The Kentucky Supreme Court has reversed the lower court’s ruling, which would have allowed Jefferson County Public Schools students to attend the school closest to their homes.
“We conclude that Kentucky public school students have no statutory right to attend a particular school,” the opinion written by Lisabeth Hughes Abramson said.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled last fall that students did have the right to attend the same school where they enrolled.
This goes against the Jefferson County Public Schools student assignment plan, which buses students throughout the district to meet a certain diversity requirement set by the school board.
JCPS argued the word attend was removed from state legislation in 1990, therefore allowing students to enroll in a school close to their home, but then be transported to a different school.
Superintendent Donna Hargens said the court’s decision affirms the rights of local school boards.
“Our school board has really worked for months making improvements to the student assignment plan and using technology in the processes that are used. And they worked hard and we’re about implementing that plan,” she said.
The district hasn’t been focused on the court ruling, she said. Instead its focus has been on the district’s strategic plan to improve student achievement.
“Frankly we’ve been working on implementing and executing that plan so that has been at the forefront of our mind, not that there’s been a pending decision regarding this,” she said.
Parents involved in the case–led by attorney Teddy Gordon–argued enrolling and attending are used interchangeably.
In a statement released Thursday morning Gordon wrote:
While we will always respect the decision by the majority of the justices at the Kentucky Supreme Court, we have to wonder at the obvious attempts by JCPS to influence this decision by JCPS every changing student assignment plans.
With each new plan, JCPS has inched closer to neighborhood schools, which they realize that parents want and children need to improve the horrendous education that our children are now getting.
All the parents in this case were courageous to take on the school system, and even though they did not win this round, they have made JCPS turn the corner, away from the out dated social experiment of busing. Now these parents are hopeful that JCPS will start improving the education outcome for all our children.
The appellate court ruled 2 to 1. Dissenting Judge Sara Walter Combs said the word was specifically removed for a reason.
“It was significantly deleted to say that enroll and to attend were no longer conjoined. To enroll was left, for attendance was deleted. And we have rules of statutory construction that essentially say the general assembly doesn’t do anything by accident,” said Combs.
It’s unclear what the intention of the 1990 General Assembly was because no record has been made available.