The unaccredited St. Louis Public School District had an average daily attendance of approximately 23,550 students in 2009, more than ten times the average attendance of the neighboring Clayton School District. In Turner v. School District of Clayton, the Supreme Court of Missouri faced the novel issue of interpreting Missouri Revised Statues section 167.131 as it related to children who resided in the currently unaccredited St. Louis Public School District but wished to attend schools in the accredited Clayton School District. After determining that the unaccredited district was responsible for the tuition of students who attended accredited schools, the majority concluded that under section 167.131, when a child of an unaccredited school district chooses to transfer to an accredited district in the same or adjoining county, the school to which the child transfers must accept the child. This interpretation of section 167.131 removes any discretion that the district may have had in accepting the transfer child. Ultimately, the accredited district is forced to accept any student who transfers from an unaccredited district. Turner's impact on the accredited school districts of both the St. Louis metro area and the State of Missouri as a whole is severe, harsh, and unexpected. Both the surrounding accredited districts and parents of students in unaccredited districts are frustrated with the lack of clarification as to what the ruling actually means and how it will be put into practice. The practical results of the majority's interpretation will have major impacts on the areas of funding, transportation, and safety, to name a few. The court's holding in Turner - that accredited districts must accept students from adjoining unaccredited districts - was a reading of the plain meaning of the language of the statue. That reading has opened the door for a multitude of consequences which could not possibly have been intended by the legislature, indicating a need for the legislature to review and reassess the language of section 167.131.
Unconditional Acceptance: The Supreme Court of Missouri's Interpretation of Missouri Revised Statutes Section 167.131,
76 Mo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/mlr/vol76/iss3/14