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Reach Academy For Boys & Girls, Inc. v. Delaware Department of Education

United States District Court, D. Delaware

January 3, 2014

Reach Academy for Boys and Girls, Inc., O.G., by her parent and next friend, T.W., by her parent and next friend, T. W., by her parent and next friend, and S.O., by her parent and next friend,
v.
Delaware Department of Education and Mark Murphy in his capacity as Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education

Page 575

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 576

For Reach Academy for Boys and Girls Inc., O. G., by her parent and next friend, T. W., by her parent and next friend, T. W., by her parent and next friend, S. O., by her parent and next friend, Plaintiffs: Duane D. Werb, LEAD ATTORNEY, Werb & Sullivan, Wilmington, DE; Charles J. Brown, III, Gellert Scali Busenkell & Brown, LLC, Wilmington, DE.

For Delaware Department of Education, Mark Murphy, in his capacity as Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education, Defendants: Catherine T. Hickey, LEAD ATTORNEY, Department of Justice, Dover, DE; Joseph Clement Handlon, Kenisha LaShelle Ringgold, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Department of Justice, Wilmington, DE.

OPINION

Page 577

MEMORANDUM ORDER

LEONARD P. STARK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This case presents difficult questions arising in what appears to be a unique factual and legal context. The State of Delaware, through its Department of Education and Secretary of Education (" DOE" or " Defendants" ), has decided not to renew the charter of Reach Academy for Girls (" Reach" ), the only all-girls public charter school in the State of Delaware. In November 2013, DOE concluded that Reach is a " failing" school, based at least in part on standardized test results showing that the performance of Reach students on such tests puts Reach at or near the bottom of all public schools in Delaware. Delaware has one all-boys public charter school, Prestige Academy (" Prestige" ), whose charter was renewed for five years in June 2012. Delaware has a statute that precludes DOE from even considering any new application for a single-sex charter school. See 14 Del. C. § 506(a)(3)(c) (" The same-gender charter school provisions shall sunset, for any new charter applications, on June 30, 2013, unless the General Assembly has otherwise acted to extend such date prior to its expiration." ).[1] Consequently, it is certain that, if the status quo is preserved, Delaware boys will have a public charter school option that is not available to girls, a distinction based wholly on the sex of the student.

On November 25, 2013, Reach, which is formally known as Reach Academy for Boys and Girls d/b/a Reach Academy for Girls, filed suit in federal court, alleging violations of Equal Protection, Title IX of the Education Act (20 U.S.C. § 1681), Due Process, and two provisions of Delaware's Charter School Act: 14 Del. C. § § 506 & 514A. (D.I. 1) (" Complaint" ) The Complaint is also filed on behalf of individual students at Reach and their parents and guardians (" Individual Plaintiffs" and, with Reach, " Plaintiffs" ). In their suit, Plaintiffs seek an order that Defendants renew Reach's charter for a full five-year term.

On December 11, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, asking the Court to order Defendants to renew Reach's charter for one additional year. (D.I. 7) On December 16, 2013, Defendants moved to dismiss the entirety of the Complaint. (D.I. 10) The Court expedited consideration of both motions, which the parties fully briefed by December 30, 2013.

Page 578

(D.I. 7, 9, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17) The Court heard extensive oral argument on both motions yesterday, January 2, 2014.

The primary reason for expedited consideration of the pending motions is that Delaware's deadline for filing " choice applications," by which parents and guardians can seek to send a student to a school other than the child's default " feeder pattern" school, is next Wednesday, January 8, 2014. At the conclusion of a teleconference on December 20, 2013, the Court advised the parties that expedited consideration of the motions was warranted. At the hearing ...


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