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Suit alleging unconstitutional school fees fails in COA

August 18, 2014

A Marion County mother who sought damages for having to pay certain fees for her children to attend public school lost her appeal before the Indiana Court of Appeals Monday. The judges agreed with the lower court that the state constitution does not permit her claim for monetary damages.

Linda McIntire’s children attended Franklin Township High School, where miscellaneous fees were charged for each student, including a $1.50 locker fee, a $2 activity fee and a textbook rental fee. She paid these fees, but then filed a lawsuit, alleging they were impermissible under the Education Clause in Article 8, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution.

McIntire sought an injunction preventing the school corporation from collecting the fees and sought the return of the fees already paid. The school corporation sought summary judgment, arguing that McIntire did not comply with the notice provisions of the Indiana Tort Claims Act and that the Education Clause doesn’t provide her with a cause of action for monetary damages.

The trial court agreed with the school corporation and granted it summary judgment.

In Linda D. McIntire, and those similarly situated v. Franklin Township Community School Corporation, 49A02-1401-PL-2, the Court of Appeals concluded the trial court erred in finding her complaint was barred because she did not comply with the notice requirements of the ITCA. Citing Hoagland v. Franklin Township Community School Corp., 10 N.E.3d 1034 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), the judges pointed out McIntire’s lawsuit was not based on an injury to or death of a person, or damages to property. As such, it is not a “loss” as defined by the ITCA.

Lora Hoagland sued the same school corporation after it began charging students to ride the bus to and from school. The school corporation stopped the practice before the lawsuit made it before the appeals court.

In McIntire, the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court on the constitutional issue. Her claim is also not based on a contract, as McIntire claimed, but instead argues the actions of the school corporation in charging the fees were unconstitutional. She is alleging a direct violation of the Education Clause, but the COA explicitly held in Hoagland that there can be no claim for monetary damages arising out of the Indiana Constitution.  

Hoagland is currently pending transfer before the Indiana Supreme Court.

 

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