Lehmann v. Bd. of Educ. of the Fayette R3 Sch. Dist., WD 84439

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtEDWARD R. ARDINI, JR., JUDGE
Citation649 S.W.3d 303
Parties Paul T. LEHMANN, Appellant, v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF the FAYETTE R3 SCHOOL DISTRICT, Respondent.
Docket NumberWD 84439
Decision Date22 February 2022

649 S.W.3d 303

Paul T. LEHMANN, Appellant,

WD 84439

Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District.

Opinion filed: February 22, 2022


Appellant Paul Lehmann ("Lehmann") initiated this action against Respondent Board of Education of the Fayette R3 School District ("the School Board"), challenging the School Board's implementation of a four-day school week. The School Board moved to dismiss Lehmann's amended petition and the trial court granted the motion, finding Lehmann lacked standing and failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Lehmann appeals. We conclude Lehmann lacked standing to bring the claims asserted in his

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amended petition, and thus affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Factual and Procedural Background

Lehmann initiated this action in October 2020, and filed his "Amended Petition Declaratory Judgment and/or Injunction" in December of that same year.1 Lehmann's amended petition alleged as follows.2

Lehmann is a taxpaying resident of Howard County who resides within the boundaries of the Fayette R3 school district. He has "a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and a Master of Divinity degree," and a "life time interest in education and the wise use of tax dollars." The School Board is comprised of members elected "by the taxpayers of the Fayette R3 public school district."

In 2018, the former superintendent proposed to the School Board the implementation of a four-day school week, with the goal to "cut costs of education" and "make Fayette more attractive in hiring and retaining ‘qualified’ teachers." Lehmann alleged the public was "strongly opposed to the 4 day school week calendar." In an attempt "to gain support for needed education funds, a tax levy increase was proposed to be voted on in April of 2019." Meanwhile, in January 2019, the School Board voted to defeat the implementation of a four-day school week. "The tax levy increase was soundly passed" in April 2019, and Lehmann asserted the "plain and simple message was that the public ... intended to designate the levy funds to fund a 5 day school week."

In fall of 2019, the new superintendent and some of the School Board members "revived the movement to implement the 4 day school week, beginning in the 2020-21 school year." "Fierce opposition ensued" from the taxpayers, as Lehmann alleged they "felt betrayed by the openly implied agreement that if the public passed the tax levy in April, 2019, then there would be no financial need to adopt" the four-day school week. In November 2019, the School Board "voted to implement the new schedule."

Lehmann alleged the four-day school week harmed students and their families, teachers, and the Fayette community at large. For example, he alleged that according to a statistical study conducted by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education ("DESE"), the four-day school week has been shown "to cause lower average ACT (American College Testing) scores as compared to the 5 day school week," attaching to his amended petition graphs with supporting data. He asserted that a four-day week "does not provide adequate time for rest and play or snacks that are needed in a normal development of a child," and amounts to "institutional child neglect and child abuse." He further asserted that the four-day school week required families to pay for a day's worth of child care and food that was historically "provided for in the budget from tax revenue," and thus constituted "an unauthorized added tax ... imposed on families." Lehmann alleged that the "image of [the] community" was "tarnished" by the four-day school week, and that he was "told by a prominent realtor in

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the area that his property value will go down if a 4 day school week is implemented."

The amended petition set forth "possible causes of action," including "Constitutional Issues" and "Violations of Law," such as "the Board no longer authorized to enact the 4 day school week," "receipt of state aid illegially [sic]," and "the Board taxing without authority." The amended petition also asserted four "counts": (1) "Declaratory Judgment," (2) "Injunction Alternative," (3) "State Aid Fraud," and (4) "Tax Law Violation." In essence, Lehmann claimed that the School Board's actions violated article IX, section 1(a) of the Missouri Constitution and section 160.251, RSMo3 ; the School Board had no authority under the law to enact a four-day school week; to the extent section 171.0314 provides for the implementation of a four-day school week, such law is unconstitutional; the School Board committed fraud against the state by reporting an illegal four-day school week and receiving state aid on that basis; and the School Board, without authority, "imposed a hidden tax on families of students in the district by forcing them to pay for child care, housing, and food on the 5th day in the 4 day school week schedule when the tax levy increase passed by the voters meant that funds would be allocated for that 5th day."

As relief, Lehmann requested the trial court issue a declaratory judgment that the four-day school week is unconstitutional, enjoin the School Board from proceeding with the four-day school week, order the School Board return to the five-day school week, and order the School Board to reimburse "families the amount of their expenses for the 5th day not in school for the 2020-2021 school year already accrued."

The School Board filed a motion to dismiss the amended petition on the grounds that Lehmann lacked standing to bring his claims, he failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and the School Board enjoyed sovereign immunity to any claims sounding in tort or contract. After the motion was fully briefed, the trial court heard argument from the parties. Thereafter, the trial court issued its "Judgment and Order Granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss," dismissing Lehmann's amended petition with prejudice.

The trial court found that Lehmann did not have a justiciable interest in the subject matter of the action as required to have standing, but instead had an "indirect" interest in the matter, noting that

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the amended petition "assert[ed] a litany of factual allegations alleging harm and damage not to [Lehmann], but to School District staff, students, and parents resulting from the District's adoption of its 2020-2021 school calendar."5 The trial court found that Lehmann, individually, was not "adversely affected" by section 171.031—the statute he challenged as unconstitutional—or "by a school calendar adopted under that statute that has had no direct effect on his personal legal interests." Further, while the trial court acknowledged that "in some instances a taxpayer may have standing to sue a school district," it found Lehmann failed to plead with specificity the damage he would suffer as a taxpayer as necessary to confer taxpayer standing. The trial court concluded that because Lehmann lacked standing to bring the claims in his amended petition, the matter must be dismissed.6

Lehmann filed a motion to vacate and memorandum in support, arguing that the trial court's dismissal "for lack of standing based on principles of common law ... overlooked that [he] also had standing under: 1) Missouri's constitution, 2) public-interest, and 3) Missouri statute." Lehmann further argued the trial court "also misapplied common-law standing." The trial court denied the motion. This appeal followed.

Lehmann raises four points on appeal. In his first point, he asserts the trial court erred in dismissing his amended petition for lack of standing. In his second point, he asserts the trial court erred in dismissing his amended petition because his "due process rights were violated" in that the color graphs attached to his amended petition were scanned by the court during the filing process into black and white, rendering the graphs unreadable. In his third and fourth points, Lehmann asserts the trial court erred in finding he failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Because our determinations as to Points I and II are dispositive of this appeal, we do not reach Points III and IV.

Point I - Standing7

In his first point relied on, Lehmann argues he had "standing as provided by: A) the Missouri Constitution, B) [his] public interest, C) Missouri Statute, and D) common law," and then sets forth in greater detail his asserted grounds for standing. However, he fails to properly develop and support some of these grounds in the argument section of his brief, and he raises additional grounds in the argument not set forth in his point relied on. To properly preserve a claim of error on appeal, the appellant must raise the claim in his point relied on and support the contention in the argument portion of the brief. See The Schumacher Grp., Ltd. v. Schumacher , 474 S.W.3d 615, 624 n.11 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015) (an argument that exceeds the scope of the point relied on preserves nothing for review);

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Weisenburger v. City of St. Joseph , 51 S.W.3d 119, 124 (Mo. App. W.D. 2001) ("An appellant must...

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