PORT ORCHARD —The South Kitsap School District was awarded a protection order Oct. 18 by Kitsap County District Court against Port Orchard resident Larry Lee Mann, which prohibits Mann from making contact with the protected persons or district property, including bus stops.
Specifically, Mann is prohibited from direct or indirect contact, physically or otherwise, with the protected persons; prohibited from making any attempt to keep or from keeping the protected persons under surveillance; and ordered to stay at least 500 feet away from the protected individuals’ residences, workplaces, district schools or other district property, such as administrative buildings, offices and bus stops.
These are temporary protections until the court hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m., Oct. 27 at Kitsap County District Court in Port Orchard. There, the district hopes the protection order will be extended at least a year.
Interim Superintendent Karst Brandsma and district receptionist Magnalyna Geisler filed petitions for protection after receiving about 18 ominous and sometimes threatening letters. Mann says he did not write the letters. He does, however, admit to mailing them to the school district. He claims the letters were sent to him and he simply passed them along to the district.
Mike Patterson, SKSD’s lawyer, said the school district is seeking a protection order against Mann for at least a year. The district has also handed evidence over to law enforcement, which is pursuing a criminal investigation. In response to the no-contact order, Mann wrote in his statement that he “should be awarded $500 in attorney fees for having to respond to this frivolous petition.”
He wrote, “The insinuations that I have kept school children under surveillance with the intent of causing them harm, and that I have intentionally caused emotional distress to someone who opens mail addressed to the school district is insulting and defamatory.”
Patterson said the letters now included as evidence started arriving at the district office on Aug. 15, 2016. The most recent letter was dated Oct. 10, 2017.
According to Mann’s statement, read by his lawyer at the preliminary hearing, he has “done nothing more than exercise my right of free speech in expressing my opinion that these bonds and levies are a waste of taxpayer money.”
“The letters that I forwarded that were written by some unknown individual or individuals do not constitute harassment by me,” Mann wrote. “I did not author those letters, and forwarded them only because I thought they should go to the party for whom they were intended.”
After a signed letter was sent by Mann to the South Kitsap High School student body president, the district hired a handwriting expert and was able to match the address written on the envelope of Mann’s letter to the addresses written on the envelopes of the other letters, which were signed under the pseudonyms “Texas Momma” and “Prince of Darkness.” (One of the frequent complaints in the letters centers on the district bonds and levies.)
Patterson said, “The content of these letters are disturbing, and we are committed to the safety of every student and staff member, and we’re going to pursue all available legal remedies to meet that commitment.”
The letters have been turned over to the Port Orchard Police Department, the district’s attorney said, which is conducting a criminal investigation. Patterson added that they are also getting the federal government involved since the letters were sent via the U.S. Postal Service.
The content of the letters
The reason the district said it is pursuing legal protection against Mann, whom they believe is the author of these letters, is a simple one: They are seeking to ensure the safety of all the staff and students.
“The letters used violent, offensive and threatening language under the guise of conveying strong disagreement with the district’s operations,” Patterson said. “Our receptionist who received these letters obviously was feeling highly alarmed, distressed and afraid.”
He estimated the district received “about 18 letters,” since some of the letters included attachments.
“Throughout (the letters), he makes vulgar, sexualized comments about students,” Patterson said. “He references suicide, Satanism and his language includes anti-gay rhetoric.”
Some notable things he’s written, the attorney said, have been threatening, including “all yall is a pit of rattlesnakes and need to be lynched” and “I be doubtin very much iffen yall killed all the education people yall’d get a coffee can full of brains from them.” (Grammatical errors true to how they appeared in the letters.)
A theme of the various letters signed by “Texas Momma” and “Prince of Darkness” disparages the quality of education that students receive; claims the district is stealing money from taxpayers and not using funds appropriately; and claims educators are brainwashing students into “little American hatin’ Socialists.” The letters contain various lewd statements about students, and homophobic and transphobic rhetoric.
The letter Mann wrote — and signed with his name — to the student body president includes similar themes, accusing the district of stealing and misusing taxpayers’ funds and that the “education system is a Socialist system and your entire student body is being educated to be a Socialist,” though that letter was less inflammatory, lewd and threatening as letters signed by “Texas Momma” and “Prince of Darkness.”
“In light of these alarming statements and given the context of what’s happened in school districts in the state and school districts in the nation, we have taken a very aggressive position relative to bringing this to the court’s attention, bringing to the law enforcement’s attention, to the attention of staff and students,” Patterson said. “Safety is of paramount concern to us.”
In her petition for a protection order, Geisler wrote: “I feel alarmed, emotionally disturbed and worried. The sexual comments about school children is particularly disturbing to me, as is the reference to lynching. I feel afraid for the safety of myself and the staff and students of South Kitsap School District.”
Child assault and unlawful imprisonment
In 2005, Mann and his wife were arrested on suspicion of unlawful imprisonment and third-degree assault, both domestic violence crimes. They were accused of beating and hog-tying three children in their care, ages 11, 10 and 8, with plastic zip-ties.
According to an article written in 2005 by Port Orchard Independent staff writer Justine Frederikson, Mann and his wife Judith were arrested “for allegedly restraining at least two of the young children in their home with plastic zip-ties while feeding them only ice cubes and graham crackers for several days, according to investigators.
“Mann was originally charged with second-degree child assault and unlawful imprisonment,” Frederikson wrote, “but accepted a plea agreement from Deputy Prosecutor Claire Bradley that lowered the assault charge to third-degree and the possible jail time to eight months.”
Patterson said Mann also has written letters to the editors of local newspapers about the school district and has appeared at school board meetings. The Port Orchard Independent regularly receives emails from Mann, often following an article written about the South Kitsap School District.
The Port Orchard Independent has received a handful of letters over the last six months that match the pseudonym and tone of those the district has received, Editor Bob Smith reported.
Statements to the court
Mann is adamant in his statement to the court that he has done nothing wrong, and the court has no right to issue a protection order against him.
“The three individuals who have filed declarations in support of the Petition for an Order for Protection admit that they do not know me,” Mann wrote. “That is because I have never had any personal contact with any of these individuals. I have never harassed or otherwise engaged in any illegal conduct with respect to these individuals.”
He said he is open and unashamed of his “position with respect to the school levies. I do not resort to sending letters under a pseudonym or anonymously to make my point. It is true that I forwarded several letters that I have received regarding the school district and their spending habits to the school district office.”
In Brandsma’s statement, he outlines the reasons why he’s filed a petition for protection against Mann, including but not limited to the following:
“I recently was provided a letter postmarked July 20, 2017, addressed to South Kitsap High School, signed by ‘Texas Momma,’ and received by Assistant Principal Casey Ogan,” Brandsma wrote. “This letter is particularly concerning because it singles out one student and includes his photograph.
“I am alarmed by the sexual content included in many of the letters signed by ‘Texas Momma.’ I am fearful for the safety of my staff, including Ms. Geisler, the students of South Kitsap School District and myself, because of these letters.”
Geisler, whose job includes opening and reading the majority of the letters Mann allegedly wrote, became “visibly upset when she received the letters,” Brandsma wrote. “She has expressed fear and concern because of reading the letters.”
Mann’s response to that was simply, “I would suggest that if Ms. Geisler feels intimidated and emotional distress as a result of opening mail intended for [the superintendent], that she find another line of work.”
— Michelle Beahm is the online editor for the Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.