Kirkwood, Mehlville School Districts Legally Must Accept All Student Transfers, ACLU Says

school-bus-file.jpg
via Facebook
The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri is getting involved in the intense school transfer controversy in the state, arguing that two local districts have a legal obligation to accept outside students looking to enroll.

"All children, regardless of their race, where they live, or the income level of their parents, deserve a quality education," Jeffrey Mittman, ACLU-EM's executive director, says in a statement.

The civil rights group has sent letters -- on view below -- to the superintendents of Kirkwood and Mehlville school districts, arguing that it is unconstitutional to turn away students from unaccredited school districts.

See also:
- Francis Howell, Normandy Controversy: Should Boards Have Power to Veto Transfers?
- Student Loan Rates Double, Missouri Groups Push For Action In D.C. To Stop Hikes
- VIDEO: Gateway High Teacher Peter Sheppard Charged With Assault, Shoved Student

For those who haven't been following closely, a quick recap, as we outlined in our previous coverage: The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in June that children living in unaccredited school districts -- ones that are underperforming -- are entitled to transfer to accredited school districts in the same or adjoining counties. The unaccredited systems must pay tuition for these transfers and fund transportation to at least one alternative school district, the ruling says.

This decision has sparked all sorts of heated debate regarding the funding of these transfers and the impact on class sizes and has also exacerbated tensions around racial and socioeconomic disparities between the accredited and unaccredited districts.

mehlville-hs.jpg
via Mehlville School District Facebook Page
High school graduation.

As the Post-Dispatch summarized in its latest story, a wide range of logistical headaches and legal questions have also emerged.

Due to class size concerns, Kirkwood has limited the number of its transfers to 175 and Mehlville has limited its number to 218 -- but the ACLU, in its letters, argues that these restrictions are unconstitutional.

The group says these districts are legally barred from turning students away in this manner.

"School districts cannot arbitrarily refuse to accept students, as Kirkwood and Mehlville have done," Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU-EM, says in a statement. "The ACLU's mandate is to keep government entities from improperly limiting or restricting the constitutional rights of students and their parents. We are available to help people enforce the law and look forward to hearing from families who want to see this happen."

The districts, in putting in place these limits, are following the guidance of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. That guidance, however, suggesting that the districts are allowed to turn away students is incorrect, the ACLU argues.

"The legislature's mandate that you accept all eligible students is unambiguous," the letters to the superintendents say.

Not only do students and parents in the unaccredited school district have constitutional rights to make these transfers, the districts that deny them could be "exposed to significant liability," the ACLU says, "because your actions appear to violate the Federal Constitution." These rights constitute a "liberty interest of which they cannot be deprived without due process," the organization says.

The state education department, in a statement sent to Daily RFT, offers this broad response to the ACLU's comments:

The Department is working with school officials, [Cooperating School Districts], and critical stakeholders, such as the ACLU of Eastern Missouri on transferring students from unaccredited to accredited school districts. Agency staff will continue to communicate with ACLU of Eastern Missouri to ensure that all students have access to quality instruction.

Here are the full letters to Kirkwood and Mehlville.

ACLU Letter Tom Williams Kirkwood School

ACLU Letter Dr. Eric Knost Mehlville School Dist.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

My Voice Nation Help
54 comments
JMW1996
JMW1996

The students that are already within the Kirkwood and Mehlville school districts also have constitutional rights and deserve a good education.  Overcrowding accreditted schools does not benefit anyone.  Overcrowding could also lead to a domino effect.  Too many students with too few teachers and not enough classrooms is NOT a way to teach.  Kirkwood and Mehlville's test scores will likely fall, they will likely be unable to maintain state mandated classroom limits, etc.  This could put these shools' accreditation in jeopardy! 

Don't get me wrong, every child that wants to learn and get a good education should have the opportunity.  But, you shouldn't be able to force school districts to accept students for whom they do not have the resources!!  State/federal funding for these students don't make a difference when you don't have space, teachers, books, etc. for them.  School is about to start!!

JMW1996
JMW1996

The students that are already within the Kirkwood and Mehlville school districts also have constitutional rights and deserve a good education.  Overcrowding accreditted schools does not benefit anyone.  Overcrowding could also lead to a domino effect.  Too many students with too few teachers and not enough classrooms is NOT a way to teach.  Kirkwood and Mehlville's test scores will likely fall, they will likely be unable to maintain state mandated classroom limits, etc.  This could put these shools' accreditation in jeopardy! 

Don't get me wrong, every child that wants to learn and get a good education should have the opportunity.  But, you shouldn't be able to force school districts to accept students for whom they do not have the resources!!  State/federal funding for these students don't make a difference when you don't have space, teachers, books, etc. for them.  School is about to start!!

cattaur
cattaur

As many people have pointed out, it comes down to SPACE. the way the article makes it sound, the ACLU would like for Kirkwood and Mehlville to take the entire student body of the unaccredited school districts. Obviously, that would not be doable. 

Therefore, the school districts that are taking the students should be able to put a cap on the number of students they take. It sounds like they are putting reasonable caps.

More focus should be on getting the unaccredited school districts back up to snuff.

(no kids, don't really know what school district I live in.)

snewsom2997
snewsom2997

The schools in Normandy and Riverview Gardens got that way because enough parents didn't care. Putting kids in an environment where they are not wanted is not going to help those kids at all.

snewsom2997
snewsom2997

They will deserve to use those schools when they move there and pay the property taxes.

Daniel Stout
Daniel Stout

The hate end elitism on this comment page saddens me, but does not surprise me.

billj598
billj598 topcommenter

So the cretins at the ACLU and the racists at the NAACP can just sit back on their worthless butts and "decree" that Mehlville and Kirkwood "create" room in their classrooms to accommodate children fleeing from unaccredited school districts.  Anyone else see a real, basic problem with this concept ?  Meanwhile, the kids in the receiving Districts suffer overcrowding for another area's failures.    Sheesh !

Sharon Parker
Sharon Parker

Mehlville S.D. already raises taxes on us every opportunity they get. My kids had outdated textbooks, but the district built new tennis courts! Now I get to figure out how to pay even HIGHER property taxes on a house that's already underwater, because you can be sure the additional strain on the already-crowded Mehlville district will necessitate hiring additional teachers and probably construction of a third high school. Will the Riverview Gardens taxpayers help pay for this??? Do I work any "less hard" than parents there?

Mel Carter
Mel Carter

Just a thought, maybe Normandy should clean up their own mess.

Dason Van Oppen
Dason Van Oppen

Not at all.. particularly in the numbers they are talking about... It is pretty unfair to the people who are paying their taxes for the school districts to have people from outside the district come take advantage... Additionally, with the amount of $$$ the unaccredited schools are paying to transport these kids, that money should be pumped into THEIR district and improve it...

Max Schulze
Max Schulze

So the parents don't do their job at home, thus the kids are prepared/engaged at school, thus the school fails...and now that want to push their problems off of the families that did prepare their children by not only weaking other school districts and subsequently bringing down home values in the mean time? (All this without even mentioning the potential rise in crime, so no one overreacts and cries racism). Just seems like shuffling the problem instead of addressing it.

Renee Boyer
Renee Boyer

So, back in the '70's, the state of Missouri began the destruction of St. Louis City public schools by spending billions of tax dollars on buses to take children out of their neighborhood schools, weakening parental involvement in the education process, instead of putting the money into improving the schools. Now, the state of Missouri is attempting to expand their destruction of public schools. STOP SPENDING MONEY ON BUSES AND START SPENDING IT ON THE ACTUAL EDUCATION OF KIDS!!! I am speaking as a former victim of the "volunteer" busing program. I either got on a bus any attended the school they told me to go to, passing multiple other schools, or I didn't attend school. That was my "voluntary" choice.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

locusts. they destroy an area and move to another.

Mike Klund
Mike Klund

I believe Mehlville already takes over 450 kids through voluntary transfer. The media and the Lawyers union make it look like Mehlville and Kirkwood locked there doors. Again the Media making there own news instead of investigating stories before they right there conclusions.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

"Really Steve? Do you work in one of these 'bad' school districts to know this?" yaaaa...you must have missed the part where they are taking kids from failed districts to good districts. even me...with my "limited" vocabulary was able to understand that.

Elizabeth Jaggie
Elizabeth Jaggie

This is insane!!! Both Kirkwood and Mehlville have agreed to take some students and THEY should be able to turn down any that would put their classrooms into an over crowded situation.....MY Real Estate taxes go towards keeping the schools in MY district running and accredited. You cannot just keep packing more and more students into classrooms and expect that everyone will get the attention needed to succeed....

Jimmie Thomptson
Jimmie Thomptson

why drag down other neighborhoods, fix your own damn problems

Marisa Ciolino
Marisa Ciolino

I went to Oakville Senior High in 93 and it was over crowded then....stop making it a racial issue. It's not!

Ryan Mackley
Ryan Mackley

I think if a new student lives in the school district then yes the school must accept them but, this is a unique situation. I don't think that a school district should be forced to take on students from other districts. It sounds like the other schools are doing their best to help but, they have budgets and space restrictions that are already stretched. Maybe a better solution would be to restaff and refocus the school these kids came from.

Becky Spector Hibbits
Becky Spector Hibbits

Really Steve? Do you work in one of these 'bad' school districts to know this? I happen to, and I know and see that the people in these "bad" school districts (as your limited vocabulary and knowledge refers to them as) work VERY hard and are working very diligently to improve the educational quality and community involvement in their districts! Very ignorant comment! You should be ashamed!

Justin Smith
Justin Smith

Room for students, yes. No room, No. Teachers can only do so much

Adam Lange
Adam Lange

Richard above has great points end our foreign aid the world hates us for it anyway, so lets fix our system here

Adam Lange
Adam Lange

When I went to Webster 10 years ago we had bussed in students not from the district some were good students and some were trouble making a##holes, it's a mixed bag. Personally I say no

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

"'m sorry, we don't want you to learn here because it could affect my children, who deserve it more than you."" ya, they do deserve it more. THEIR parents worked hard and made good choices to live in good districts. that's life. life is not "everyone gets a trophy".

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

lmao. i don't think scott lives in any of the "good" districts.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

like a whole new selection of homes to rob.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

because that takes responsibility and work. something the people in those bad school districts aren't real fond of.

Richard Peitz
Richard Peitz

Fix the broken schools. It amazes me how we can send money all over the globe to people that will never like us, bail out banks that fail for bad business practices, spend billions on nothing, and allow our education system to fail. Our leaders are failing us, they divide us so they can control us. That's why education is never brought up at election time.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

no. people work hard to buy homes in nice neighborhoods with good schools. screw the locusts that come in to feed off them.

Tonray Crocker
Tonray Crocker

Spoken by someone who probably has no interest in Mehlville or Kirkwood school districts. Parents have got to stand up for what's right and what's right is ensuring our class sizes remain manageable for our kids!!

Mikey TheCocktapus Berner
Mikey TheCocktapus Berner

No. the schools are going to have more problems and overcrowding. fix whats going on over that side and dont mess up this side. schools dont have enough room already and this is going to hinder our kids on this sides learning process.

Ray Thomas
Ray Thomas

Scott you naive fool,,,,wanna buy some oceanfront property in montana??...if by helping other kids you drag down the quality of education you are paying for your kid to have then,YES i am against ,increased class sizes,,,,,,still under paying the teachers and reduced materials to work with now you will have 5 students to every one book

Michael Mahler
Michael Mahler

Yes. Why should they risk their status? Fix the problem where it is instead of bringing another down.

Clyde Rhoads
Clyde Rhoads

-how is sending students to another school going to fix any problems long term? -how will schools continue to afford their own operations, while paying for tuition for students who opt out and go to another school? -who will be overseeing the exchange of money, ensuring no one is skimming anything to line their own pockets? -how will we deal with overcrowding in accredited schools? -Are the two losing schools only sending out their best and brightest, or are they seeing this as an opportunity to get rid of their troubled students? Are the receiving schools able to screen students and deny requests based on classroom performance or disciplinary issues?

Nichole Ann
Nichole Ann

I don't think the children from unaccredited schools should pay the price but the kids at the transferring schools also shouldn't suffer from over crowding. A lot of parents, when moving choose particular areas because of school districts... This is going to hurt these districts in a number of ways. The Supreme Court should have gone a step further when upholding the rulings and set more specific guidelines. This is far from over in way of the court system. The powers that be (Courts, Congressmen, Representatives, etc...) need to step in and set some guidelines that help the kids in these failing districts but also help the failing districts themselves. When these districts go into debt to send these kids to MSD, KSD and FH, who picks up the tab?! Certainly not the tax payers of those failing districts. Too many holes... I'm more upset I haven't seen any of our Representatives step up. Shame on them.

Terry Burk
Terry Burk

How about fixing the unaccredited schools and taking care of their own problem instead of creating problems at other locations? This will quickly lead to families moving and decline of additional school districts.

Tonray Crocker
Tonray Crocker

Why should my child suffer with overcrowding because those two districts couldn't get it together??? Looks like parochial schools will be seeing a bigger boom in business. I, for one, refuse to allow my kids to suffer educational for this.

billj598
billj598 topcommenter

Please calm down and remember that no School District can "raise taxes" without a majority vote of the residents.  Low info voters just keep voting yes after swallowing the B.S. that the Districts put out about property values and never watching and questioning the obscene salaries of the District Administrators.  Just vote no and force them to be more financially responsible.  An example of lack of responsibility is what is contained in your comment about outdated textbooks vs. ridiculous new tennis courts.

billj598
billj598 topcommenter

Agreed, but it's the lack of parent involvement in these Districts that is the root of the problem.  We can foolishy throw millions of tax dollars at this problem but nothing will ever be fixed until parent(s) are forced by law to be responsible for their child's attendance, disciplinary actions and performance at school.

billj598
billj598 topcommenter

Renee, If you lived in the City limits of St. Louis, what you experienced was FORCED busing.  Nothing voluntary about it.  You can thank the Federal Government and the NAACP for that.  Only when the program was expanded to include St. Louis County Schools did it become VOLUNTARY because Judge Hungate was fearful of the civil unrest resulting if the Feds tried to make it FORCED.  Our kids were "victims" of this dastardly program too, suffering from severe overcrowding in the school and each classroom but not to the extent that you were affected. 

billj598
billj598 topcommenter

Not only your RE taxes but the majority of your obscene Personal Property taxes too. 

billj598
billj598 topcommenter

It involves fixing the broken Welfare system first where the unmarried parent of multiple children is handed a fat Monthly check for each kid they pump out.  That parent and others like her, are the root problem of this mess.  Makes no diff the color of the Mother's skin as it is prevalent in predominately white rural areas too.  Another disgusting mess the damned, intrusive Congress has created starting in the 50's with the ADC program. 

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...