On the final day of the school year, Springfield Public Schools won a court battle that challenged its COVID-19 reopening plan at the start of the semester.
Beth Phillips, chief district judge for the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Missouri's Southern Division, yesterday ruled in favor of SPS in a lawsuit filed in July 2020 by plaintiffs Kristina Borishkevich, Erica Sweeney and Stoney McCleery. Court documents provided by SPS show the district was granted a summary judgment that dismisses the plaintiffs' claims.
The ruling indicates SPS' reopening plan had a substantive link to the COVID-19 pandemic and followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance; that the plaintiffs' rights were not violated by the SPS board's decision-making process; and that the litigation failed to show how the plan discriminates against anyone.
"We celebrate the court's ruling as a compelling victory that brings this long and unnecessary legal action to its final conclusion," SPS outgoing Superintendent John Jungmann said in a news release. "Today's decision in federal court unequivocally affirms the district's efforts during this public health emergency."
The plaintiffs' allegations included violations of the U.S. and Missouri constitutions, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Last summer, they hired attorney Kristi Fulnecky to represent them in the case.
“The Springfield Public Schools reentry plan is incredibly harmful to many students, but especially to students with unique disabilities and circumstances. Many of these students are unable to participate in online learning and will regress," Fulnecky said in a news release last summer announcing the litigation. "SPS has not provided equal access to education for these students."
The U.S. District Court in August denied a request for a temporary restraining order in the lawsuit.
The reopening plan at SPS involved a mix of in-person and virtual learning days.
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