Thursday, May 27, 2010

Court Refuses To Add State As Party In Challenge To Released Time Program

In Moss v. Spartanburg County School District No. 7, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51359 (D SC, May 25, 2010), a South Carolina federal district court has denied a motion by the Spartanburg (SC) School District to join the state of South Carolina as a defendant in the lawsuit against the school district over its released time program. The lawsuit is an Establishment Clause challenge to the school district's program of released time for religious education, under which grades assigned by the released time teachers are, without further review, added to the student's official school transcript and used to satisfy an elective requirement. (See prior posting.) The court concluded that the state is not a necessary party since the challenge is to the local policy as applied, not to the state statute. The court also denied permissive joinder because it is only available for plaintiffs to use. However, the court noted that the state, which has not attempted to intervene, may file an amicus brief, which would not jeopardize its sovereign immunity if it wishes to express its views. The court did agree that it would give the South Carolina Attorney General notice of the constitutional issue raised in the case.