A group of New Hope Academy parents have filed a federal lawsuit alleging conspiratorial actions among York City School District officials that, they allege, "shock the conscience."
The plaintiffs are alleging district officials conspired to deny a renewal of New Hope's charter in 2012 after years of approving its expansion plans.
"The reason is simple -- money," according to a news release from the plaintiffs' attorneys.
The district cited three primary reasons for denying New Hope's charter renewal -- unsatisfactory academic performance, failure to accurately report student attendance and truancy figures and administrative violations of the Ethics Act. A state appeals board has since sided with the district, ordering New Hope to close in June.
But the plaintiffs argue the district's motivation for closing New Hope was its own precarious financial situation, burdened by the increasing loss of students to charter schools and the funding tied to enrollment numbers.
The district's concerns "were nothing but a pretext to recover charter school funds and deprive Plaintiffs of their statutory right to school of choice," the lawsuit reads.
"These parents, after years of watching their children struggle in failing York City schools, became witnesses to their children's revitalization at New Hope," according to the news release. "The defendants in this case cherry picked negative statistics, taken out of context, to support their predetermined assertion that New Hope is not meeting the needs of its children and the community which the school serves."
Constitutional rights: The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, seeks to convince a jury in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania that the district's actions violated the plaintiffs' constitutional rights to due process.
In addition to the school district, the defendants are school board members Margie Orr, Michael Miller, Jane Hines and Sandie Walker and former board member James Morgan.
The plaintiffs include seven parents and one student, 18-year-old Shea Passno, who shared the podium at an October press conference with officials calling for Gov. Tom Corbett's intervention.
They are asking for monetary compensation and punitive damages in excess of $100,000.
If New Hope closes, the parents are asking the court to award "damages to compensate the families so that they can send their children to a private school," said Sean Summers, who is representing the plaintiffs.
But the lawsuit's primary objective is to save New Hope, Summers said.
New Hope recently prevailed at a state appeals board meeting that ended with a decision to postpone the school's closure to June, rather than January. New Hope officials have also said they will appeal the board's order to Commonwealth Court.
Asked to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday, Miller, Hines and Walker declined.
District Superintendent Eric Holmes said he could not comment because it is a pending legal matter.