November 21, 2012
Court: Schools Can't Sue Parents of Disabled Children over Religious Vouchers
Oklahoma Supreme Court rejects challenge to scholarship program that schools say violates Blaine amendment.
Update (March 1): A Colorado Court of Appeals has upheld a state voucher program that offered students state funds for tuition at private schools, including religious schools. The ruling overturns a lower court ruling in the case.
CT previously has reported on widespread misuse of scholarships for religious schools. CT also noted in January that a similar tax credit for scholarships in Georgia was raising questions about gay-student discrimination at religious schools.
Yesterday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit that challenged the right of disabled students to use publicly funded scholarships at religious private schools.
The Supreme Court's decision overturns the ruling made by a lower court in March.
Oklahoma established the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program in 2010 to provide scholarships for qualified disabled students to attend accredited private schools—both secular and religious—when their needs were not being met at public schools. The program uses public funds to support the scholarships.
Less than a year after the program was established, the Jenks and Union Public School Districts sued families who enrolled their disabled children at religious private schools, claiming that using public dollars to pay tuition for religious schools violates the state's Blaine Amendment.
But in its ruling, the state Supreme Court said the school districts do not have standing in the case because the "school districts are not taxpayers themselves, whom this Court has long recognized have a right to challenge the illegal expenditure of public funds."
The court also stated that the parents "are clearly not the proper parties against whom to assert these constitutional challenges."