Court Challenge Dismissed

Court Challenge Dismissed

Immersion Program lottery permitted to go forward.

Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge William J. Rowan III wants Potomac parents to ride one train at a time.

A group of Potomac parents had sought an injunction to prevent the Montgomery County Board of Education from holding a lottery to determine who will be admitted into next year’s Chinese Immersion class at Potomac Elementary.

The program had historically been open only to students within the boundaries of Potomac Elementary. Last year, the Board permitted two students each in both the kindergarten and first grade class to be chosen by lottery for students from outside Potomac Elementary’s boundaries.

This year, during budget discussions, the board decided to open the entire program, by lottery, to students from across the county. The Potomac parents involved in the suit are arguing that when the Board did so, it violated its own policies by not sufficiently involving the community and not specifically placing the item on its agenda. “None of those things were done. It was changed in the middle of the night,” argued Barbara Fleck, attorney for the parents.

The parents appealed the Board’s action to the State Board of Education, and were asking the court to issue an injunction preventing the lottery from happening while the appeal is being heard.

“The plaintiffs have started two trains down two separate tracks, all to arrive at the same station,” Rowan said.

The only “train” which should be running was the state Board of Education, argued Patrick Clancy, attorney for the Montgomery County Board of Education.

Clancy pointed out that the administrative appeal process was still ongoing and that the court should not act until that process had run its course. “The State Board has the power to review virtually every decision of the County Board,” Clancy said. “The State Board also has the power to stay matters.”

Clancy argued that the State Board of Education has “primary jurisdiction” in the matter, and that the court should not hear the complaint.

Fleck agreed that the State Board is the correct body to make the decisions. She said that the injunction should go forward in order to allow the state time to render its decision. “If the lottery goes forward, and then we win, the decision will have to be reversed, and that just doesn’t make sense,” Fleck said.

Rowan was not persuaded and decided to dismiss the parents request. “A party is often required to travel on the train administratively and ride it to station, prior to court remedy,” he said. “The court believes the relief sought by the plaintiffs is premature at this point. … The court will grant the motion by Montgomery County Public Schools and dismiss this action.”

The State Board of Education is expected to make its decision about the actions of the Board of Education by late May or June, said Deborah Curtis, attorney for the parents.