Judge dismisses school uniform suit

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The other shoe has dropped in the Anderson school uniform legal challenge as a federal judge in Indianapolis has dismissed the suit.

U.S. District Judge John D. Tinder granted summary judgment for the school district late Monday, denying a preliminary injunction request from pro se parent plaintiffs Laura and Scott Bell. The couple filed a suit in Madison Circuit Court July 17 against Anderson Community Schools, claiming that a policy set to start on the first day of school Aug. 20 would violate the constitutional right of children to a free education.

Judge Tinder found they "utterly failed" to respond to requests for document discovery and hadn't shown any likelihood to prevail in court. He hinted at dismissal late last week when canceling a hearing set for Monday because of couple's lack of response, and he wrote in this latest 25-page order that this cancellation did not deny them "their day in court."

"The Bells were, however, given all the protections afforded any litigant in federal court and, as pro se litigants, their complaint was liberally read and construed," Judge Tinder wrote. "It was the Bells who did not comply with the requirements of the court's scheduling order."

Any state law claims remaining in the suit would be remanded to state court in Madison County, he added.

This means the dress code - similar to those implemented in other Hoosier school districts such as the Indianapolis Public Schools that took effect this week - can take effect once school begins. The policy limits students to black, navy, or khaki pants or skirts and solid color shirts and sweaters. Students wouldn't be allowed to wear baggy pants or skirts sagging below the midriffs, or shirts with writing on them.

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