St. Louis firefighters may have to live in the city, but they want their children to attend accredited public schools in St. Louis County—one of which being the Webster Groves School District.
Five St. Louis Fire Department firefighters have filed a lawsuit arguing for their right to send their children to schools in the Webster Groves, Kirkwood and Lindbergh school districts.
The Outstanding Schools Act, signed in 1993, allows parents in unaccredited school districts—such as the St. Louis Public School District—to transfer their children to nearby accredited schools at the expense of the failing school district.
But the firefighters say all three school districts have denied their children.
“These men and woman (firefighters) provide the highest level of service and selflessness,” Tim Belz, attorney for the firefighters told KMOX during a press conference. “They deserve our gratitude, but what they get are sleepless nights and financial strain trying to provide a quality education for their children. The Outstanding Schools Act is a crystal-clear law, yet suburban districts refuse to comply.”
Cathy Vespereny, a spokesperson for the Webster Groves School District, said the district had not yet seen the lawsuit, and therefore, could not comment.
If the firefighters can't transfer their children to nearby public schools, they must choose between unaccredited public schools or schools that charge tuition. One firefighter told the St. Louis Beacon he pays more than $20,000 for his children to attend parochial schools.
"I should be able to send my child to an accredited district at no cost to me," Shawn Ryan, who's worked 19 years as a firefighter, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "The Outstanding Schools Act is a law but it's not being enforced."
On a related note, the Webster Groves School District will soon go before the Missouri Supreme Court on an appeal the district filed in regard to a similar lawsuit filed by a another St. Louis City family last year.
Vespereny said the King-Willman family had contacted the district asking that their daughter be allowed to transfer to Webster Groves High School. She said the district put the student on a waiting list, and the family filed a lawsuit against the district in St. Louis County Court.
In June, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that a St. Louis County Circuit Judge ruled in favor of the family, ordering the district to immediately enroll the teen into the high school. The district appealed the case.
Vespereny said the family has not responded to the appeal and has since moved and enrolled their daughter in the Mehlville School District.
Webster Groves Patch Editor Sheri Gassaway contributed information to this article.