By HDN Editorial Board
The question of busing between the Havre and Cottonwood elementary school districts is both a question of legality and of ethics.
Cottonwood, in the opinion of Hill County District Attorney David Rice and, apparently, a 2000 District Court decision about busing between Colstrip and Lame Deer, is violating the law by picking up Havre students inside the Havre elementary school district.
The Havre School Board is now referring that question to the Hill County Transportation Committee. Either side could appeal the decision in court.
Havre is refusing to grant Cottonwood permission to pick up the students inside of Havre, although Cottonwood has given its blessing to the reverse, at least for the moment. Cottonwood has had an agreement on file since 1996 saying Havre can pick up any students inside the Cottonwood district that want to go to Havre.
The Havre district is unwilling to return the favor. Even though the Rocky Boy and Davey elementary districts also allow Havre to pick up students in their districts. Even though Havre allows KG Schools to pick up students.
The question is, what is best for the students? If some Havre students perform better in the nine-student environment at Cottonwood, why would Havre put roadblocks in their way?
The Cottonwood School Board has the option at any time to revoke its agreement allowing Havre to pick up Cottonwood students. After Havre's action, it will be interesting to see how much the board remains in favor of the agreement.
Why is Havre making it difficult for students to attend the country school they want to go to? An underlying issue may be whether large districts want the rural schools to continue operating at all.
While the Cottonwood school can remain open if only one student attends, this year two-thirds of its student body is coming from Havre. For a district the size of Havre, six students may not be much, but it is a multitude for Cottonwood.
The question is about ethics. Havre seems to have the law on its side in this issue. Cottonwood seems to have the high road.