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JUDGE DISMISSES PARENTS’ SUIT VS. CHARTER SCHOOL, STATE

Date Published: January 10, 2012

Author: Stephen Fletcher

The lawsuit filed by 15 Gloucester school parents and alleging that the Commissioner of Education and the state Board of Education violated state law when they approved the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School has been summarily dismissed this morning by a Superior Court Judge.

Judge Robert Cornetta denied the 15 parents’ motion for summary judgment, then granted a similar motion from the defendants — the charter school and the state — effectively throwing out the parents’ challenge to the state’s approval process and the continued operation of the school.

In his ruling, a copy of which was obtained by the Times, Cornetta ruled that the Superior Court doesn’t have subject jurisdiction to take up the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s decision to approve the charter school, and the parents’ don’t have standing.

The parents, attorney Ian Roffman said this morning, are evaluating their appellate options.

“This is a disappointing development, but by no means the end of this process,” he said. “Next year, about $1.2 million in state aid will be diverted away from 2,000 kids in the Gloucester elementary and middle schools.

“That’s too high a price to pay for a school whose application didn’t even meet the criteria to be chartered in the first place,” he said.

Cornetta found that the Legislature did not provide a way for the courts to question the board’s discretion — at least, not in this instance.

In that sense, Cornetta’s decision goes against an earlier opinion offered by Judge Richard Welch, and said the parents are without standing because the legislature didn’t directly provide them a way to challenge a charter school.

“The absence of a specifically delineated role for parents,” Cornetta wrote, “weighs more heavily in favor of concluding that the Legislature did not intend for parents to be able to challenge the board’s decision to grant a charter,”