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Resident files suit against FPS, education department

Resident files suit against FPS, education department

July 3rd, 2019 by Helen Wilbers in News

A Fulton resident has filed a civil suit against Fulton Public Schools (FPS) and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

The petition, filed Monday with the Cole County Circuit Court, alleges DESE and FPS did not allow three children to enroll in certain online courses. As of Tuesday, Casenet showed no responses from defendants.

"I have not seen the petition at this point, nor have we been served," Superintendent Jacque Cowherd said Tuesday. "I know there's various attorneys talking to each other about how we proceed on this."

According to the petition, Miya Estill attempted to enroll her three children, all minors, in a series of online courses called MOVA. The courses are offered at another school district, Grandview R-2, Estill stated. Estill said the minors had each been enrolled at FPS for at least a semester.

"Estill has determined that enrollment with MOVA and in the courses as comprehensive full-time equivalents, was/is in the individual and collective best interest of her children," the petition states.

According to Estill, on May 22, FPS denied her request by email, stating "we don't use other districts' online curriculum" and no K-5 courses are available through the Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program. Estill claimed, on June 20, FPS wrote the MOVA courses had not been approved by DESE.

She also claimed DESE later sent to school districts a list of online providers/courses Missouri students have a statutory right to enroll under. The list excluded MOVA courses and did not include any K-5 courses, Estill claimed.

The petition argues, by statute, individual school districts (not DESE) must determine whether online programs meet required standards. It cites RSMo 161.670, which states "any online course or virtual program offered by a school district which meets the requirements shall be automatically approved to participate in (MOCAP)."

Because Grandview has determined MOVA courses meet standards and offers them to students, they should be automatically approved as MOCAP options, the petition suggests. Grandview is also named as a defendant in the petition, though no relief is sought from that district.

Statute also requires school districts to allow eligible students to enroll in MOCAP courses of his or her choice.

Estill's petition requests DESE amend its list of eligible MOCAP courses to include the MOVA offerings and Fulton approve the minors' enrollment in their chosen courses (or issue appealable denials based on the best interests of the students). It also requests attorney's fees and other relief "as this court deems just."

The petition also notes, while districts are required to inform parents of students' right to participate in MOCAP, the district's student handbooks and registration materials do not mention MOCAP. Estill seeks an order declaring Fulton in violation of MOCAP requirements.