Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Maryland County's Election Process for Student School Board Member Survives Free Exercise Challenge

 In Kim v. Board of Education of Howard County, (D MD, Nov. 18, 2022), a Maryland federal district court rejected both equal protection and free exercise challenges to the manner in which the student member of the 8-member Howard County School Board is selected. In an elaborate process, the final step in the selection of the student member is a vote by public school students in grades 6 to 11. In rejecting the free exercise claim, the court said in part:

Plaintiffs argue that the Student Member selection process violates the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause because it bars certain students from voting for the Student Member “solely because they attend a religious school or are homeschooled for religious reasons.”... This claim will be dismissed because Plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that the Student Member statute burdens religion—and even if it did, the law is neutral and generally applicable.

The court also rejected equal protection claims that the process violated the one-person one-vote mandate and uniformity rules.