Lawsuit against virtual learning at Boone County Schools is ‘over,’ attorney says

The plaintiffs won a key victory less than a week ago. Now the case is closed.

Lawsuit against virtual learning at Boone County Schools is ‘over,’ attorney says
Boone County School District students are currently learning in-person four days per week. Twenty percent have chosen a fully virtual option. (Source: Live 5/File)

BOONE COUNTY, Ky. (FOX19) - A lawsuit challenging the Boone County School District’s student learning plan will be dropped, according to the plaintiffs’ attorney, Chris Wiest.

The suit centered around a fully virtual learning option that, according to the initial complaint, violated state law.

But the law changed Wednesday when Kentucky’s general assembly passed House Bill 208, which codified the same virtual learning option the complaint argued was illegal.

Now BCSD will be able to keep its in-person learning plan with a fully virtual option intact.

The news comes less than a week after Wiest and the plaintiffs won a victory in court over the district, Kentucky’s third largest.

On Feb. 26, a Boone County judge ordered that BCSD must resume in-person learning five days per week by March 22, overturning the district’s plan to return four days per week.

The judge premised his ruling on a Kentucky statute requiring that schools provide full in-person instruction. The statute also limits students to 10 non-traditional instruction days (i.e. virtual learning days) per year.

Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency and suspended that statute last year. Whether schools returned fully or partially in-person afterwards remained a local decision, but districts are required to provide all students with a fully virtual option per an executive order issued in December.

Around 20 percent of BCSD students have chosen the fully virtual option. As of March 1, the rest are learning in-person four days per week, with Wednesdays used primarily to accomodate the fully virtual learners, according to Superintendent Matthew Turner. That is, the fully virtual option stands in the way of the district returning full time.

Enter Senate Bill 1, which the judge discussed at length in his ruling.

Passed in early February over Beshear’s veto, SB 1 prohibits the governor from changing any existing Kentucky statute during a state of emergency without approval from the legislature and sign-off from the attorney general. It all but reversed Beshear’s order requiring schools to provide a fully virtual option. It appeared to sink the district’s legal defense as well.

Beshear sued to stop enforcement of SB 1 and two other pieces of legislation. He won a temporary injunction Wednesday.

But Wiest says it’s HB 208 — not SB 1 — that pulled the rug out from under his case.

HB 208 says, among other things, school districts may request more than 10 NTI (virtual) days for students due to the COVID-19 emergency.

The bill is retroactive to the 2020-2021 school year and effective for the 2021-2022 school year “if applicable.”

As of Wednesday evening, according to Wiest, “the case is over.”

FOX19 NOW has reached out to Boone County Schools for comment.

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