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Court Fines Board Members and Orders them to Prison

In unusual contempt proceedings, an Iowa judge fined members of the Durant School Board $500 each and ordered them to serve 30 days in jail for violating a court order. The case involved termination of a high school principal who was later ordered by the court to be reinstated. Rather than fully reinstating the principal, the School District restricted her access to student records and other administrators. The District had already hired a new principal to fill the position and allegedly failed to fully restore the original prinicipal’s responsibilities. Clearly upset with the reinstatement arrangements, the judge held the School Board members in contempt of court but allowed them a final opportunity to comply with the original order by fully reinstating the principal. They did so promptly and avoided jail time. The court also ordered the School Board to pay the principal’s legal costs associated with the contempt proceedings. While this is an unusual case, it’s a good reminder that judges expect parties to comply with court orders and have signiciant authority to punish non-compliance.