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Court rules against parental consent in school calendar battle

Posted May 6, 2008

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— The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the Wake County Board of Education has the right to change schools from traditional to year-round schedules and to assign students to them without parental consent.

The unanimous decision by the three-member appeals court panel is the result of a lawsuit that parents and the nonprofit WakeCARES brought against the board in 2007 because it planned to use year-round schools to manage space for Wake County's growing student population.

"If plaintiffs (WakeCARES and the parents) disagree with mandatory assignment to year-round schools, their remedy lies with the electoral process or through communications with the legislative and executive branches of government," Tuesday's ruling stated.

WakeCARES and the parents argued that the board was outside its authority in making changes mandatory and that offering different calendars for different schools violated the state constitution's requirement for "uniform and regular education on equal terms."

WakeCARES co-founder Dawn Graff said the group is disappointed by the appeals court's ruling and is reviewing its options and seeking a discretionary review by the state Supreme Court.

"I think it's a grave concern to people that there are no checks and balances and nothing to discourage the school board from not doing things they wish to do, no matter how unpopular," Graff said.

School board members voted Tuesday afternoon to leave the student assignment plan for 2008-09 in place, although any student registering for school after June 1 will be assigned to the base school serving the student's area, regardless of whether it's a tradition school or year-round one.

The district also plans to send new consent forms in the coming days. Any parent that doesn't opt out of attending a base school with a year-round calendar by the June 1 deadline will be assigned to that school.

Previously, not replying to a consent form meant that a student would be assigned to a traditional school.

Students who applied for a traditional-calendar school during a February application period won't be affected by Tuesday's ruling.

"We aren't doing year-round because the school board loves year-round," school board member Lori Millberg said. "We do year-round because taxpayers say we've hit our limit about how much more money we want to spend building schools."

"If people aren't happy with the way it's going, they have the electoral process," she added.

Last year, Superior Court Judge Howard Manning ordered the school board to get parental permission before assigning students to year-round schools.

Wake County Board of Education attorney Ann Majestic argued that nowhere does state law limit a school board's authority to assign students to year-round schools and nowhere does it require districts to make school assignments voluntary.

WakeCARES' attorney, Robert Hunter, argued that parents are entitled to a uniform educational experience that is nine consecutive months.

Majestic pointed out that law only specifies dates when school boards can set school calendars and that a school year must be nine months in length.

Year-round schools, she argued, operate on a nine-weeks-on, three-weeks-off schedule and are consistent. Traditional-calendar schools actually run about 11 calendar months, she said.


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  • Through a glass darkly May 7, 2008

    "What can the system do when they have thousands of students moving in each year? It takes huge dollars to build schools. I know they have floated several bond ref's., but how can they avoid not doing this? Where can you put this many students?"

    Two words: Impact Fees. It helps in two ways. The first is to allow construction of school for the new population and it helps to discourage people from coming here in the first place.

    As to the ignorant comment about illegal aliens, the INS estimates that there are about 7 million illegal aliens in the US of all ages. A disproportionate number are in the boarder states. So, how does that become 25% of the population?

    (Reference: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04733.pdf)

  • ncguy May 7, 2008

    It's pretty simple really - Kick out the illegal children and then, guess what - it will free up about 25 % of space.

  • VT1994Hokie May 7, 2008

    What can the system do when they have thousands of students moving in each year? It takes huge dollars to build schools. I know they have floated several bond ref's., but how can they avoid not doing this? Where can you put this many students?

  • hkypky May 7, 2008


    "You do have a choice; private schools, home schooling, moving out of the district, etc. No one is forcing you into anything. Where you live is a choice that you made."

    What a ridiculous comment. You make it sound as if selling your home and relocating to another, with absolutely no chance of knowing whether once you have moved that you would not be reassigned back to the situation you were trying to avoid in the first place, can be done at the drop of a hat.

    And while money may not be an issue for some when it comes to private school, there are many in which it is not possible even with other sacrifices.

  • Freakazoid May 7, 2008

    Year-round is great. My son is totally thrilled.
    This is a wonderful way to use school space and give children education all year long!

  • Adelinthe May 7, 2008

    This battle is hopeless. WCPSS will do what they please, whether anyone else likes it or not, or in fact, whether it's good for the students or not, because their first concern is $$$, not kids.

    Personally, I think anyone who doesn't like this ruling should leave Wake County - in droves, for I have never seen a more witless government authority.

    Praying for the children.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Not_So_Dumb May 7, 2008

    Rational Thinking

    Wrong. Please study the locations of year round schools and the boundaries of the districts of the board members who stood for election. With that little ounce of knowledge, the entire basis of your statement disappears.

  • MamaBearNC May 7, 2008

    I think they need to require builders to pay fees towards building new schools when they build communities or freeze new development until the county can catch up with the basic necessities....education.....water....

  • ConcernedNCC May 7, 2008

    If the complainers ever win in court, the solution will be to make ALL schools year-round. Then they'll meet the consistancy criteria that the whiners are wanting.

  • poohperson2000 May 7, 2008

    okay billybob, it was cute to start with, now it is clouding up the blog for people who are truly trying to converse.