First Catholic Charter School Providing Access for Underserved Students Defended by Notre Dame Religious Liberty Clinic

Author: Notre Dame Law School

School Children

The Supreme Court of Oklahoma heard oral argument regarding Drummond v. Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board

Michael McGinley, of Dechert LLP, Argued for St. Isidore

(Tuesday, April 2, 2024) - Today, the Oklahoma Supreme Court heard argument in Drummond v. Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, a lawsuit in which Attorney General Gentner Drummond asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to block the State of Oklahoma from contracting with St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School to expand educational choices for families simply because the school is religious.

The Notre Dame Law School Religious Liberty Clinic represents St. Isidore, alongside a team of attorneys from Dechert LLP and Perri Dunn PLLC. Dechert partner and University of Notre Dame alumnus Michael McGinley argued the case on behalf of St. Isidore. John Meiser, director of Notre Dame’s Religious Liberty Clinic, and University of Notre Dame alumnus Michael Perri of Perri Dunn, also appeared on St. Isidore’s behalf at the hearing.

“St. Isidore’s mission to reach underserved families, rural communities, and children with special educational needs will strengthen learning opportunities for all,” said John Meiser, director of Notre Dame Law School’s Religious Liberty Clinic. “Oklahoma has created a program to support a diverse array of private educators who create innovative educational options like these. The Constitution is clear that the government may not exclude educators from this program — or deprive families the opportunity to attend a school like St. Isidore — solely because they are religious.”

“I am proud to work together with Notre Dame’s Religious Liberty Clinic to support St. Isidore’s mission to bring new educational resources to families across Oklahoma, regardless of their income or background,” said Michael McGinley of Dechert LLP, who argued the case. “We are hopeful that the Court will uphold St. Isidore’s fundamental right to serve its community through important programs like Oklahoma’s charter-school system.”

In 2023, the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board approved St. Isidore’s charter-school application and entered into a contract with St. Isidore, which will offer a faith-based educational option for families through Oklahoma’s virtual charter-school program. St. Isidore will offer a high-quality Catholic education to many families who currently lack that opportunity, especially families in Oklahoma’s many remote and rural areas who lack access to the diversity of schooling options available in other parts of the state.

Former Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor previously advised Oklahoma regulators that it would be unconstitutional to deny St. Isidore the opportunity to participate in the charter-school program merely because it is religious. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has publicly expressed support for O’Connor’s reading of the law. Drummond, O’Connor’s successor, however, now demands that his State enforce exactly the kind of discriminatory exclusion that Governor Stitt and former Attorney General O’Connor warned against.

“Oklahoma’s decision to welcome St. Isidore as the nation’s first religious charter school is a win for both school choice and religious freedom,” said Nicole Stelle Garnett, the John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law. “St. Isidore represents Oklahoma’s admirable commitment to ensuring educational pluralism and academic opportunity for all families. Expanding opportunities for those who are in most need is a hallmark of a fair and just society.”

“Every child in Oklahoma deserves to thrive in a school that best suits their individual needs. A core mission of Catholic education is to provide high-quality schooling options for all, so that every parent can find and choose the right learning environment for their own child,” said Michael Scaperlanda, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. “We founded St. Isidore to contribute to this mission of service to the whole community by providing a new opportunity for children who find traditional schooling options unable to meet their learning needs. We are excited to be preparing to serve our first students this Fall.”

“When we moved here six years ago, we searched for a Catholic school nearby. I was sad to learn the closest one was an hour and a half drive away,” said Christine Joy Stevens, a parent interested in sending her child to St. Isidore. “We drive 35 mins just to go to Mass every Sunday. This opportunity is such a blessing for our rural community, I hope that our child will have the opportunity to learn at St. Isidore.”

“Serving St. Isidore has been both an honor and a joy,” said student fellow Bernadette Shaughnessy. “I grew up in rural southwest Kansas and was unable to attend Catholic school, partly because of the expense and partly because of my location. It is an unbelievable privilege to help rural Oklahomans receive an affordable, quality education that will support their faith.”

The State Board’s decision to approve St. Isidore has drawn the support of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, Oklahoma’s Department of Education, and a number of other groups from around the country, including Liberty Justice Center, the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, and Seton Education Partners.

A decision in this case is expected sometime in 2024.

Read more about the range of the Notre Dame Religious Liberty Clinic’s work on our website.

About the Notre Dame Law School Religious Liberty Clinic

The Notre Dame Law School Religious Liberty Clinic represents individuals and organizations from all faith traditions to promote not only the freedom for people to hold religious beliefs but also their fundamental right to express those beliefs and to live according to them. Students in the clinic work under the guidance of Notre Dame Law School faculty and staff to provide advice, counsel, and advocacy on a broad array of matters related to religious freedom in the United States and abroad. The Religious Liberty Clinic has participated in proceedings at all levels of federal and state courts, in administrative agencies, and before foreign courts and other governmental bodies around the world.

Learn more about the Religious Liberty Clinic at