city not a town-"Legislature must decide whether to accept being trumped by the court"
A town is not a city when it comes to school, court rules
A Ramsey parent sued a local charter school after it refused to move his son up on its admissions list. The law giving preference to residents uses the word "town" not "city."
By PATRICE RELERFORD, Star Tribune
Last update: April 12, 2009 - 10:41 PM
A legal distinction between the words "town" and "city" justifies a Ramsey charter school's decision to deny admission preference to a neighborhood kindergartner, the Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled.
In a decision last week, the court sided with PACT Charter School, which had refused to move Ramsey resident Matt Look's son up on a waiting list for the 2008-09 school year.
Look, a Ramsey City Council member, sued in March 2008, citing a law that says if a charter school is the only school in town offering a certain grade, residents get preference. No other Ramsey school had kindergarten.
An Anoka County District Court judge sided with the school last June on the grounds that Ramsey is a city, not a town. The Appeals Court upheld that ruling.
"[The] appellants have failed to make a sufficient showing to establish that the Legislature intended the language of the statute to apply to cities as well as towns," Judge Francis Connolly wrote.
The Minnesota Department of Education supported Look's suit, saying the terms were interchangeable. Even former state Sen. Tom Neuville, R-Northfield, sponsor of the language, said the Legislature didn't mean to draw a town-city distinction.
PACT, which stands for Parents Allied with Children and Teachers, had support from the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, which said schools do better when they draw students from a wider area. Dan DeBruyn, PACT's administrator, couldn't be reached for comment.
Look, later joined in the suit by fellow City Council member and parent John Dehen, said he can accept the court's interpretation. "We were looking for a legal opinion ... and not a school administrator's opinion," he said.
The school eventually accepted Look's son through a lottery, but the family declined to enroll him because of threats the father said he endured during the suit. "I'm not going to subject my son to potential ridicule," he said.
Last year, the Legislature amended the language of the statute, changing "town" to "municipality." But the change was embedded in an omnibus bill Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed.
Look said the Legislature must decide whether to accept being "trumped" by the court.
Patrice Relerford • 612-673-4395
Retrieved April 14, 2009, from: