WCRIS v Heinrich
Case Name: WCRIS v. Heinrich
Type of Case: Rule of law, COVID-19 school closure order
Court: Wisconsin Supreme Court
Filed On: August 26, 2020
Current Status: Petition for Original Action granted, stay issued
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed an original action to the Wisconsin Supreme Court asking for a review of the Dane County health department’s order closing all schools, public and private, for grades 3-12. The original action is filed on behalf of 8 Dane County families, 5 private schools, School Choice Wisconsin Action, and the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools (WCRIS).
Order #9, issued on Friday August 21 by Public Health Madison & Dane County, closed all schools, public and private, for in-person learning for grades 3-12 in Dane County effective Monday August 24. The order came after 5 pm and without warning for a number of private schools in Dane County that were preparing to start in-person instruction the week of August 24. At least one Dane County private school had already been open for a week when Order #9 was issued. All of WILL’s private school clients were planning on providing in-person instruction this fall and had invested significant resources into creating a safe environment for their students to return. The result has been frustration and chaos for Dane County parents and schools.
WILL’s original action asks the Wisconsin Supreme Court to review important questions concerning Order #9 and the authority of Public Health Madison & Dane County to close private schools.
- Wisconsin statutes do not give county health departments the authority to order the closure of schools for in-person instruction.
- Public Health Madison & Dane County cannot meet its burden of showing that school closures are “necessary” to combat COVID-19 based on Dane County’s own data and the less burdensome approach it has taken toward regulating other sectors of society. For instance, childcare in Dane County remains open but schools must close for grades 3-12.
- Order #9 unconstitutionally infringes upon the constitutional right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children by sending them to private school to receive in-person instruction.
- Order #9 unconstitutionally infringes upon the constitutional right of parents to freely exercise their religion, which includes sending their children to private, religious schools to receive religious instruction and formation.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court granted an original action brought by the WILL, consolidating it with two others, challenging the Dane County health department’s order closing all Dane County schools for grades 3-12. The Court also ordered a temporary injunction against the order, allowing Dane County schools to open while the case is under review.
President and General Counsel
- Cover Letter , August 26, 2020
- Emergency Petition for an Original Action and Appendix, August 26, 2020
- Emergency Motion for a Temporary Injunction with Affidavits, August 26, 2020
- Wisconsin Supreme Court Order, September 10, 2020