because the board was resisting discussing the matter. The judge interrupted him. “Government Claims [statute] 910 bars this lawsuit. What you gave me … wasn’t compliant.”
“Will I have an opportunity to resubmit?” asked Stampolis. The judge suggested that he consult an attorney, adding, “Usually, when I find against someone, it’s over.”
Stampolis wouldn’t comment on his future actions.
The child’s mother, Stampolis’ estranged wife County School Board Member Anna Song, said she wasn’t consulted about filing the lawsuit and didn’t approve of it. “I would want school personnel to watch over him,” said Song, who currently has only visitation rights with her children. “I cannot fathom having problems with bringing him into the office to make sure he’s safe.”