WILL to Racine Unified: District Must Meet Legal Requirement to Bus Students to Private Schools

RUSD evades legal obligation to private schools as District goes virtual

The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) issued a letter to the Racine Unified School District (RUSD), on behalf of the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools (WCRIS), warning the District that it is violating state and federal law with plans to deny busing to Racine students attending private schools in-person this Fall. While RUSD made the decision to employ virtual learning this Fall, the District is evading legal requirements to provide timely busing to Racine’s students attending private schools.

The Quotes: WILL Deputy Counsel Anthony LoCoco said, “Racine Unified knows they have a legal obligation to local students attending private schools. The District should make this right. Students don’t need any more challenges this year.”

Sharon Schmeling, Executive Director for the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools, said, “The Racine school district is telling private school students that its plan for busing won’t get them to school on time. Missing school time is not acceptable. The District needs to rethink its approach and do what is in the best interest of children.”

Background: State law requires public school districts to provide transportation to local students attending private schools. But RUSD is evading that obligation. The District is offering transportation to students of local private schools at times that do not necessarily match the school day – for example, an hour after start time (9:00 am) and an hour after school ends (4:15 pm). This is a breach of RUSD’s legal obligation to transport Racine’s students attending private schools.

In addition, RUSD’s decision raises constitutional concerns because RUSD’s plans interfere with the education provided to students at those schools. Causing children at religious schools to miss religious services and religious instruction by transporting them late to school on a daily basis imposes a significant religious burden and violates both the United States and Wisconsin Constitutions.

WILL is asking RUSD to resolve this issue ahead of the start of school. Without changes, WILL intends to consider legal options.

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