Monday, May 2, 2011

Pulling out all the stops to save a rural school (Part III): Do rural schools prevent agro-terrorism?

In the process of researching the lawsuit that the Deer-Mt. Judea school district recently brought against the state of Arkansas seeking to prevent consolidation, I came across another recent suit brought by a small school district in Arkansas. This 2010 suit against the state of Arkansas was filed by Friends of Weiner School District in federal court. In arguing that the Weiner school in northeast Arkansas should not have been consolidated with the neighboring Harrisburg district, the plaintiffs asserted that consolidation "negatively impacts the agricultural interests of Arkansas in violation of Article 10" of the Arkansas Constitution which requires the General Assembly to pass laws to "foster and aid" agricultural interests." In addition, the plaintiffs argued:
[B]ecause Arkansas is the nation's leading producer of rice, any statute that negatively impacts agriculture also violates the Commerce Clause due to an increased risk of agro-terrorism and food supply issues. Plaintiff contends that if schools close in farming communities, farmers will have to move to other communities which have schools. As a result, farmers will be unable to monitor their crops on a daily basis. Without daily monitoring of the crops, the risk of terrorism is increased. "The negative impact on rural communities then negatively impacts the production of agriculture and interstate commerce and simultaneously increases a security risk for our country."
The Weiner School District was involuntarily consolidated with the Harrisburg School District in 2010, although the Weiner school remains open. Thus Weiner students are not being bussed to Harrisburg, and farmers in the Weiner area have presumably not been compelled to move "to town."

In a November 29, 2010 ruling, Judge James Moody of the Eastern District of Arkansas dismissed the law suit based on lack of standing and on failure to state a claim. He wrote:
At the hearing on this matter, the Court questioned the Plaintiff's witness and attorney as to whether there as been an increased threat of agro-terrorism since consolidation. The answer was no. Likewise, there has been no allegation that the consolidation has caused a negative impact on the production of agriculture or interstate commerce in the Weiner area. ... Absent an injury in fact, the Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction.
Because no evidence was presented in support of this agro-terrorism argument, its persuasiveness was not tested by this suit.

See a recent Daily Yonder post about agro-terrorism here.

1 comment:

Chez Marta said...

But what a splendid argument it was!

One day I will grow up... and pull out arguments like this from a magician's hat.