Court Rules There’s No Right To Transfer Schools

Blake Neff | Reporter

A federal appeals court has ruled that no constitutional right exists for parents to choose what public school their children attend, a blow to efforts to expand public school choice.

The case decided Monday revolves around a group of parents in Blytheville, Ark., who in 2013 sought to transfer their children to neighboring school districts with better student performance records. Blytheville School District blocked their transfer requests, citing a desegregation order the district received over 40 years ago (the parents are white, and Blytheville is majority-black).

The parents sued in 2013, claiming that they had a constitutional right to choose what public school their children attended, in addition to the long-recognized right to enroll in private schools.

Now, in a 2-1 decision, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that’s not the case.

“[There] is no relevant precedent [to] support the proposition that ‘a parent’s ability to choose where his or her child is educated within the public school system is a fundamental right or liberty,'” says the majority ruling, written by Judge Lavenski Smith, a George W. Bush appointee. Smith also said there is no evidence the parents were treated differently simply because they were white.

The parents could ask for the case to be reheard before the entire Eighth Circuit, or they could attempt to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. That may not happen though, because the core issue is largely moot, since Arkansas has amended state law to eliminate the ability for district to block transfers on desegregation grounds (the ruling was made anyway because of the possibility for monetary damages).

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