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.