The Union:

Fed court dismisses Waldorf lawsuit

By Kerana M. Todorov - Fri, May 25, 2001

Twin Ridges Elementary School officials claimed victory Thursday, a day after a three-year-old suit against one of its charter schools was thrown out of federal court.

The suit alleged Yuba River Charter School, which uses Waldorf-inspired teaching methods, teaches religion, in violation of the U.S. Constitution. 

The plaintiffs - PLANS Inc., or People for Legal Non-Sectarian Schools - could not show substantial money was being spent to teach religion at the schools, U.S. District Court Judge Frank Damrell Jr. ruled Wednesday. 

The suit, which was also filed against the Sacramento City Unified School District, could not be pursued in federal court, the judge ruled.

George Hoffecker, Twin Ridges assistant superintendent, said the suit had no basis and declared victory.

"School administrators, parents and students at both schools are thrilled about this recent victory," he said in a statement. "Both school communities are looking forward to continuing their successful programs and are refocusing on the education of kids, instead of litigation." 

The district and Yuba River Charter School may have spent as much as $100,000 in legal fees, said Hoffecker, adding he wants to raise $20,000 to help pay that bill.

"We would hope that the plaintiffs would take this strong rebuff as a clear signal that they have no basis whatsoever for a lawsuit against these innovative and award-winning educational programs," Hoffecker said.

But PLANS's representatives said they plan to appeal within 60 days. The group may also file suit in state court, said Scott Kendall, attorney for PLANS. He did not say where.

The judge made a bad ruling, Kendall said, one that means any school district can violate the law without being subject to suit in federal court.

The case had been scheduled to go to trial in January.

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