U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Wisconsin Bus Rule Doesn't Discriminate Against Catholic School

When it comes to providing equal access to county services, a Wisconsin school district was accused of discriminating against a Catholic school because it refused to provide school bus service to it.

Unfortunately for the school, both a federal district court and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal agreed, the school district's rule preventing the Catholic school from getting bus service was not discriminatory. As both courts noted, the district already provided bus services to another Catholic school under the same policy.

One Group Per Bus

As the school district argued, and the court's agreed, the policy did not discriminate against the Catholic school based upon its religion.

Rather, the district policy excluded the school from bus service because another private Catholic school was already receiving bus services from the district, and the rule only allows a religious group, or a secular group, one school in the district bussing program. Essentially, only one Catholic school in the district can get busses from the district, even if the other Catholic school is owned by a different entity. What matters is the schools' group affiliation.

For example, had the school been a different religious school that wasn't already represented in the district's bussing program, then it would be allowed. In short, the court found the policy to be facially neutral.

Curiously though, in a dissent, one of the panel judges noted that the district court's decision went beyond the school's stated articles of incorporation which listed it as a non-denominational school. Rather, the district court relied on statements it found, sua sponte, on the school's website.

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