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'Miscarriage of justice': Plaintiffs in Lincoln Memorial Academy lawsuit react to judge's dismissal

U.S. District Judge Charlene Honeywell dismissed the case on Dec. 30, describing the claims as 'shotgun pleadings' that were 'painfully confusing'

PALMETTO, Fla. — Former administrators of a defunct Manatee County Charter school say they are moving forward in their legal fight against the school district.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Lincoln Memorial Academy lawsuit have filed an appeal following the decision by a federal judge to dismiss their case.

In 2019, the Manatee County School District revoked the academy's charter for issues linked to financial impropriety and mismanagement.

After an administrative hearing, the state ruled in favor of the School Board stating it did the right thing by revoking the charter, which they said was also operating on a financial deficit.

The now-former leaders of Lincoln Memorial Academy then sued in 2020 claiming the school district discriminated against them when they revoked their charter.

But last month U.S. District Judge Charlene Honeywell dismissed the case, describing the claims as "shotgun pleadings" that were "painfully confusing."

Two of the plaintiffs, including the former CEO and principal of the charter school, said the judge's ruling was not based on the merits of the case but rather on the procedure and they want to be heard.

"When I first learned of the dismissal, it was disheartening," Eddie Hundley, the former CEO/Principal of  Lincoln Memorial Academy charter school, said. "I'm sad to say I wasn't completely surprised. This has been a long process and unfortunately, I am learning that it's about access and resources more so than facts and truth."

"It's a miscarriage of justice, because if the truth is in the documentation, and the fact that we presented, why not focus primarily on the truth," Juana Phillips, the former Registrar for the charter school, said.

Along with what they said were manufactured incidents and allegations as part of the premise for termination, the leaders said there were several instances of bias and discrimination against them compared to how other charter schools were treated.

"They did not come in and state that they are going to close them down," said Phillips, referencing the charter school she had worked for with similar financial challenges. "They did not come in and state that they're going to close that school down, they are still up and thriving and they're still in a hole."

"No other charter school principal is required to have a certificate, but they try to impose that on us," Hundley said. "The alleged financial troubles, the so-called lack of certification, these things are things that were imposed on us that no other school has to deal with."

Lawyers for the plaintiffs have filed an appeal on behalf of their clients who hoped this would breathe new life into their case and they would eventually be able to tell their side.

"It will be devastating if we never had the merits of the case heard because of technicalities and things that nature," Hundley said.

In a statement, the Manatee County School District said the judge's dismissal was "very much in alignment with all previous rulings on this case."

No date has been set to hear the appeal.

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