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Decision Number
Open Enrollment of C.N.
Lisa N.
Charles City Community School District Clayton Ridge Community School District
Full Text

The Appellant, Lisa N. ("Lisa"), seeks reversal of a September 2, 2014 decision by the Charles City Community School District ("Charles City") School Board ("Charles City Board") to deny a late filed open enrollment request on behalf of her minor daughter, C.N., to open enroll from Charles City to Clayton Ridge Community School District ("Clayton Ridge") and the September 11, 2014, decision by the Clayton Ridge School Board ("Clayton Ridge Board") to deny a late filed open enrollment request.The sole issue presented is whether Charles City and Clayton Ridge erred by denying the late filed application for C.N. to open enroll out of Charles City. The Iowa Legislature has given the State Board wide latitude in reviewing appeals under Iowa Code section 290.1 to make decisions that are "just and equitable." Iowa Code ? 290.3 (2013). The standard of review in these cases requires that the State Board affirm the decision of the local board unless the local board decision is "unreasonable and contrary to the best interest of education."

This Board finds it troubling that even though the district encouraged Lisa to open enroll C.N. to another district's online program, albeit not the program they referred her to, Superintendent Cox denied the application. The district argues that Lisa's application was past the deadline and that no good cause existed to approve the application. However, the record shows that the district in fact facilitated the open enrollment. A district cannot on the one hand encourage a parent to apply for open enrollment and then on the other hand deny the application. Not only does this defy common sense, but it is unreasonable and contrary to the best interest of education. We will not allow districts to pull the rug out from underneath parents like this, especially in an instance where the district has referred the parents to criminal truancy prosecution. See In re Justin & Ryan Kuhlman et. al., 14 D.o.E. App. Dec. 319 (1997) and In re Kassie Quick et. al., 22 D.o.E. App. Dec. 247 (2004). The State Board has "broad" statutory "discretion to achieve just and equitable" outcomes. Iowa Code ? 282.18(5).

It would not be just or equitable to uphold Charles City's decision. Justice and equity will not tolerate a district offering open enrollment as a solution in a truancy mediation and then deny the application for open enrollment when it is filed. Rather than see C.N. attend a school that can meet her specific health needs the district appears to be thwarting her efforts and up to this point has succeeded as C.N. is not now in school. Lisa's application for open enrollment was the direct result of the district facilitating her open enrollment application because they could not meet the needs of C.N. Lisa did exactly what administration told her to do. She has a right to expect that the district would recommend that the board approve her request, especially when Lisa and C.N. are involved in a criminal truancy prosecution initiated by Charles City.

When considering a student's appeal from a denied open enrollment request relating to a serious health condition, the Legislature has granted this Board "broad discretion to achieve just and equitable results that are in the best interests of the affected child". Iowa Code ? 282.18(5) (emphasis added). In light of C.N.'s serious medical condition and Charles City's inability to meet her needs, this Board believes that it is in C.N.'s best interest to be permitted to enroll in the IAVA to attend school online in an environment that may better meet C.N.'s medical needs.

The appropriate process that both districts must follow when they receive an application for open enrollment in cases of pervasive harassment or an alleged serious medical condition is outlined in 281 IAC 17.5(1). See also In re: Open Enrollment of S.K., 27 D.o.E. App. Dec. 538, 541 (2014). Under these rules the resident district must act first because they are in the best position to make a decision about an open enrollment application since the student is attending their district. If the resident district has not acted on a request for open enrollment the receiving district cannot act. If the resident district acts and denies the application, then the receiving district must deny it.

The decision of the Charles City Community School District's Board made on September 2, 2014, denying the open enrollment request filed on behalf of C.N. is hereby REVERSED.The decision of the Clayton Ridge Community School District's Board made on September 11, 2014, denying the open enrollment request filed on behalf of C.N. is hereby VACATED and REMANDED for reconsideration of the application in light of the decision to REVERSE the Charles City Board's decision. There are no costs of this appeal to be assigned.