Indiana's new school 'cherry picking' law takes effect

Capacity now only reason to deny transfer student

INDIANAPOLIS - A new law goes into effect Monday aimed at stopping schools from cherry picking students based on their academic or athletic ability.

Rep. Mike Karickhoff, R-Kokomo, authored House Bill 1381, also known as the "school transfer" legislation, because he says students need a level playing field.

"This is about parents and students selecting schools, not schools selecting students," Karickhoff said. "If schools can set their own standards, they're only going to accept the best athletes, the most academically high achieving students."

Until now, public schools were allowed to accept transfer students based on whatever criteria they chose.

"We heard testimony where one student would be accepted and the other would not be accepted," Karickhoff said.

The law requires school corporations to establish capacity for transfers, or the number of transfer students per grade level each school would be willing to accept from outside the district.

A school district can't deny a transfer for any other reason other than they're over capacity.

Exceptions apply, including if a student has been found violating drug or alcohol policies or has injured a school employee or student.

"This is going to level the playing field and allow all students from different socioeconomic backgrounds, different academic backgrounds, to go to the school of their choice," Karickhoff said.

Some school districts are dealing with this law by not allowing transfers at all, including Franklin Township in Marion County.

"The 2011-2012 school year was our first year that we accepted outside transfers," Superintendent Dr. Flora Reichanadter wrote in an email to RTV6. "We have now closed our enrollment to those who live outside the township."

John Barnes, director of legislative affairs for the Indiana Department of Education, said even if schools decide to accept transfers, they don't have to explain or justify how they came up with their capacity limits.

"School districts can simply declare we're at capacity and they don't have to explain it any further than that," Barnes said.             

School districts that are accepting transfers have to set a deadline for transfer requests.

The Indiana Department of Education is gathering the information and will post it on their website.        
 

Follow Kara Kenney on Twitter: @karakenney6 | Facebook: KaraKenneyNews

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