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Judge rules law doesn’t require schools to bus students

December 21, 2012

A Marion County judge ruled in favor of Franklin Township Community School Corp. on a lawsuit filed by parents after the school contracted its bus transportation services to an outside organization that charged students to ride.

Lora Hoagland and Donna Chapman filed the suit last year and the court created two classes: those who paid for services, represented by Chapman, and those who did not pay for their children to ride, but whose children would have if not for the fee. Hoagland represented those plaintiffs.

Franklin Township Community School Corp. voted in 2011 to not provide bus services for the 2011-2012 school year and contracted with Central Indiana Educational Service Center to provide the busing. CIESC charged more than $400 per child for the school year.

Both sides filed for summary judgment, and after hearing arguments on the matter Oct. 26, Marion Superior Judge Theodore Sosin ruled Monday that the discontinuation of bus services did not violate the Indiana Constitution. He also held that I.C. 20-26-1 et seq. and I.C. 20-27-1, et al. permits but does not require schools to bus students.

Sosin found that paying-class plaintiffs received the entire benefit of CIESC’s services and no private cause of action for damages exists under the Education Clause. Franklin Township is also immune from liability under the Indiana Tort Claims Act.

He entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants and denied the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment. Each party is to pay its own costs.

A week after this suit was filed in November 2011, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller issued a legal opinion that the state constitution and statutes dictate that schools cannot charge fees for student to ride a bus to school to receive public education nor can schools charge bus fees directly or indirectly. The legal opinion was released in response to a request by two legislators on whether school systems can outsource bus services to another entity that charges parents.

Zoeller also ruled the same way in a 2010 legal opinion discussing fees imposed to ride the school bus.

 

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