- Associated Press - Friday, May 30, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Judges should stay out of school districts’ decisions about how to calculate South Carolina students’ grades, an appellate court ruled on Friday.

According to a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals, a trial judge should have dismissed a student’s lawsuit challenging district officials’ recalculation of his grade.

When a student transferred to a Greenville County school from out of state, district officials in 2012 calculated his grade-point average and ranked him first in his class for his junior year.

But another student’s parents challenged that ranking, saying that the new student’s grade-point average was getting the benefit of extra weight given by both schools to honors and advanced placement courses. The district recalculated the GPA, subsequently ranking the new student as sixth in his class.

The new student sued, saying the school district was wrong to recalculate his grades at all. A trial judge agreed and ordered the district to restore his No. 1 ranking.

In their ruling, the appellate judges said courts shouldn’t interfere with districts’ internal decisions if no obvious misdeeds have been committed.

“Our supreme court has refused to interfere with the internal decisions of school administrators and school districts unless there is clear evidence of corruption, bad faith, or a clear abuse of power,’” the judges wrote. “” We find no basis to question the trial court’s characterization that the School District acted with a good-faith desire to place its students on equal footing academically.”

But based on that conclusion, the trial judge should have dismissed the case entirely, the appellate court said.

As part of its ruling, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial judge’s decision and said the district could recalculate the new student’s grade-point average “with its own interpretation of its grading policy as applied to the facts of this case.”


Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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