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Judge moves forward case against Loudoun School Board

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.


The sad part of all this is that the money spent on going to trial is money that could be used to simply enlarge briar woods. Which will make both parties happy.

This is about nothing more than the schools reputation because the split was logical.

While is sucks kids who could nearly walk to Briar Woods will go a few miles to Rock Ridge, no other neighborhood is close enough to send its kids to Rock Ridge instead.

Richard Kelsey wants to see the Broadlands move there but that is just silly, I am in the area closest to the new school in the Broadlands and I am nearly 3 times as far as anyone in Brabmleton. There is a road in Bramblton that connects directly to the new school in the neighboring neighborhood of Loudoun Vally estates, there is no such connection to the Broadlands.

In the end I bet Rock Ridge ends up with the same good reputation as Briar Woods, the students are what make the school and students from educated well to do areas bring up school reputations and all the local neighborhoods are nothing but well off highly educated households.

If you want to argue these schools should have been bigger from the start well that is true and short sighted of past and present board members.

The following comment was submitted by username: Erwin Addison.

Who’s to say their experience at the new school is going to be bad, good or indifferent? In 20 years, it probably won’t make a difference. It’s speculative.
Interesting way for the School Board to argue that the parents shouldn’t have a say in which schools their children attend. That’s how LCPS’s attorney argued in court against a parents’ desire to place their child in the school of their choice: “It probably won’t make a difference.”
Briar Woods High School boasts on its website that “BWHS Ranks #1 in Loudoun, Also #9 in Virginia, #21 in DC Metro Area, #160 in the Country,” so why wouldn’t a parent want their family to benefit from that kind of education environment? Instead, LCPS perversely argues — in front of a judge — that it shouldn’t matter where the student goes, not because every school offers the same education as Briar Woods, but because every school offers the same “burden” (the student should “share the same burden that every student” has to).
That’s an interesting way to describe a school: a burden.
I invite Briar Woods principal Ed Starzenski to respond to the school system’s assertion that his school’s ranking as #1 in Loudoun and #160 in the nation shouldn’t make a difference to the students and their families.
The attorney for LCPS raises exactly the right point here: “Who is to say” what kind of education our children receive? However, I’m not so sure leaving that decision in the hands of people who don’t know whether it will be “bad, good or indifferent” is the right call.

I agree with Kelsey, the school board should answer to the taxpayers. They had their mind made up prior to all the meetings. Where’s their logic, make kids walk to school however bus other kids to further schools. And with all the building in Loudoun One, I predict BR will be over capacity before this school boundary takes affect.

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