Parents suing Charlotte private school over ‘political’ shift make case to NC Appeals Court

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  • Parents of two students expelled from the Charlotte Latin private school are asking the N.C. Court of Appeals to revive their lawsuit against the school. The parents complain about a "political" shift at the school in 2021.
  • As the case proceeds at the state's second-highest court, the parents have asked the N.C. Supreme Court to take up the dispute.
  • Charlotte Latin has argued that the case is a contractual dispute. The school says the parents are objecting to the school's "diversity, equity, and inclusion" measures.

Parents of two students expelled from the Charlotte Latin private school in 2021 hope the N.C. Court of Appeals will revive their lawsuit against the school. The parents accuse school leaders of fraud, unfair and deceptive trade practices, slander, breach of contract, and other offenses.

As the case moves forward at the Appeals Court, the parents also have filed paperwork asking the N.C. Supreme Court to take up the dispute. In documents filed last month, the school characterized the lawsuit as a challenge to Charlotte Latin’s “diversity, equity, and inclusion” measures.

The legal fight stems from the parents’ concern about a shift toward a “political culture and curriculum” at the school in the 2020-21 academic year.

“Charlotte Latin School encouraged open, frank communication between administrators and parents,” according to a brief the parents’ lawyers filed Monday. “So when Doug and Nicole Turpin perceived that the school had departed drastically from its long-held values, they brought it up. Acting with a larger group of parents and calling themselves ‘Refocus Latin,’ the Turpins and others gave a detailed presentation to Latin’s Board of Trustees identifying their concerns and proposing concrete solutions. Both before and during the presentation, the Board assured Refocus Latin and the Turpins that their participation would not create blowback. Latin wouldn’t retaliate. The Board even appeared thankful for the Turpins’ input.”

“But Latin’s Head of School, Charles Baldecchi, did not feel the same way,” the brief continued. “In the weeks after the meeting, Baldecchi railed against the Refocus Latin presentation, calling it a lost cause and telling faculty and staff that the Turpins’ views were abhorrent. Baldecchi set out to stop the Refocus Latin families, instructing the faculty to bring him any complaints about the school’s values.”

Doug Turpin later complained to the school that his son “had been mistreated and exposed
to inappropriate things in his sixth-grade class,” according to the brief. That complaint eventually led to the expulsion of both Turpin children. “Following the expulsion, both
Baldecchi and Latin’s Board defamed the Turpins.“

The parents sued the school in April 2022. A trial judge dismissed all but one claim in October 2022. The Turpins are urging the state’s second-highest court to reverse the trial court’s decision.

The 52-page brief details the Turpins’ concerns about the school.

“Through the 2019–2020 school year, the school provided a traditional, apolitical education that respected differing views,” according to the brief. “But in the 2020–2021 school year the Turpins perceived a shift in Latin’s culture and curriculum. Along with others, they perceived that in the 2020–2021 school year, Latin adopted a political culture and curriculum, which required students to read inappropriate or political materials and resulted in students being asked inappropriate and politically charged questions.”

The Refocus Latin group shared its concerns about the school, as explained in the brief. “One concern in particular predominated: if Latin continued on its perceived course, leaving its ‘old’ standards behind, the change in culture and curriculum could eventually harm Latin.”

“Refocus Latin worried that Latin’s current trajectory would ‘eventually erode[ ] the quality of student, quality of curriculum, quality of teacher and the academic rigor at the school,’” the brief continued. “The parents also worried that Latin would suffer because some changes in Latin’s culture and curriculum were ‘superseding optimizing evaluations for admitting [the] most qualified students and hiring [the] most qualified faculty.’”

Baldecchi misrepresented the Refocus group’s concerns, the Turpins’ lawyers wrote. “According to Baldecchi, Refocus Latin believed that Latin ‘accepts students and hires faculty because of their color’ and that those students and faculty were ‘not up to the merit of the school.’ Neither statement resembled Refocus Latin’s concerns, which addressed only the potential for negative consequences if Latin retained what the Refocus Latin parents believed was a political culture and curriculum.”

Charlotte Latin will have a chance to respond to the Turpins’ accusations before the case heads to a three-judge Appeals Court panel.

Meanwhile, it’s not clear whether the state Supreme Court will step in and take the case away from the intermediate court. The Turpins filed a petition in March urging a high court review. Charlotte Latin responded in April that there is no compelling reason for the Supreme Court to take up what the school describes as a contractual dispute.

The N.C. Association of Independent Schools and the Southern Association of Independent Schools have filed paperwork at the Appeals Court supporting Charlotte Latin.