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Court of Appeals Classifies Charter School As Governing Body In Case

By Jeanie Lindsay, IPB News | Published on in Education, Law, Statewide News
Flanner House Elementary School in Indianpolis closed for good on Sept. 11, 2014 after an investigation found teachers cheated on 2013 ISTEP+ tests. (FILE PHOTO: Sam Klemet/WFYI)

Flanner House, an Indianapolis nonprofit, sued Flanner House Elementary School Incorporated for negligence and fraud after it’s school closed in 2014 due to cheating allegations, and those fraud claims were struck down last year. But the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the charter school organizer this week, and said the school’s organizing corporation is immune from the nonprofit’s claims through a state law that protects governing bodies.

Indiana University Law School professor Jody Madeira says the decision has broad legal consequences.

“Public schools and charters are treated the same,” Madeira says. “So the rules that apply to one will likely apply to the other.”

The court opinion says Flanner House, the nonprofit, failed to follow the rules for suing the school’s corporation, because legally, it’s a part of the government protected by the state’s Tort Claims Act – a law that limits how people or groups can sue government agencies and officials. The ruling says the state’s definition of a charter school includes its organizing corporation, not just the school itself.