Suit on discrimination against charter school moves ahead in part

In Pocono Mountain Charter School v. Pocono Mountain School District, (MD PA, Nov. 8, 2012), a publicly funded charter school, along with students and parents, claimed that a Pennsylvania school district imposed harsher conditions on the school out of racial and religious animus. Most of the students in the school are African-American or Hispanic, and the school’s former CEO was associate pastor of Shawnee Tabernacle Church, which several trustees attended as well. This opinion grows out of an amended complaint filed after a 3rd Circuit decision in the case. The court dismissed claims under the free exercise clause of the Pennsylvania constitution because plaintiffs raised only the freedom of worship rights of the school’s officers and trustees, not their own rights. However the court permitted plaintiffs to move ahead with claims of religious, racial and national origin discrimination under the equal protection clause of the Pennsylvania constitution.  The court also permitted individual plaintiffs to proceed under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act on their racial and national origin discrimination charges, but held that the charter school itself could not sue under Section 1983.