NC Court of Appeals upholds dismissal of parents’ lawsuit over private school’s diversity policies

CHARLOTTE — The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled against the parents of two students expelled from Charlotte Latin Schools following their allegations the school was pushing a political agenda. It’s a lawsuit that captured the attention of groups like “Moms For Liberty” and ”Concerned Private School Parents Of Charlotte,” who filed briefs in support of the lawsuit.

It’s the second time North Carolina’s second-highest court ruled on the case and the decision to uphold the dismissal of nine claims against Charlotte Latin School filed by the parents of two students dismissed from the school.

Families with students in the school were required to sign a contract, the “Charlotte Latin School Parent-School Partnership,” where parents and guardians agree to policies and rules set by the school. It was that contract that school officials cited as the reason for the removal of the students from the school.

“… the school reserves the right to discontinue enrollment if it concludes that the actions of a parent/guardian make such a relationship impossible or seriously interfere with the School’s mission,” the contract reads, in part.

Following the termination of the family’s agreement with the school, the Turpins created a website called Honor Above All where the family describes the school’s actions and asks others to reach out to the school to voice their concerns, and asks for donations which would, “… be used to help with the costs of pursuing justice for our children.”

Claims of a political agenda

Doug and Nicole Turpin filed the lawsuit after their kids were not allowed to attend the school anymore, and it wasn’t the behavior of their children that led to the decision – but the actions of their parents. The trouble started following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by then-police officer Derek Chauvin

“… following the death of George Floyd, a letter was sent to Latin parents, faculty, and staff that plaintiffs felt indicated the school ‘was moving toward a curriculum, culture, and focus associated with a political agenda,’” according to the lawsuit.

The concerns didn’t stop following the letter and eventually, parents with children at the school formed a group they called ‘Refocus Latin.’

“During the 2020-2021 school year, plaintiffs and other Latin parents began to discuss their concerns about the communications they had received from the school, as well as changes in curriculum, reading materials, and classroom policies that they felt ‘were indicative of the adoption of a political agenda,’” according to court documents.

In 2021 Refocus Latin had a chance to present their concerns to the school’s Executive Committee of the Board. Some group members voiced concerns about potential retaliation from the school if they moved forward with the presentation to the board but were assured by the board chair that wouldn’t happen.

The group presented a PowerPoint to the board to highlight their opinions and concerns – but were ultimately told the board would not continue the dialogue or provide any response to the presentation. According to the court’s opinion, the group disseminated the presentation to other families at the school, which led to even more upset within the school. Head of the school Charles Baldecchi responded to the distribution of the PowerPoint by meeting with staff and faculty to discuss its contents.

“He stated that the PowerPoint presentation was ‘just awful,’ ‘very hurtful,’ and that, ‘[o]ne reads it and cringes.’ He further stated that the parents’ concerns about the curriculum and culture of Latin were a ‘lost cause,’ that Refocus Latin had met with the Board in ‘bad faith[,]’ and that the presentation was ‘an attack on our community with the intention of ripping its fabric apart,’” according to court documents.

School terminates the Turpin’s contract

Following the meeting with the board, Doug Turpin continued to voice concerns and he sent an email alleging a teacher at the school whose class one of their children was in was making comments in class that he disagreed with.

According to the lawsuit, the Turpins felt comments made by the teacher were “indoctrination on progressive ideology,” and claimed their child wasn’t even allowed to pull down their mask to drink water.

The teacher denied the claims and after the allegations, Baldecchi called the Turpins in for a meeting where he terminated their contracts with the school. The Turpins were told their children had to leave the school that day.

The Turpins filed a lawsuit in Mecklenburg County claiming: fraud, unfair and deceptive trade practices, negligent misrepresentation, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent retention and supervision, slander, libel, and breach of contract. The court dismissed eight of the nine claims and the Turpins eventually dismissed the ninth claim of breach of contract voluntarily.

He then followed this up by expelling our two children. This was done to send the message to any parents, students and faculty with concerns, that if you were to say anything he did not like, you would be next.

On Tuesday the Court of Appeals released a final opinion on the case which included three separate opinions, one from the majority of the court, another concurring opinion by one judge, and one dissenting opinion.

“Because I believe that allowing this case, in its current state, to advance further would severely undermine the fundamental right to freely contract in North Carolina, which is a bedrock principle of North Carolina law,” Judge John Arrowood wrote in his separate, concurring opinion.

Judge Julee Flood dissented from the majority opinion stating she believed the court dismissed the claims prematurely and would have remanded the case back to the lower court.

Channel 9 has reached out to Charlotte Latin Schools, as well as Turpin family, but has not heard back.

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Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.

Michael Praats

Michael Praats, wsoctv.com

Michael is an investigative producer for Channel 9.