Judge Rules Against Catholic Families in Sylvania Bus Dispute

On Tuesday 3/19, Lucas county Judge Stacy Cook ruled that the Sylvania City School District bus transportation plan for students of non-public schools doesn’t violate Ohio law or constitution.

Back in 2022, a couple of families that send their children to a catholic school in Sylvania, filed a lawsuit because their children had to be picked up hours before their school started, transported with older students, then dropped off at a high school to transfer to another bus, to arrive at their catholic school. The parents thought it was unlawful and violated the equal protection and religious freedom clauses of the Ohio constitution.

From the ruling:

“The evidence submitted by plaintiffs consist of several affidavits by the parties and a nonparty spouse. These affidavits recite that they choose Catholic education because of their personal Catholic faith. The affidavits also recite the various inconveniences the Plaintiffs and their children face because of the District’s transportation scheme. However, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have offered no evidence of any coercive effects on their religious practice: there is no evidence that the transportation plan has compelled Plaintiffs to do anything forbidden by their religion or that it has caused them to refrain from doing something required by their religion. Plaintiffs have also not offered any evidence that the transportation plan has compelled them to affirm or disavow a belief forbidden or required by their religion. Accordingly, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate any coercive effect upon their religious practice. The Plaintiffs have therefore failed to show that Defendants’ transportation plan violates their right to free exercise of religion under the Ohio Constitution.

The Court finds against Plaintiffs as to their claim that Defendants’ transportation plan violates their right to free exercise of religion under the Ohio Constitution. Again, the presumption that a legislative act is constitutional applies to the Board’s transportation plan. With this presumption the Court finds in favor of Defendants as to Plaintiffs’ free exercise claim.”


Both parties had asked for a summary judgement since the facts in the case weren’t in dispute. In the original lawsuit the families asked the court for an injunction to order the school district to “fix” the transportation plan. Judge Cook said the court couldn’t do that, it could only rule if the district’s act was lawful and not unconstitutional.

The original lawsuit was dismissed by the parents on August 30, 2022. Parents refiled on September 16, 2022 and asked for class action status and removed all references to the 1st amendment to keep it out of Federal court. The class action was never certified.

A lawyer for the families, who was one of the plaintiffs when the lawsuit had been filed in August 2022 but dropped out in September of 2022, stated they were probably going to appeal the ruling.

Additional information on this story is in the Toledo Blade behind a paywall. Images of the article is below.