Outside counsel delivers report on school sovereignty question

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Dunwoody City Council members requested the report after raising concerns about portable classrooms at several local schools.

Dunwoody, GA – October 28, 2019 – The outside attorney hired by the City of Dunwoody to review the powers of Georgia cities, counties and local school districts regarding school construction, maintenance and repairs has delivered his report, known as a “white paper.”

“It is my opinion that the City does not have the authority to directly compel a local school system to comply with its local ordinances,” wrote William A. White, a partner with Smith Welch Webb and White Attorneys at Law, in a letter to William Riley, Assistant City Attorney with the City of Dunwoody.

In his review of relevant Constitutional provisions, statutes and regulatory schemes, Mr. White found that “significant discretion is vested in local school districts (acting through local boards of education) as it relates to the construction, maintenance and repair of local school facilities.”

The City of Dunwoody requested Mr. White’s review in August, after City Council members voted unanimouslyto seek an outside legal opinion on the question of school board sovereignty. The question stemmed from concerns over tree loss and the placement and condition of portable classrooms at several DeKalb County schools within the city limits.

Mr. White and his law firm were chosen based on their extensive experience representing cities and boards of education in Georgia. They’ve represented cities in litigation and have negotiated the interplay between powers of separate sovereigns.

“Local boards of education have nearly limitless powers to manage the affairs of their school districts without interference from other branches of government,” Mr. White wrote in his report. “This is the case even in the realm of the construction, maintenance, and repair of local school facilities.”

Mr. White’s analysis finds less authority for the City to enforce ordinances than prior analysis from the City Attorney. Currently, the City of Dunwoody enforces city codes related to land disturbance issues and fire safety at DeKalb County schools. The City recently revoked a memorandum of understanding that gave the schooldistrict the ability to use a third-party professional engineer to review site plans.

Please see attached for the 5-page white paper.

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For more information regarding the City of Dunwoody, please contact Jennifer Boettcher, Communications Director: 678.382.6881, Jennifer.Boettcher@dunwoodyga.gov.

Dunwoody citizens share their thoughts in 3…2…

“Its so disappointing when the attorney you hire tells you exactly what you don’t want to hear.”

“Just tell us straight out, are we keeping the Senior Vaping Courtyard or not?”

“First this, and now rain projected for Halloween. It’s a one-two punch for our kids this week.”

“Who would have thought giving a governing body near limitless power could backfire one day”