A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a class-action lawsuit against the Madison School District over a student transfer policy the district has since re-written.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote in a 36-page decision that the district was following state law – a law that was later determined to be unconstitutional – when it implemented its policy for assuring that open enrollment transfers did not create racial imbalances at schools.
Crabb wrote that a municipality like the school district cannot be held liable under federal law for trying to implement a state mandate when it has no other policy choices. State or federal law is responsible for any wrongdoing, she wrote.
Madison attorney Michael Fox, who is representing the class, which he estimated to be 200 to 300 people, said the decision will be appealed to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The law in this area is unsettled, he said, and federal judicial circuits around the U.S. disagree on it.
In this case, a white East High School student, identified in court documents as “N.N.,” applied for transfer to either Waunakee or Monona Grove in 2007. The district denied her application because it said her departure from East would have caused the school’s minority student percentage to increase.