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Lawsuit Challenging Seven Oaks School Will Move Forward

Seven Oaks Classical School is a charter in Ellettsville, Indiana.

A lawsuit challenging a state law that allowed a religious college to authorize a Monroe County charter school will move forward.

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education Monroe County is suing state officials on behalf of a group of Monroe County parents over the authorization of Seven Oaks Classical School.

Grace College and Seminary authorized Seven Oaks after the school twice failed to get authorization from the state.

The lawsuit says the authorization violates the Establishment Clause, which prevents religious institutions from exercising government functions. Seven Oaks officials asked the judge to dismiss the case, but the judge ruled Wednesday it could move forward.

The coalition also argues it’s unconstitutional for Grace College to receive 3 percent of the state funding Seven Oaks receives. The group argues that’s tantamount to using taxpayer money to fund a religious institution. But the judge says the payment is not unconstitutional because it only covers the administrative costs of providing the charter authorization.

The coalition originally filed the lawsuit against the school itself, but later voluntarily dismissed Seven Oaks as a defendant. The judge is allowing Seven Oaks to participate in the legal arguments since the ultimate ruling will determine whether the school can stay open.

The lawsuit asks for Seven Oaks’ charter to be revoked and for an injunction stopping the distribution of state funds to the school and Grace College.

Grace College authorizes two other charter schools in Indiana: Smith Academy for Excellence in Fort Wayne and Dugger Union Community School in Dugger.

Tanford says the charters for these schools could also be impacted if a judge rules in favor of the Monroe County parents.

The judge ordered a status conference to be held via phone on Dec. 20.

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