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Hoagland v. Franklin Twp. Cmty. Sch. Corp.

Supreme Court of Indiana

March 24, 2015

LORA HOAGLAND, ON BEHALF OF HERSELF AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, Appellant (Plaintiff below),
v.
FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP COMMUNITY SCHOOL CORPORATION, Appellee (Defendant below)

Appeal from the Marion County Circuit Court, No. 49D02-1111-PL-42082. The Honorable Theodore M. Sosin, Judge. On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 49A02-1301-PL-44.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: Ian W. Thompson, Mooresville, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: V. Samuel Laurin III, Bryan H. Babb, Joel T. Nagle, Bose McKinney & Evans LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana.

David, Justice. Rush, C.J., Dickson and Massa, J.J., concur.

OPINION

Page 738

David, Justice.

After a budget deficit, Franklin Township Community School Corporation decided to discontinue transportation services to and from school for the majority of its public school students. A class action suit was brought by the parents of students who attend public schools in Franklin School Corporation. The plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that discontinuing transportation is prohibited under the Indiana Constitution. The plaintiffs' specific challenge was based upon Article 8, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution (the Education Clause), which provides:

Knowledge and learning, generally diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement; and to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.

Ind. Const. art. 8, § 1. However, the express terms of the Education Clause grant the duty of developing a system of common schools to the General Assembly. Therefore, the body of law that establishes our system of common schools is based upon the policy decisions of our legislature. This Court has neither the ability nor the duty to establish requirements for this system of common schools, aside from determining when an action clearly violates a constitutional mandate. In the case before us today, we find no constitutional requirement for school corporations to provide transportation to and from school. Since Franklin School Corporation did not violate a constitutional mandate, we affirm

Page 739

the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Franklin School Corporation.

Facts and Procedural History

In 2010, Franklin Township Community School Corporation was faced with a large budget deficit. Due to this shortfall, the School Corporation Board voted to discontinue transportation services for the majority of students[1] attending its public schools. This decision was implemented during the 2011-2012 school year, at which point a private entity, Central Indiana Educational Service Center (CIESC), began providing transportation services to students for a fee. CIESC charged a non-refundable registration fee of $20.00 per student to apply for transportation, in addition to an annual fee of $475.00 for a single child and $405.00 for each additional child. Parents could choose to use CIESC transportation services and pay the fees, or find alternative transportation for their child(ren). If parents wanted CIESC to provide transportation, they had to enter into a " Parents' Supplemental Transportation Contract," which provided that the parents and the bus driver were entering an agreement pursuant to and in compliance with Indiana statutes.[2]

Lora Hoagland and Donna Chapman, parents of students who attend Franklin Township public schools, brought suit against Franklin School Corporation and CIESC. Hoagland's complaint asserted that Franklin School Corporation violated the Education Clause of Indiana's Constitution when it discontinued transportation services. Hoagland sought an injunction and a declaratory judgment asserting that the School Corporation's discontinuation of bus services is unconstitutional because it denies children an education where tuition is without charge. She also sought monetary damages that were incurred from having to transport her children to and from school. Shortly thereafter, on November 15, 2011, Hoagland filed for class certification in order to bring a class action suit against Franklin School Corporation. In June 2012, class certification was obtained and two classes of plaintiffs were certified: 1) all parents or guardians of students enrolled in Franklin School Corporation public schools who paid the CIESC bussing fees; and 2) all parents and guardians of students enrolled in Franklin School Corporation public schools who did not pay the bussing fees, but whose child(ren) would have ridden the bus to school were it not for the fees. Hoagland was appointed as the class representative for the non-paying class. Chapman was appointed as the class representative for the paying class.

Shortly after receiving class certification, the Indiana General Assembly amended Indiana Code Section 20-27-5-2, which took effect July 1, 2012. The amendment provided in pertinent part, " no fee may be charged to a parent or student for transportation to and from school.

Page 740

However, a fee may be charged for transportation to and from an athletic, a social, or another school sponsored function." Ind. Code § 20-27-5-2(b) (2014). However, part (a) of that same statutory section was not amended and continued to provide that " . . . a school corporation may provide transportation for students to and from school." Ind. Code § 20-27-5-2(a) (emphasis added).

CIESC filed a motion to dismiss for, among other things, the failure of both plaintiffs to state a claim for which relief could be granted. The trial court granted CIESC's motion to dismiss, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the denial on interlocutory appeal. Chapman v. Cent. Indiana Educ. Serv. Ctr. and Franklin Twp. Cmty. Sch. Corp., No. 49A05-1209-PL-478, 986 N.E.2d 866, (Ind.Ct.App. 2013).[3] Accordingly, CIESC ceased being a party to the suit.

Franklin School Corporation and Hoagland then filed cross motions for summary judgment. Hoagland asserted several arguments. The primary position Hoagland argued was that the Education Clause requires school corporations to provide transportation for students to and from school. Hoagland also argued that this claim would not be barred by the Indiana Tort Claims Act (ITCA) because that statute is inapplicable. However, if it were determined that the ITCA applied, Hoagland argued that the plaintiffs had substantially complied with the notice requirements under the ITCA. Finally, Hoagland argued that under the Education Clause the plaintiffs' have a private right of action to pursue money damages. Franklin School Corporation argued that the Education Clause does not create a duty upon the school corporation to provide transportation services, but even if there were a duty, the Education Clause provides no private right of action to pursue money damages for breaching that duty. In addition, Franklin School Corporation argued that the ITCA would provide immunity against Hoagland's claim because the Act protects the exercise of discretionary functions, and the plaintiffs failed to provide notice as required by the ITCA.

The trial court denied Hoagland's motion for summary judgment and granted summary judgment for Franklin School Corporation. The trial court determined that there was no constitutional duty to provide bussing because state law provides that transportation is an optional service. The trial court also concluded that the Parents' Supplemental Transportation Contract with CIESC did not provide a cause of action or relief in damages. Additionally, the trial court found that the Education Clause did not provide a private right of action for money damages, and the plaintiffs' claims were barred for the failure to provide timely notice under the ITCA.

Hoagland appealed, arguing in opposition to each of the findings reached by the trial court. A unanimous Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed and remanded part to the trial court. Hoagland v. Franklin Twp. Cmty. Sch. Corp., 10 N.E.3d 1034 (Ind.Ct.App. 2014). The Court of Appeals affirmed that Hoagland

Page 741

had no private right of action for monetary damages under the Education Clause. Id. at 1040. Contrary to the trial court, the Court of Appeals held that the ITCA, " [b]y its express language," only applies to tort claims, and " Hoagland's claim sounds in Indiana's Education Clause, not tort law . . . ." Id. at 1039. Thus, the ITCA did not bar Hoagland's state constitutional claim. Id. at 1040. Lastly, the Court of Appeals held that Franklin School Corporation acted unconstitutionally when it ceased providing students with transportation to and from school. Id. at 1043-44. The Court of Appeals relied upon the text of the Education Clause, relevant statutes, and Nagy ex. rel. Nagy v. Evansville-Vanderburgh Sch. Corp., 844 N.E.2d 481 (Ind. 2006), to reach the conclusion that transportation to and from school is " part and parcel of a public[-]school education," which a school corporation cannot discontinue without violating the Education Clause. Hoagland, 10 N.E.3d at 1044.

This Court granted Franklin School Corporation's petition to transfer. We summarily affirm the Court of Appeals in its holding that Indiana's Education Clause does not provide an individual with aprivate right of action for monetary damages. Hoagland, 10 N.E.3d at 1040; See also Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A)(2). We also summarily affirm the Court of Appeals' holding that the ITCA does not govern Hoagland's state constitutional claim. Id. at 1039-40. The remainder of the Court of Appeals' opinion is vacated. See Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A).Therefore, the only issue to be addressed by ...


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