Friday, January 15, 2021

2nd Circuit: Vermont May Not Exclude Religious School Students From Dual Enrollment Program

In A.H. v. French, (2d Cir., Jan. 15, 2021), the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals held that a preliminary injunction should issue to allow funding of a high school student's college enrollment under Vermont's Dual Enrollment Program. Vermont statutes pay for high schoolers in public schools to take two college courses. Students in private high schools are eligible to take advantage of the Dual Enrollment Program only if their high school tuition is publicly funded. Under a separate program-- the Town Tuition Program-- school districts that do not have high schools are to fund students' tuition in either out-of-district public high schools or secular private high schools. In this case, a student was denied participation in the Dual Enrollment Program because her high school was religious and thus was denied public funding under the Town Tuition Program. the court said in part: 

In these circumstances, the State’s reliance on the “publicly funded” requirement as a condition for DEP eligibility imposes a “penalty on the free exercise of religion.”...

Judge Menashi filed a concurring opinion. ADF issued a press release announcing the decision.