The case against the Loudoun County School Board will move forward after Loudoun Judge Thomas Horne overruled a demurrer filed by counsel.
Julia Judkins, on behalf of Loudoun County Public Schools, filed a demurrer arguing that Richard Kelsey and the eight other claimants from Brambleton did not qualify as aggrieved parties.
But Horne disagreed, noting he ruled last year that he found the parents suing over boundaries to be aggrieved as well.
“The law as I see it now is the same as I saw it then,” Horne said.
Kelsey filed the lawsuit in May
as a result of a School Board decision that moved 84 percent of Brambleton high school students to Rock Ridge High School, scheduled to open in the fall of 2014 in Loudoun Valley Estates.
Brambleton parents claim that because Briar Woods is on land proffered by the developers, they're entitled to remain at the school, and allege that the School Board decision was made capriciously and in bad faith.
Additionally, the lawsuit also says that Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run), Jeff Morse (Dulles) and Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) engaged in an "improper voting alliance" and that the alliance was made to benefit certain Loudoun communities.
In her demurrer, which is a legal maneuver that challenges a pleading filed by the opposing party, Judkins argued that the parties were not aggrieved.
“The people are alleging they're upset, but that's not a legally recognized harm,” Judkins said. “People are guaranteed free public education, no parameters besides that.”
Additionally, Judkins said the motivations of legislators are subject to legislative immunity. Judkins noted that if constituents take issue with School Board decisions, the proper remedy is to vote them out.
But Kelsey argued that there was harm imposed.
“The harm is in two particular places. By this statute, we are entitled to a hearing process that isn't done arbitrarily, capriciously or in bad faith,” Kelsey said to the court. “And we are entitled to look at these motives. It's important to understand if we got a fair hearing and a fair process.”
Horne agreed, at one point asking Judkins why there was even a process for the boundary hearings if the students had no rights.
Following Horne's ruling, Judkin's requested an interlocutory appeal, which would have Judkin's demurrer heard in appeals court before the civil trial has proceeded. Judkins said the process of going through a trial is costly and time-consuming and that if an appeals judge ruled in favor of the demurrer, the court could save time and money.
While Horne was amicable to the motion, in order for an interlocutory appeal to take place, all parties have to agree, something Kelsey indicated is unlikely to happen.
“We want our day in court. We want to have our entire case heard in court,” Kelsey said, though he noted he would check with all the plaintiffs before making a decision. “The School Board doesn't want to have to be answerable to anyone.”
If the interlocutory appeal doesn't take place and the disagreement does go to trial, both sides would be able to appeal the decision.
In the 2012 case between the School Board and parents in both Beacon Hill and Potomac Station, who battled against being re-zoned to Frederick Douglass Elementary, the court ultimately sided in favor of the School Board.