UPDATE: 4 districts dropped from school transfer lawsuit

Thursday, July 31, 2014 | 7:47 a.m. CDT; updated 1:45 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 31, 2014

ST. LOUIS— A lawsuit by Normandy school district parents over changes to student attendance rules has been scaled back after the state again altered its transfer policy.

Seven parents sued the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the state Board of Education and the new Normandy Schools Collaborative in mid-July in St. Louis County Circuit Court. The complaint named the Brentwood, Clayton, Ladue, Parkway, Pattonville and Ritenour school systems. An eighth parent whose child transferred to the Francis Howell district in St. Charles County has since joined the suit.

On Wednesday, plaintiffs' lawyers asked a judge to drop all but Pattonville, Ritenour and Howell from the lawsuit because the other districts have agreed to accept Normandy students. The revised suit now includes just three parents.

Students who transferred from Normandy in the 2013-14 academic year can now remain at their new schools regardless of where they attended the previous year. The state initially required prospective transfers to have also attended a Normandy school for at least one semester in 2012-13.

Missouri officials disbanded the unaccredited Normandy system as of July 1. The decision to create the collaborative allowed school districts that had previously accepted Normandy transfers to limit the numbers of those students in the coming school year or refuse them altogether.

Plaintiffs' attorney Joshua Schindler previously said the state's restriction unfairly penalized Normandy families who had sent their children to private or parochial schools before taking advantage of a state Supreme Court decision in summer 2013 that paved the way for an exodus of nearly 1,000 students from the Normandy system.

The departures pushed the north St. Louis County school system to the brink of bankruptcy as it paid neighboring districts thousands of dollars for each departing student's tuition and transportation costs.

Schindler has also worked on behalf of the Children's Education Alliance of Missouri, a group that promotes school choice and is bankrolled by billionaire investor Rex Sinquefield.

A hearing on the revised complaint is scheduled for next week. The suit seeks a quick resolution so the transfer students can start in their new schools when the 2014-2015 school year begins later in August.

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