Knapp v. Palisades Charter High School
California's 2nd District Court of Appeal found that a charter school operating as a nonprofit corporation is not a "public entity" under the California Government Tort Claims Act. The court was influenced by the California Supreme Court's modified decision in Wells v. One2One, issued on October 25, 2006, which found that charter schools did not "fit comfortably" into the category of "local public entity."
After a rehearing and multiple modified decisions, the Second District Court of Appeal found that a charter school operating as a nonprofit corporation is not a "public entity" under the California Government Tort Claims Act. Under the February 5, 2007 published decision, the student's harassment claims against the Palisades Charter High School could proceed despite having filed notice with the County of Los Angeles, because no written notice to the charter school was required before filing a lawsuit. The court was influenced by the Supreme Court's modified decision in Wells v. One2One, issued on October 25, 2006, which found that charter schools did not "fit comfortably" into the category of "local public entity."
CCSA became involved in this case after the appellate court initially issued a decision in June 2006 finding that a charter school is a subdivision of its authorizing agency for purposes of the Tort Claims Act. Because the Act requires a plaintiff to present a written claim to the public entity before filing a lawsuit, among other things, the initial decision meant that authorizing agencies would be required to step in to resolve potential lawsuits on behalf of charter schools. Since such a result would be unworkable for independent, separately incorporated charter schools, CCSA immediately joined a request for rehearing and argued that a charter school is its own "public entity" under the Act and is entitled to the same immunities and responsibilities as any other local public agency for the purposes of resolving potential lawsuits. After multiple supplemental briefs and a rehearing in January 2007, the appellate court reversed its finding that the district was responsible, and instead held that the Act does not apply to charter schools at all.
Under the Knapp decision, nonprofit charter schools and their boards carry many of the burdens and risks of governmental officials without the benefit of the immunities and protections that other governmental agencies and their officials have. CCSA has sought legislation to remedy this problem.
- March 28, 2007: The California Supreme Court denied PCHS's request for review of the appellate court decision.
- February 21, 2007: CCSA filed a letter with the CA Supreme Court in support of PCHS's request for review of the decision.
- February 5, 2007: The Court of Appeal modified its January 10, 2007 decision on rehearing.
- January 4, 2007: CCSA participated in rehearing at the Court of Appeal.
- November 3, 2006: CCSA filed a second supplemental amicus curiae brief.
- September 21, 2006: CCSA filed a supplemental amicus curiae brief.
- August 31, 2006: The Court of Appeal requested supplemental briefing on whether the Government Tort Claims Act applied to the claims in this case.
- August 4, 2006: CCSA joined Knapp's request for rehearing or depublication, and sought permission to file an amicus curiae brief in the event a rehearing was granted.
- July 24, 2006: The Court of Appeal issued opinion finding that a charter school operating as a nonprofit corporation was a subdivision of its authorizing school district, and therefore any claim against it must first be presented to the school district under the California Government Tort Claims Act.
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