Open enrollment appeals (December 2014 and November 2012 School Leader Updates)
December 2014 School Leader Update
Here are two recent open enrollment appeal decisions pertaining to pervasive harassment and serious medical conditions that were recently decided by the State Board of Education. These two cases focus on the procedures that the districts followed when reviewing the open enrollment application. Here are two important takeaways from these cases:
- The resident district must act first. The law contemplates that the resident district is in the best position to make a decision about an open enrollment application filed on the basis of the student being a victim of pervasive harassment or having a serious medical condition since the student is attending its district.
- When a district receives an application for open enrollment where the parent has alleged either pervasive harassment or a serious medical condition, the board must review the application in light of the standards outlined by the board. If a district does not apply the appropriate standards, the case may be remanded back to the local board to apply the appropriate legal standard.
The following cases are instructive for school districts:
In re: Open Enrollment of S.K., 27 D.o.E. App. Dec. 538 (2014)
In re: Open Enrollment of S.H., 27 D.o.E. App. Dec. 545 (2014)
November 2012 School Leader Update
Five years ago, the State Board of Education issued criteria for analyzing late-filed open-enrollment requests that allege repeated acts of harassment. This was the first such appeal to the State Board following the enactment of the new anti-bullying/anti-harassment law and its definition of bullying and harassment.
Accordingly, all four of the following criteria must be met:
- The harassment must have occurred after March 1 or the student or parent is able to demonstrate that the extent of the harassment could not have been known until after March 1.
- The harassment must be specific electronic, written, verbal, or physical acts or conduct toward the student which created an objectively hostile school environment that meets one or more of the following conditions:
- Places the student in reasonable fear of harm to the student's person or property;
- Has a substantially detrimental effect on the student's physical or mental health;
- Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student's academic performance;
- Has the effect of substantially interfering with the student's ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.
- The evidence must show that the harassment is likely to continue despite the efforts of school officials to resolve the situation.
- Changing the student's school district will alleviate the situation.
A parent or guardian who files an application for open enrollment after the March 1 deadline and alleges repeated acts of harassment is entitled to a hearing before the resident school board to try to prove that the application should be granted. The new criteria should be used by local boards, school officials, and the State Board of Education.
The following are two decisions on open enrollment appeals involving repeated acts of harassment where the decisions of the local boards were upheld: