The Natrona County School District asked a judge this week to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Town of Mills that challenges the recently announced closure of the town’s last school.
In January, Mills Mayor Seth Coleman said in a press release that the town was filing suit to “determine the legality of the serial closing and abandonment” of Mills schools. In June, the district closed Mills Elementary, and in October, the school board voted to shutter Mountain View Elementary.
The town alleged that the district had failed to follow statute and that it had targeted predominantly at-risk students, charges which the district has denied in the past.
In response to the suit, the district said that Mills as a municipality has failed to “allege that it has suffered or will suffer any tangible harm as a result of NCSD’s actions.”
“Consequently, (Mills) has no standing to bring this lawsuit and its complaint must be dismissed,” the district’s response says.
The original suit claimed that the district “lacked the legal authority to close” Mountain View because it failed to comply with legal requirements, including holding a public hearing.
The district responded that Mills does not have the ability to represent the residents of the town, nor can it file suit on behalf of the school community.
“Instead, Mills alleges various forms of harm to other non-parties, those being Mills residents, elementary students from Mills and low income students,” the district’s motion said.
A central complaint of the Mills Town Council and the community has been that the closure of the schools robs the area of any schools, which — the town alleges — forces travel on elementary students.
But, the district responded, students only have a right to a public education.
“’However, a student does not have a property interest in where he receives that education,’” the district’s motion stated, quoting a previous Wyoming court decision.
The Natrona County School District’s board voted in October to close Mountain View, along with two elementaries and a middle school in Casper. District officials blamed state budget cuts that were compounded by falling enrollment, which left some schools — including Mountain View — well below their potential capacity.
Many — if not all — of the students at Mills Elementary moved to the new Journey Elementary, which is in west Casper. The district has said Mills closed with the consent of the community. Its shuttering was announced before the board voted to close its first school, Grant Elementary, in November 2016.