Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Parents Challenge Children's Dismissal from Church-Run School
Can a church-operated school be sued for dismissing a student?
Ohio
State:
Key point: A church-operated school generally cannot be sued for dismissing a student unless the dismissal violates a contractual right or the school clearly abused its discretion in enforcing its policies and regulations.

An Ohio appeals court dismissed a lawsuit brought by the parents of two children challenging the legality of their children's dismissal by a church-operated school. A couple enrolled their two children, ages 8 and 10, in a church-operated private school. The couple signed an application for enrollment specifying that they would "uphold the student handbook." The school handbook contained a provision stating that "[i]f a parent has a question or concern related to a classroom situation, he should first meet with the particular classroom teacher. If the matter is not resolved, the administrator is the proper person to contact …. If a parent feels that he cannot accept the decision or explanation given by the administrator, his final recourse is to take the matter before the school board, with the administrator and teacher present, by submitting a written request for such a meeting to the administrator." Soon after the two children were involved in the school, the 8-year-old (a girl) was sexually touched by two male students. The male students were warned to refrain from such conduct in the future. A few weeks later, one of these same boys had sexual contact with the girl again. Shortly after this incident, another boy spit on the girl. The girl's mother was enraged by these incidents and confronted the school administrator. The mother called the administrator "unchristian" and accused him of "working with the devil." When all efforts to resolve the tension failed, the administrator asked the parents to withdraw their children from the school. The parents later sued the school and its administrator for wrongfully dismissing their children. A trial court dismissed the lawsuit, and the parents appealed. In upholding the trial court's dismissal of the lawsuit, the appeals court observed:

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