Appellants' daughter, Mary, was a sixth grade student at Sudlow Intermediate School. Sudlow is one of six intermediate schools within the Davenport District. Problems, not of her making, began for Mary in mid-January 2003. A fellow student, who had transferred into Sudlow on December 17, 2002, started harassing Mary. The incidents started on January 13th. Mary's mother spoke to school officials on January 14th and the principal told Ms. Oehler that he and the teachers would be monitoring the situation. Unbeknownst to the parents, there were incidents on January 28th and January 29. On January 30, Mary was assaulted by the other student during the lunch period. On January 31, both of Mary's parents returned to Sudlow and spoke with the principal and associate principal.
District administrators told the Oehlers that the other student had received an in-school suspension; the other student had been removed from Mary's section of 6th grade but would share the same lunch period with Mary; the other student's parents had been notified; and security at Sudlow was told to watch Mary, particularly when the other student was near her. To the Oehlers' distress, when Mary arrived home that evening, she related another assault that had occurred that very day. The following Monday, the Oehlers withdrew Mary from the District. They filed 2 open enrollment applications, both seeking to transfer Mary to the Bettendorf Community School District.
On February 7, the superintendent met with the Oehlers and offered to transfer Mary to another attendance center. The Oehlers felt exposing Mary to further harm outweighed giving the District any further opportunity to reach a resolution. The local board denied both open enrollment applications. The parties both acknowledge that the seminal cases are In re Melissa J. Van Bemmel, 14 D.o.E. App. Dec. 291(1997) and In re Jeremy Brickhouse, 21 D.o.E. App.Dec. 35(2002). Both of these cases involved secondary students attending small districts in which there was but one high school.
The administrative law judge found that the Oehlers had an absolute right to withdraw Mary, assuming they complied with the compulsory education law. However, the District did not have to allow the withdrawal to occur via open enrollment. The State Board concluded that the harassment of Mary, albeit severe, could have been adequately addressed by the District's offer to transfer to Mary to any of its other intermediate attendance centers.
That the decision of the Board of Directors of the Davenport Community School District made on May 6, 2003, denying the open enrollment requests filed on behalf of Mary Oehler was affirmed.