Bullis Charter School does not have to change its enrollment policies, and can continue to grant attendance preference to Los Altos Hills students and their siblings, a Santa Clara County judge ruled this month.
The decision ended a legal battle that peaked in January when the Los Altos School District sued the Santa Clara County Office of Education for approving Bullis enrollment preferences that benefited certain students in the district.
The county Office of Education helped open the charter school in 2004 when LASD closed down Bullis-Purissima Elementary School, and Bullis and LASD have been debating school policies and jurisdiction ever since.
On April 15, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy denied the petition from LASD, ruling that the county office did not overstep its discretion when approving enrollment priority for students living within the former Bullis school boundaries.
"It was a cut-and-dried legal argument," said attorney Richard Noack, who represented the county in the case. "The county Board of Education reviewed this as a legal matter; it was not personal."
Noack added that "the judge made it pretty clear the district has no jurisdiction to challenge" the education office. Although the district is required to provide facilities to the charter school, counties oversee the school, Noack said.
Under the ruling, Bullis Charter School can continue to give first enrollment preference to siblings of current students, who live within LASD boundaries, followed by families from Los Altos Hills, the former Bullis neighborhood.
Board members of the charter school said they hope the enrollment preferences will continue to create a community environment at the school. They said they're pleased with the court ruling, and ready to start concentrating on school policies.
"I am happy we have reached this conclusion, but it is an unfortunate use of money to have to go to court," Bullis board president Ken Moore said. "It was diverting us from spending it on educational aspects."
The district originally sued the county office for overstepping its duties and passing discriminatory enrollment policies that could exclude some LASD students from attending the school. The education code prevents a school from "granting a residency preference to students from part of a district," Dino Velez, who represented the district, wrote in a case brief. "The district felt it had the right to protect students from discrimination," he told the
District Superintendent Tim Justus added, "We interpreted the law one way, and according to the judge we were wrong."
Since the ruling was made during LASD's spring break, the district board has not had time to discuss next steps, Justus said. The board is scheduled to review the case during its next meeting on Monday, April 28.
In an e-mail to the