Three metro families sue Epic Charter Schools after unenrolling students

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) - Three sets of Epic parents are joining forces in a new lawsuit against the charter school.

According to court documents, the families allege their children were unenrolled by Epic, simply because they were also enrolled in a private school.

The families argue “Epic's actions violate each of the plaintiffs' right to a free public education, guaranteed by the Oklahoma Constitution and the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act.”

The families’ attorney sent News 4 a statement, saying:

"My clients and I believe the Oklahoma Constitution is clear… All children of the state of Oklahoma have the right to a free public education. While we understand there are some caveats to this, none of those caveats apply to any of the students that are Plaintiffs in this matter.  There are no allegations that any of the families in this Declaratory Judgment action were using Epic as a way to generate income, which admittedly would violate the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act. There are no allegations that any public funds or funds from Epic were being diverted to any of the private educational programs the Plaintiffs are participating in, on their behalf or otherwise. There are no allegations that any of the Plaintiffs were receiving special treatment or modified Epic curriculums in order to participate in the private educational program.  There are no allegations that any public property is being used to benefit the private educational programs Plaintiffs are participating in. The only reason we have been told for the unenrollment of the Plaintiffs from Epic was their dual enrollment status, that is it, nothing more. There are aspects about the Epic curriculum that the Plaintiffs like and see as essential to their education and there are aspects about their private educational program that the Plaintiffs like and see as essential to their education, there is simply a disagreement between the parties on what Oklahoma law says about dual enrollment and students ability to enjoy both aspects of the public vs private education at the same time. We believe unenrolling the Plaintiffs and other students similarly situated violates the Oklahoma Constitution and the Oklahoma Charter School’s Act and have filed to this Declaratory Judgment Action to get some clarification on the law," said Matthew Frisby.

In a court document response by the school system, Epic said the school “originally took the position that the paragraph at issue did not prohibit students from being enrolled in Epic as a public school and another educational program.”

Epic said in April 2019 it was advised by its sponsor, the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, that they disagreed on this.

Epic then "implemented a protocol to prohibit students to enroll in Epic that were enrolled in private school...”

Epic Charter Schools responded to News 4 with this statement:

“Between the end of the last school year and the beginning of this school year, we added one question to our enrollment form asking if a family was enrolled in a private school either full or part-time. Any student dual enrolled whose family would not un-enroll from their private school option, was withdrawn from EPIC and/or not allowed to enroll. This question was added following a year of discussions with our authorizer because the issue of dual public-private school enrollment is not addressed in state law. We look forward to this issue gaining legal clarity,” said Shelly Hickman, EPIC Deputy Superintendent.

But this isn’t the first of Epic`s issues this year. Back on July 19, Governor Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister called for an investigative audit of Epic Charter Schools and all related entities.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is also looking into Epic, specifically the relationship between the virtual school and its vendors along with illegally inflating enrollment counts.

The school is accused of retaining 'ghost students,' or students enrolled with epic charter schools but received little or no instruction from their teachers.

Also, in the court documents, the families deny their children used Epic as a method of generating revenue for themselves of their family.

News 4 called the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board for comment, but so far haven’t heard back.

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