The open enrollment application filed on behalf of Whitney on June 17, 2004 states, "Whitney does not want to have to continue enduring verbal abuse/harassment by an athletic coach to herself and teammates. She is also concerned about retaliation in an academic course (adv. chemistry) for not participating in basketball." The District did 26not dispute the facts offered by Mrs. Jacobs. Rather, the District does not believe that these facts are sufficient as grounds for allowing the open enrollment request. The facts are as follows. Whitney played varsity basketball during the 2003-04 school year. The older Jacobs sisters, Stephanie and Courtney, also played high school basketball at Atlantic. While the oldest sister, Stephanie, was in school, the family made a complaint on her behalf to the District administrators about the head coach. The gist of the complaint was the degrading and bullying verbal comments made by the coach to his players.
Mrs. Jacobs testified that the primary reason for filing for open enrollment was "purely academics" and that Whitney was concerned about "possible academic retaliation" from the coach's wife, who is the District's only chemistry teacher. One of the courses she teaches is advanced chemistry, a course Whitney intended to take during the 2004-05 school year. Prior to filing for open enrollment, according to Mrs. Jacobs, Whitney felt a "perceived threat" from this teacher, based on vague allegations of unfair treatment against unnamed students "a few years ago," and based on a fear that the teacher's loyalty to her husband, the basketball coach, would cause her to treat Whitney unfairly. According to Whitney's testimony on cross-examination, she took chemistry from this teacher last year, and received a grade of A. The only noteworthy incident that occurred during that class was resolved in Whitney's favor. Accused of cheating (along with three other girls in the class), Whitney was allowed by the teacher to re-take a quiz rather than be given a "zero" for the quiz grade. Dr. Prigge believes that the teacher would "bend over backwards" to be fair to Whitney and to all students.The Jacobs' state that the "perceived threat" became a "real threat" of academic retaliation due to an incident that occurred June 23, after they had filed the open enrollment application.
The controlling statute for this appeal is the open enrollment law, Iowa Code section 282.18. In general, open enrollment requests must be filed on or before January 1 of the school year preceding the school year for which open enrollment is requested. Subsection (5) of the law involves applications filed after January 1, seeking open enrollment due to "repeated acts of harassment of the student or serious health condition of the student that the resident district cannot adequately address." Having concluded that whatever problems existed between the Jacobs family and the coach were present long before the January 1st deadline, and having further concluded that the facts presented here do not describe harassment severe enough to permit a late-filed open enrollment request, we need not analyze the remaining principles.
That the decision of the Board of Directors of the Atlantic Community School District made on June 28, 2004, denying the open enrollment request filed on behalf of Whitney Jacobs was affirmed.