Closing doors of middle school band meeting strikes sour note with vendor, federal complaint filed

Spring Lake Band Instrument Policy

SPRING LAKE, MICH. - A West Michigan music company on Thursday filed suit against Spring Lake Public Schools after being excluded from a meeting for fifth grade band students and their parents, calling the perceived snub “anti-competitive.’’

Representatives from Meyer Music were told they could attend a planned Sept. 15 meeting exclusively, according to a federal lawsuit. That struck a sour note with West Michigan Band Instruments; the Grand Rapids company went to court Thursday asking to be let in.

A federal judge Thursday afternoon denied the request, but it’s a moot point. Neither company will be allowed at the middle school meeting, Spring Lake Superintendent Dennis Furton said.

“We are not going to have any vendors at our meeting tonight,’’ he said. “Meyer Music suggested that, given the circumstances, the best course of action is not to show up.’’

The issue of letting one vendor attend a school function to the exclusion of others has generated controversy in school districts statewide, but rarely does it lead to court action.

“It’s really about fairness and it’s something that’s been going on for years,’’ said David Didaskalou, owner of West Michigan Band Instruments LLC which sought a temporary restraining order to stop Spring Lake Public Schools from keeping him out.

One music vendor should not be given exclusive access to potential customers, – in this case band students at Spring Lake Middle School, he said.

His attorney agrees.

“We’ve been dealing with this in a number of school districts,’’ attorney Daniel J. Broxup said. “We just want to make sure everyone is being treated fairly.’’

The eight-page complaint says selectively denying WMBI access to the band meeting “without a substantial government interest for doing so’’ is a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.

Furton said Meyer Music is a well-known, respected company that has worked with the school district in the past.  Meyer Music touts itself as West Michigan’s largest school music organization, specializing in band and orchestra instruments and supplies. It has stores in Grand Rapids, Holland, Muskegon and Kalamazoo.

West Michigan Band Instruments opened in 2010 and operates at 3601 Plainfield Ave. NE.

Musical instrument companies can provide information about products and services that will be distributed to students and their parents, Furton said. “If they want to provide that information, we would share it,’’ he said.

In the past, Meyer Music and West Michigan Band Instruments have been allowed to attend the annual fall meeting for band students and parents.  But Spring Lake recently decided to grant Meyer Music the exclusive right among instrument vendors to attend, the federal complaint said.

That decision came after Meyer Music told Spring Lake schools it would discontinue “some or all of its services’’ if the school district did not grant Meyer Music the exclusive right to attend Thursday’s meeting, the complaint states.

An official with the Meyer Music store in Muskegon declined comment.

(© 2016 WZZM)


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