The Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling that the Oregon Career & Technology Center did not violate the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act as contended by 12 students enrolled in the center’s Green Energy Program.
The students filed a lawsuit in December 2009 against the center, alleging its Green Energy, Electrical & Environmental Specialist adult education program was fraught with poor facilities, incompetent instructors, lack of instruction on promised curriculum, a lack of hands-on training, and there was no job shadowing as promised.
The lawsuit claimed a breach of contract, fraud, negligence and violations of the state’s consumer sales practices act on the grounds the center failed to provide the promised education as outlined in brochures and the student handbook.
The students were enrolled in the first class that ran from July to December 2009.
The appeals court ruling upholds an April 2011 decision by the Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
The center argued it was protected by the state’s sovereign immunity law because it was not a separate legal entity from the Oregon Board of Education.
Steven Bialorucki, director of the Career Technical and Adult Education program, also testified the center was accredited by the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation for School Improvement.
Attorneys for the students argued they weren’t filing an educational malpractice claim and therefore the center wasn’t immune from the consumer practices act because adult education is a proprietary governmental function. But the common pleas court granted summary judgment to the center, ruling the claim of negligence was a claim of educational malpractice, which isn’t a cognizable claim under Ohio law.
The court also held that claims of fraud and violation of the consumer sales practices act are barred by sovereign immunity.
Whether or not there was a contract between the school board and the center also was an issue in the lawsuit as state law holds that a contract isn’t binding on a board unless it is made or authorized during a regular or special board meeting.
Bialorucki testified the school board never expressly approved the marketing material or course syllabus during such a meeting.
The Lucas County Workforce Development Agency, under the auspices of the county board of commissioners, had initially sought proposals from schools to provide training for jobs in the fields of health care, construction, and green energy.
The requests for proposals delineated the specific requirements of the programs.
In May 2009, the Oregon school board voted to submit a response to the proposal and resolved if it was awarded, the Adult Workforce Development department would be responsible for fulfilling the contract.
The center also argued the contract under the request for proposal was actually issued to Owens Community College.
The appeals court agreed with the students that the center could also have been awarded a contract as well and had approved the green energy program but ruled the burden was on them to “use the rules of discovery to ferret out the truth.”
“Having concluded that the trial court did not err in finding that the appellants failed to establish a contract existed in this case, we need not address the issue of whether appellants’ established a breach of contract as this issue is now moot,” the appeals court ruled.