ST. LOUIS — An African-American elementary school student whose family moved to the county is not eligible to attend a charter school inside city limits, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

The court found that "E.L.," a boy now entering fifth grade, lacks standing in his suit against Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corp. (VICC), a nonprofit corporation created by a 1999 settlement agreement in long-standing "Liddell" desegregation litigation. At issue in the appeal was a transfer plan administered by VICC, which as amended in 1999, included arranging for transportation for students in the transfer program, distributing funding to participating schools and disseminating information about eligibility.

According to the ruling filed July 27, the 1999 agreement permits only sending and receiving districts to modify eligibility requirements.

E.L.'s mother sued when Gateway Science Academy, a charter school, declined to enroll E.L. in the fourth grade because his family had moved to the county in the Pattonville School District. E.L. had attended Gateway from kindergarten through third grade, the ruling states. 

The suit against VICC, rather than Gateway, alleged equal protection violations. A federal court judge at the Eastern District of Missouri granted VICC's motion to dismiss on the grounds that the suit lacks standing, fails to state a claim, the 1999 agreement precludes the claims and that the agreement releases VICC from liability.

The appeals court panel found the claim that VICC denied E.L. the opportunity to attend Gateway on an equal basis to be "insufficient."

"[I]t erroneously assumes VICC's policy, not Gateway's, was the reason he was denied admission," wrote Justice William Duane Benton for the panel.

Judged Steven Colloton and C. Arlen Beam concurred.

Gateway provided a copy of its policy, not VICC's, to support denial of admission, the ruling states.

"VICC’s policy—which was never cited by Gateway as a reason for denying admission—does not apply to charter schools, which are 'independent public school[s],' governed by statute," the ruling states. "Thus, VICC has no administrative or supervisory authority over them."

E.L.’s alleged injury is not "fairly traceable” to VICC, the court held in affirming the lower court's ruling.

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