Encouraging Progress in Lawsuit

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Today, Judge Magnus-Stinson of the Southern District of Indiana issued a ruling on Seven Oaks Classical School’s motion to dismiss ICPE-MC’s lawsuit against the state of Indiana and Seven Oaks Classical School. In the ruling Magnus-Stinson dismissed two of the three claims in the complaint. The case will proceed for a further discovery of facts, but now with a narrowed focus.

Last March, Seven Oaks Classical School, a public charter school, found itself party to a lawsuit brought by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education-Monroe County (ICPE-MC). ICPE accused the school of following Indiana’s charter law, but found fault with that law because it allowed all accredited 4-year colleges in Indiana to become authorizers. That includes Grace College, which happens to be a religious college. Grace followed the standard state procedure to become an authorizer, and has now authorized four public charter schools in Indiana, including Seven Oaks Classical School. ICPE alleges that Grace’s involvement in the authorizing process violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Indiana Constitution. 

“I find it curious that this suit was brought by a group that claims to support public education. We’re a public school that offers parents the option of a classical education in a small-school environment,” says Stephen Shipp, Headmaster of Seven Oaks Classical School. 

“So far,” Shipp says, “the parents of over two hundred students have decided that Seven Oaks was the best option for their child. As we enter enrollment season for next year, I’m encouraged that the court has so far ruled in our favor.” 

The federal district court has now dismissed two of the three claims brought by ICPE-MC for lack of constitutional merit. That includes the claim that Seven Oaks’ payment of a state-authorized administrative fee to Grace College violates the Establishment Clause. As for the remaining complaint about the state’s granting of authority to Grace to issue charters, the court offered no support for ICPE-MC’s argument. The court has only said that it is unable to decide the issue based only on the allegations of the complaint. The trial will proceed to discovery with a narrowed focus.  

“I look forward to our final vindication after the court has the facts it needs to reach its final ruling,” says Matt Wolf, president of the Seven Oaks board. “In the end, we trust that the court will affirm the constitutionality of the Indiana’s charter law.”  

Click here for copy of the decision.