Wisconsin Private Schools Can Offer In-Person Learning, High Court Rules

(PoliticalLookout.com)- Private schools and families in Dane County, Wisconsin, won a legal victory.

The state Supreme Court ruled against Dane County in its quest to ban all private schools — whether independent or religious — from holding in-person education in classrooms. Dane County is home to Madison, the state capital.

The Thomas More Society was involved in the team that represented private schools in Wisconsin. They were working with one of the schools that petitioned for relief, St. Ambrose Academy.

As Erick Kaardal, a special counsel for the Thomas More Society, said:

“The court recognized this attempt to shut down private schools for what it is — a slap in the face to educational choice, an affront to families who believe that children should be in school, and a direct violation of parental rights.

Originally issued on August 21 and amended later on September 1, the county set Emergency Order #9, which prohibited all schools in the country from providing students with in-person instruction. The order applied to both public and private schools throughout the state.

The court, though, didn’t agree that the state had the right to put these restrictions on private schools. The opinion wrote that the petitioners in the case “have substantial interests in advancing childhood education and providing students a stable and effective learning environment.”

The court also noted these schools “went to great lengths — and expanded non-negligible sums — to provide students, teachers and staff the ability to resume in-person instruction with safety precautions in place.”

The “educational institutions and parents voluntarily seek in-person instruction, understanding the health risks associated with doing so,” the court wrote. The county order that attempted to shut down these schools was “both broad and without apparent precedent.”

Andrew Bath, the general counsel and executive president for the Thomas More Society, celebrated the victory. He wrote:

“We are pleased that the court has seen the problems with Dane County’s illegal order and has issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the country from enforcing it.

“The state’s high court stated unequivocally that ‘Overriding the choices of parents and schools, who also undoubtedly care about the health and safety of their teachers and families, intrudes upon the freedoms ordinarily retained by the people under our constitutional design.’

“That’s something that none of us can allow to go unchallenged.”

The next hearing in this matter will involve consolidating three separate lawsuits into one. Dane County was ordered to file their response to the court within 30 days of the decision.

Following this decision, some private schools in the Madison area were already putting plans together to resume in-person learning. Even though they won this victory in court, the private schools are still taking safety precautions seriously, which is one of the big arguments they were making.

As Blessed Sacrament School said in a statement:

“PLEASE stay vigilant in your COVID-19 precautions inside and outside of school. We must each do our part — wearing masks, physical distancing, restricting our social interactions, attention to hand washing — to make this year safe and successful.”