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Immersion Appeal Denied

Judge refuses to overturn Board of Education decision.

Judge Michael Mason of the Montgomery County Circuit Court could sympathize with two Potomac parents who wanted their children admitted into the Chinese Immersion Program.

"I recognize just how important this is," he said.

The parents, Amber Hsu and Sunghee Kim, were asking the court to issue a stay that would force the school system to admit their children into the Chinese Immersion Program at Potomac Elementary.

The stay would be a temporary measure, until the case could be heard.

The program was started with a federal grant and was open only to students in the Potomac Elementary area. It is currently funded by the county. Last year, two slots in the program, of the 25 available for kindergarten students, were reserved for students who do not live in Potomac Elementary’s boundaries.

At a Board of Education meeting last winter, the Board decided to open the entire program to a countywide lottery.

Hsu and Kim say that they moved to Potomac just for the program. "We were told that we would have to live in the Potomac School District," Kim said.

The case, however, is grounded in their assertion that the Board violated its own policies in not properly notifying the public prior to making the decision.

"This was introduced and enacted in a single day, in a single Board meeting," Hsu said.

Hsu's attorney is temporarily serving in the armed forces. Hsu is an attorney and is representing herself until her attorney returns.

She did not dispute that the Board has the right to set such a policy, but "they must do so in a manner that does not violate the law," Hsu said.

"There's not a right to attend that school," said Patrick Clancy, attorney for the Board of Education. "There's not a right being violated there."

Clancy argued that the Board did hear from many community members about the idea of opening the program, and that if the court were to rule against the Board, it would, in effect be deciding how much community involvement is necessary for an elected body before it can make a decision. "I would suggest that is a role, first, for the Board of Education," Clancy said.

He also stated that there were already 25 students assigned to the program. In order for these two to be added, the class would have to exceed MCPS class size guidelines or remove other students. 'In some form or fashion, it is at the expense of others," Clancy said.

Mason determined that the parents were seeking an injunction, not the stay they had asked for. An injunction requires them to meet a higher standard.

Of the four standards that must be met in order to issue an injunction, Mason found that three were not met, and did not consider the fourth.

He refused to grant the injunction, or stay, meaning the Board of Education action will stand, at least until the case goes to court.

Hsu declined to comment on what the next steps would be.