Nine-year-old Lauren attended Blackhawk Elementary, whose principal is Ms. Waldorf, from Kindergarten through 3rd grade. Her 3rd grade teacher was Ms. Casady. The Hales presently live in Burlington, but own a residential building lot in the West Burlington Community School District. They anticipate building a house sometime after the present school year. In early June 2004, Mr. Hales filed an open enrollment application, requesting enrollment of Lauren to the West Burlington Community School District. Attached to the application was a written document, signed by both of Lauren's parents, going into some detail about examples of harassment against Lauren.
Three examples involved an "on-again/off-again friend" of Lauren calling her a b---h at school. Mr. Hales writes that the name-calling occurred "fairly early in the school year," admittedly prior to January 1, 2004. The first name-calling incident was apparently in retaliation when Lauren reported her friend (Aaliyah) for having peeked at Lauren while Lauren was in a bathroom stall at school. Aaliyah missed a recess for the peeking offense, but not for the name-calling. The Hales do not dispute that Lauren and Aaliyah were friends. Ms. Casady described the nature of their friendship as "very thick one day and not speaking [to each other] the next day," something she stated was "very typical" for 3rd grade. In early April, another friend of Lauren's (Chelsie) called Lauren a " 'ho." Chelsie was also in the 3rd grade at the time. Lauren asked Ms. Giertz, the school counselor, to meet with her, which she did. Lauren admitted that she had also been cursing. Ms. Giertz had the two girls talk to each other, and believed the matter to be resolved. She heard no more about problems with name-calling from Lauren, Chelsie, or staff members. The Hales note that, as the school year progressed, Lauren was a changed child. She was coming home from school in tears, had frequent headaches and trouble sleeping, and was proclaiming that she hated life and did not want to return to school at Blackhawk. They attribute the change to peer harassment and lack of appropriate response from school personnel.The school employees also uniformly testified that they were unaware of any harassment against Lauren. Ms. Casady stated that she became aware in March that Lauren was seeing Dr. Weinand, but that Ms. Montz-Hales told her that the counseling was due to Lauren's frequent headaches and that nothing was said about school. All three were adamant that the Hales made no reports of harassment of Lauren to any of them.
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."
Mr. Hales stated that the family owns a building lot in the West Burlington District and plans to build a residence for themselves on the lot. He and Ms. Montz-Hales rejected the District's offer to transfer Lauren to another elementary attendance center because it would be Lauren's third attendance center in as many years (3rd grade at Blackhawk, 4th grade in another Burlington building, 5th grade at West Burlington). If this is the family's concern, they may ? after moving to West Burlington ? open enroll Lauren to Burlington so that she has continuity and is spared any move at all. Burlington is one of a handful of school districts in Iowa with a voluntary desegregation plan, giving the local Board authority to deny open enrollments that would adversely affect the plan. Mr. Hales believes that the local Board felt pressure to deny the open enrollment request for Lauren, who is a non-minority child, because of the desegregation plan. We do not give any credence to this argument. By law, specifically 281?IAC 17.14(4)(c), one exception to enforcement of a desegregation plan is an open enrollment application based on repeated acts of harassment. The District's administration and Board simply did not view this as a case involving repeated acts of harassment. We agree.
That the decision of the Board of Directors of the Burlington Independent Community School District made on July 26, 2004, denying the open enrollment request filed on behalf of Lauren Hales, was affirmed.