EX., a minor, by La' Sheika White the Mother, legal guardian, and next friend of E.L. Plaintiff- Appellant
Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation Defendant-Appellee
Submitted: April 5, 2017
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Missouri - St. Louis
COLLOTON, BEAM, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.
BENTON, Circuit Judge.
behalf of E.L., her minor son, La'Shieka White sued the
Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation (VICC), alleging
its race-based, school-transfer policy violates the Equal
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district
court granted VICC's motion to dismiss.
Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, this court
an African-American boy entering fifth grade. From
kindergarten through third grade, he lived in the City of St.
Louis, attending Gateway Science Academy, a charter school
there. During third grade, his family moved to St. Louis
County, in the Pattonville School District. His mother asked
Gateway to enroll him in fourth grade even though they no
longer lived in the city limits. Gateway declined, providing
a copy of its policy that African-American students who live
outside the city are not eligible for enrollment.
sued, alleging equal protection violations. He did not name
Gateway as a defendant, but sued only VICC, a non-profit
corporation created by a 1999 settlement agreement in the
long-standing Liddell litigation. The federal
lawsuit, filed in 1972 by African-American parents, alleged
St. Louis operated segregated schools in violation of the
Equal Protection Clause. In 1983, a district court approved a
desegregation settlement agreement. See Liddell v. Board
of Educ. of City of St. Louis, State of Mo., 567 F.Supp.
1037 (E.D. Mo. 1983), aff'd in part,
rev'd in part, 731 F.2d 1294 (8th Cir. 1984) (en
banc). The agreement-funded by the defendants (the state of
Missouri and the City Board of Education)-provided capital
improvements of city schools, establishment of city magnet
schools, and a voluntary interdistrict transfer plan. The
transfer plan, at issue here, allowed African-American
students living in the city to transfer to the county, and
white students living in the county to transfer to the city.
1996, the state of Missouri moved for a declaration that St.
Louis no longer operated a segregated, dual public school
system. The court appointed a settlement coordinator to
negotiate a resolution. In 1999, the parties settled again.
See Liddell v. Board of Educ. of City of St. Louis,
1999 WL 33314210, at *9 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 12, 1999) (approving
settlement agreement). The 1999 agreement established VICC to
administer the voluntary interdistrict transfer program,
including: (1) arranging transportation for students in the
transfer program; (2) distributing funding to participating
schools; and (3) disseminating information about eligibility
requirements (taken primarily from the 1983 agreement). The
1999 agreement permits only the sending and receiving
districts to modify the eligibility requirements.
district court granted VICC's motion to dismiss on four
alternative grounds: (1) E.L. lacks standing; (2) he fails to
state a claim; (3) the 1999 agreement precludes his claims;
and (4) the 1999 agreement releases VICC from liability. E.L.
court reviews "a decision dismissing a complaint for
lack of standing de novo, construing the allegations of the
complaint, and the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom,
most favorably to the plaintiff." Miller v. City of
St. Paul, 823 F.3d 503, 506 (8th Cir. 2016).
"Article III standing is a threshold question in every
federal court case." United States v. One Lincoln
Navigator 1998, 328 F.3d 1011, 1013 (8th Cir. 2003).
Standing requires three elements: (1) "injury in
fact"; (2) "a causal connection between the injury
and the conduct complained of"; and (3) the likelihood
"that the injury will be 'redressed by a favorable
decision.'" Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife,
504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992), quoting Simon v. Eastern Ky.
Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S. 26, 38 (1976).
injury in fact requires that a plaintiff demonstrate he or
she is "able and ready" to apply for an educational
opportunity and "a discriminatory policy prevents [them]
from doing so on an equal basis." Gratz v.
Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244, 262 (2003), quoting
Northeastern Fla. Chapter, Associated Gen. Contractors of Am.
v. Jacksonville, 508 U.S. 656, 666 (1993). "It is
well established that intent may be relevant to standing in
an equal protection challenge." Id. at 261.
Under Gratz, individuals must show that they intend
to apply to a school in order to have standing to challenge a
discriminatory admissions policy. See id. at 260-61.
See also Shea v. Kerry, 796 F.3d 42, 50 (D.C. Cir.
2015) ("Gratz controls our inquiry. Like [the
Gratz plaintiff], [the plaintiff here] alleges that
he possessed ...