A Northern Virginia judge rejected yesterday the efforts of a group of Fairfax County parents to force the county to reopen one of seven elementary schools it closed this spring.
Fairfax Circuit Judge Warren F. Jennings, however, left open the possibility that the protesting Edsall Park Elementary School parents can refile their lawsuit on new grounds.
But yesterday Jennings sided with the Fairfax School Board, whose lawyer had argued that parents had no claim to argue that the Edsall Park closing had violated their constitutional rights. Their suit over the closings is the first of three to be heard in the county courts.
"There is no inalienable right for students to choose a particular school," school board attorney Thomas J. Cawley told the judge. "And there is no claim that the right to an education is being abridged."
"Therefore," the lawyer said, "there can be no valid claim before this court." Jennings agreed, but told the parents they can refile their complaint if they can show that the school board acted "outside of its authority" or acted corruptly in closing their school.
Joe Carlberg, a lawyer for the Edsall Park Citizens Association, said later that the group will refile their suit, charging that the school board's closing studies were corrupt. The 244-student school, at 6815 Edsall Road in the Springfield section of the county, was closed this spring on the grounds that its enrollment was failing rapidly.
Carlberg claimed the school board studied only half of the schools in the county that qualified for closing under the board's own criteria. "If you're going to study schools for closing," she said, "then study all of them. Don't just include half of the qualified schools."
Throughout the school system's four-month-long closing studies, Edsall Park parents were among the most vocal in suppport of their school. The parents anger increased after they were told their students would be sent in September to Bren Mar Park Elementary School, which has had lower academic test scores than Edsall Park.
The dismissal of the Edsall Park suit leaves suits by parents of students at Holling Hall and Wilton Woods schools as the only remainng challenges to the board's controversial closing order. In the Wilton Woods lawsuit, the parents have accused the board of acting improperly, by meeting in an allegedly illegal secret session to discuss the closing issue.