Dane County officials respond to state Supreme Court on private schools’ petition

Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 9:43 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Dane County officials responded to the state Supreme Court Wednesday, explaining why its order limiting in-person learning is lawful.

The response was spurred by a petition from more than twenty private schools and parents. They’re calling on the court to block a part of emergency order #9, which states schools cannot offer in-person instruction to grades 3-12.

Angela Hineline, a “parent plaintiff” and instructor at St. Ambrose Academy, told NBC15 News that the school serves just over 60 families and that it had taken measures to safely reopen. Before the emergency order took effect on August 21, the school was preparing for a September 8 reopen, while also offering a virtual option.

“This is about parental rights and a parent’s right to choose-- to choose and to determine what’s the safest, most secure, most stable environment for their child,” she said.

Lead counsel Misha Tseytlin described a part of his argument: “‘Look you’re letting universities, their dormitories open, yet you’re closing down our schools. How is that sensible?’ They literally had no answer to that.”

Respondents Joe Parisi and Janel Heinrich are the top officials in Dane County and Public Health Madison Dane County, respectively. They declined requests for comment due to the pending nature of the litigation, but both said they were confident in the order’s lawfulness.

Last week, Parisi wrote, “The order for schools is lawful and we will defend it vigorously, because the reason Public Health put it in place is worth fighting for—the health of our kids and community.”

St. Ambrose related their challenge to a “David and Goliath” episode.

Hineline explained, “While our voice may be small and we realize we’re going up against those that have greater access to funds, which we do not have, this is a fight we have to take on.”

The school has raised more than $100,000 in an online fundraiser to cover legal fees.

Now, with briefings from both parties, the state Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on Friday, according to Tseytlin.

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