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State ex rel. Hills and Dales v. Plain Local School District Board of Education

Supreme Court of Ohio

December 13, 2019

The State ex rel. Hills and Dales
v.
Plain Local School District Board of Education.

          Submitted December 11, 2019

          In Mandamus.

          Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., L.P.A., Scott M. Zurakowski, Owen J. Rarric, Joseph J. Pasquarella, and Amanda M. Connelly, for relator.

          Ulmer & Berne, L.L.P., Amanda Martinsek, William D. Edwards, Manju Gupta, Daniela Paez, Rex A. Littrell, and Rachael Rodman, for respondent.

          Per Curiam.

         {¶ 1} In this expedited election case, relator, the village of Hills and Dales, seeks a writ of mandamus to compel respondent, the Plain Local School District Board of Education ("the Plain Local school board"), to forward to the Stark County Board of Elections a petition proposing the transfer of some of Plain Local School District's territory to Jackson Local School District. We dismiss the complaint because the village lacks standing.

         Background

         {¶ 2} Ohio residents have long had the right under R.C. 3311.24 to propose the transfer of the territory in which they reside from one school district to another. Among other requirements, residents proceeding under R.C. 3311.24 must submit a petition to their current school board (signed by at least 75 percent of qualified electors in the territory to be affected) and receive the approval of the State Board of Education. See R.C. 3311.24(A)(1)(b) and (A)(4). This case involves a newly enacted alternative to R.C. 3311.24-R.C. 3311.242-that allows qualified electors of a township containing territory of two or more school districts to place a transfer proposal on an election ballot for approval or disapproval by voters. R.C. 3311.242, unlike R.C. 3311.24, does not require the transfer to be approved by the State Board of Education.

         {¶ 3} To have a transfer proposal placed on a ballot under R.C. 3311.242, residents first must submit a petition (signed by at least 10 percent of qualified electors) to their current school board. R.C. 3311.242(C). Upon receiving such a petition, the school board "shall cause the board of elections [of the county in which the affected territory is located] to check the sufficiency of signatures on the petition." Id. If the board of elections confirms that the signatures are sufficient, it must certify the petition to the school board. Id. And once that certification occurs, the school board must promptly do two things: (1) file the proposal (and a map showing what territory would be transferred) with the State Board of Education and (2) certify the proposal to the board of elections for its placement on the ballot at the next election that is at least 90 days away. R.C. 3311.242(B).

         {¶ 4} On October 29, 2019, the village's law director delivered to the Plain Local school board a petition proposing "that the territory bound by the geographic limits of Hills and Dales Village be transferred from Plain LSD to Jackson LSD according to O.R.C. 3311.242 and [that] the transfer be effective for the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year." The petition seeks placement of the proposal on the March 17, 2020 primary-election ballot. To be placed on the March 2020 ballot, the Plain Local school board must certify the proposal to the board of elections no later than December 18, 2019. See R.C. 3311.242(B)(2).

         {¶ 5} At a meeting on November 20, the Plain Local school board adopted a resolution that "tabled" the petition. The resolution explained that the Plain Local school board had filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality, legality, and enforceability of R.C. 3311.242. In its resolution, the Plain Local school board stated that it would not act on the petition until there is a final determination of the claims pending in federal court.

         {¶ 6} On December 3, the village filed this original action seeking a writ of mandamus to compel the Plain Local school board to submit the petition to the board of elections for verification of the signatures on the petition. Assuming that the board of elections would certify the petition, the village also seeks an order compelling the Plain Local school board to (1) file the proposal and a map showing the boundaries of the territory to be transferred with the State Board of Education and (2) certify the proposal to the board of elections for placement on the March 2020 ballot.

         {¶ 7} We expedited the case schedule at the village's request, and the case is fully briefed.

         The village ...


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