The Appellant, G.M., seeks reversal of a June 5, 2016, decision by Ankeny Community School District ("District") Board ("Board") denying a late filed open enrollment request on behalf of his minor child E.M. On May 9, 2016, the Appellant filed an application for open enrollment on behalf of his minor child E.M. In the application, the Appellant indicated that the application was being filed due to pervasive harassment or severe health. Mr. Adams sent an email to staff who may be familiar with E.M. Associate Principal Feldhans called Mr. Adams later that day to discuss E.M. Both indicated there were some issues with adolescent cruelty but nothing that they would define as bullying and harassment.
After reviewing the material Mr. Adams determined that it did not meet the criteria for pervasive harassment and he contacted Associate Principal Feldhans and asked him to contact the Appellant. On May 25, 2016, the Appellant sent an email to the Board and to Associate Principal Feldhans asking for a meeting. He offered the Appellant an opportunity to file a formal bullying and harassment complaint and he also offered E.M. the option of transferring to another attendance center in the district. The Appellant and S.B. testified this was the first time a district staff member offered them an opportunity to fill out a bullying and harassment complaint during the two year period that E.M. was having issues. After discussing this option with E.M. they declined to file a complaint due to a concern for retaliation and making the situation worse. They also declined to transfer to another attendance center. The Appellant's application for late filed open enrollment on behalf of E.M. was placed on the Board's agenda for June 5, 2016. The Board voted to deny the application. On July 1, 2016, the Appellant filed a timely appeal of the Board's decision with the Board of Education. The issue for review in this case is whether or not the Board made an error of law in denying the late filed open enrollment request. Here, the open enrollment application alleged that E.M. was the victim of pervasive harassment by other peers. Upon receiving the application there was an inquiry made by Mr. Adams of local administrators to provide any information about whether or not E.M. had been a victim of bullying and harassment in middle school or high school. Mr. Adams and Superintendent Kimpston reviewed the information gathered and determined that E.M. was not a victim of bullying and harassment. The application was placed on the Board agenda for review by the Board.
However, neither the Appellant nor S.B. received notice that this was placed on the board agenda for review or that they could attend and provide additional information to the Board. At the time of the agenda item before the Board, the Board received a recommendation from Superintendent Kimpston to deny the application and heard no further evidence or testimony regarding the allegations of harassment. The Board did not receive or review any of the exhibits provided to the State Board in this proceeding. It is not enough in these decisions for a local board to serve as a rubber stamp of the recommendations of administration. Due process requires the Appellants have notice and an opportunity to be heard by the Board. Under these circumstances we must conclude that the Board made an error of law by not reviewing the facts and circumstances of the case and applying the appropriate standards. Therefore, we must reverse the Board's decision. The Board must now review the application in light of the criterion the State Board has established.
Since this is the second time in recent years the State Board has reversed a decision of this Board on procedural grounds the Board should make a concerted effort to review its processes and procedures regarding these appeals to determine if changes need to be made.
For the foregoing reasons, the decision of the Board made on June 6, 2016, denying the open enrollment request filed on behalf of E.M. is REVERSED and REMANDED to the Board with instructions to review the Appellant's application for good cause under Iowa Code section 282.18(5) with respect to whether or not E.M. had been subjected to repeated acts of harassment that the District could not adequately address.