District Court Grants Summary Judgment
PIERRE, S.D.- Attorney General Larry Long said today that District Court Judge Karen Schreier, ruled in favor of the Hot Springs School District and the State in a federal court challenge.
For several years the Hot Springs School District had allowed parochial school students to ride a school district bus on the same route as public school students. In 2002, the school district’s liability insurance company gave notice that they were cancelling the insurance on the district’s school buses unless the district quit providing transportation to the parochial students. The 2003 South Dakota legislature was informed of the situation and passed an emergency law authorizing the districts to transport parochial students if it could done at no additional costs to the districts. The Plaintiffs, a family of parochial students and their parents, sued the District alleging that they had a right under the U.S. Constitution to ride the District school bus and were denied that right during the 2002-2003 school year when bus service was not provided. They claimed that the District had denied bus service based on a longtime provision in the South Dakota Constitution that bars state funding to religious schools. The suit sought to overturn the state constitutional provision, enacted in 1889.
The U.S. District Judge disagreed and ruled in favor of the school district. The court found that the District’s actions were motivated by the notice from the insurance company that their school bus insurance would be cancelled and that the South Dakota Constitution was not related to the Hot Springs situation.