Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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Between 2010 and 2012, the Board of Education of School District No. 1 (“DPS Board”) approved and implemented innovation plans at eleven schools under the Innovation Schools Act of 2008 (“ISA”). Most of these schools were created to replace failing schools within the Denver Public Schools District (“DPS”). All of the schools were “new,” in that they had not previously been opened as non-innovation schools and had new names, new identification numbers, and employed only a principal and, in some cases, one or two other administrative employees, but had no students, teachers, or other employees at the time their innovation plans were approved. This case presented an issue for the Supreme Court’s review of whether the ISA precluded a local school board from approving an innovation plan submitted by a “new” innovation school. The Court held that the ISA did not preclude approval of innovation plans from such “new” innovation schools. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded for further proceedings. View "Denver School Dist. v. Denver Classroom Teachers Ass'n" on Justia Law

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CFPB filed a petition to enforce a civil investigative demand, seeking information relating to unlawful acts and practices in connection with accrediting for-profit colleges. The district court denied the petition. The court affirmed, concluding that the civil investigative demand (CID) did not comply with the governing statute, 12 U.S.C. 5562(c)(2). In this case, pursuant to section 5562(c)(2), the CID failed to advise ACICS of the nature of the conduct constituting the alleged violation which is under investigation and the provision of law applicable to such violation. View "CFPB v. Accrediting Council For Independent Colleges and Schools" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs bought this lawsuit against the Fairfax County School Board seeking declaratory judgment and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief for the allegedly unlawful expansion of the school board’s non-discrimination and student code of conduct policies. Plaintiffs included Jack Doe, a student at a public high school, who brought suit by and through his parents as next friends, and Andrea Lafferty, a citizen, taxpayer, and resident of Fairfax County. Jack Doe’s parents were citizens, taxpayers, and residents of Fairfax County. The Board filed a motion to dismiss and demurrer, arguing that Plaintiffs lacked standing. The circuit court dismissed without leave to amend, concluding (1) Andrea Lafferty and the Does individually lacked taxpayer standing, and (2) Jack Doe lacked standing because his disappointment with or anxiety or confusion over the school board’s action did not constitute a case or controversy or an adjudication of a right. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the parties failed to allege an actual controversy sufficient to bring a declaratory judgment, and therefore, they likewise may not recover the injunctive relief requested therein. View "Lafferty v. School Board of Fairfax County" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a dispute over which California government entity would be responsible for funding the education of K.G. pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400(d)(1)(A). The School District contended that the district court erred in granting K.G. relief from its original judgment denying attorneys' fees. The court concluded that the district court did not apply the incorrect legal rule in evaluating whether to grant relief pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1) where the district court's determination that K.G.'s delay in pursuing Rule 60(b) relief was understandable in light of the original attorney's poor mental and physical health; K.G. was the prevailing party entitled to attorney fees because K.G.'s prayer was answered in full when the ALJ designated the School District as the responsible agency and granted K.G.'s requested relief; K.G. qualified as a prevailing party under the IDEA, and this victory was not trivial or merely technical; but it was not clear from the district court's award that it took into account forgoing considerations in reducing the fees originally requested. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "Irvine Unified School District v. K.G." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Dartmouth Corporation of Alpha Delta (Alpha Delta) appealed a Superior Court order affirming a Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) decision in favor of defendant Town of Hanover (Town). The ZBA determined that the use of Alpha Delta’s property at 9 East Wheelock Street (the property) violated the Town’s zoning ordinance. Alpha Delta has been a fraternity for students at Dartmouth College (College) since the 1840s. In 1931, the Town enacted its first zoning ordinance. At that time, Alpha Delta’s property was located in the “Educational District” in which an “[e]ducational use, or dormitory . . . incidental to and controlled by an educational institution” was permitted as of right. Between 1931 and the mid- 1970s, the property was located in various zoning districts where its use by Alpha Delta as a fraternity was allowed as of right. In 1976, the Town enacted its current zoning ordinance, under which the property was located within the “Institution” district. A student residence in the Institution district was allowed only by special exception. In 2015, the College notified Alpha Delta by letter that, due to the fraternity’s violation of the school’s standards of conduct, it had revoked recognition of the fraternity as a student organization. “Derecognition” revoked certain privileges, pertinent here was recognition as a ‘college approved’ residential facility; and use of College facilities or resources. The College notified Alpha Delta that it would be removed from the College’s rooming system under which student room rents are paid through the College, and would no longer be under the jurisdiction or protection of the College’s department of safety and security. Furthermore, the College notified the Town that Alpha Delta no longer had a relationship with Dartmouth College, and notified Alpha Delta that it was the College’s “understanding that under the Town zoning ordinance no more than three unrelated people will be allowed to reside on the property.” The Town’s zoning administrator subsequently notified Alpha Delta by letter that use of the property violated the zoning ordinance. Alpha Delta appealed, but finding none of its arguments availing, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Dartmouth Corp. of Alpha Delta v. Town of Hanover" on Justia Law

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Defendants were members of the Birmingham Board of Education and the superintendent of the Birmingham City School System. Defendants appealed the circuit court’s judgment in favor of twenty-four "classified employees" of the Birmingham Board of Education ("the plaintiffs"). The trial court held that the plaintiffs' salaries had been miscalculated and awarded them monetary relief. The defendants argued, among other things, that they were entitled to immunity from the plaintiffs' claims. The Supreme Court agreed that the defendants were entitled to immunity. For that reason, the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction, and its judgment was void. Accordingly, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. View "Woodfin v. Bender" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, parents of a student at the District, filed suit alleging claims that the District violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. Plaintiffs argued that the district court misapplied the statute of limitations in 20 U.S.C. 1415(f)(3)(C) to their claims that the District failed to identify their child's disability or assess him for autism in 2006 and 2007. The court concluded, as a question of first impression, that the IDEA's statute of limitations requires courts to bar only claims brought more than two years after the parents or local educational agency "knew or should have known" about the actions forming the basis of the complaint. In this case, the district court barred all claims "occurring" more than two years before plaintiffs filed their due process complaint. Therefore, the court remanded so that the district court could determine when plaintiffs knew or should have known about the actions forming the basis of their complaint. View "Avila v. Spokane School District 81" on Justia Law

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Marian Catholic High School subjects its students to random drug tests. Although it is run by the Archdiocese of Chicago, it receives federal funds for this program. Students who test positive for illegal drugs are subject to sanctions, ranging from counseling to expulsion. Plaintiffs are Marian students who received false positive results in the tests. Six are African-American; one is white. Their suit, alleging that the drug-testing program is run in a way that discriminates on the basis of race in violation of the Constitution and federal statutes, was dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The complaint did not allege that hair testing had a racially disproportionate impact, either because of anything identifiable about different hair types, or because of differences in technology used or sample processing. It did not allege that the laboratory knew the race of the person whose hair it was testing. With respect to the 42 U.S.C. 1983 count against the guidance counselor who ran the program, the court found nothing indicating that she was a state actor. The fact that the school receives federal funds did not transform the school or its employees into state actors. The claims under 42 U.S.C. 1981 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 failed for lack of allegations of intentional discrimination by the guidance counselor. View "L.P. v. Marian Catholic High School" on Justia Law

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Monica Pompeo, a student in a graduate-level course at the University of New Mexico (“UNM”), claimed that UNM officials retaliated against her in violation of her free speech rights because they disagreed with viewpoints she expressed in an assigned class paper. In "Axson-Flynn v. Johnson," (356 F.3d 1277 (10th Cir. 2004)), the Tenth Circuit held courts may not override an educator’s decision in the school-sponsored speech context “unless it is such a substantial departure from accepted academic norms as to demonstrate that the person or committee responsible did not actually exercise professional judgment” and instead used “the proffered goal or methodology [as] a sham pretext for an impermissible ulterior motive.” Here, Pompeo asked the Tenth Circuit to draw an analogy between the religious discrimination at issue in "Axson-Flynn" and the viewpoint discrimination she complained of in this case. "Yet our court has specifically held that precedent 'allows educators to make viewpoint-based decisions about school-sponsored speech' and may restrict speech they believe contains 'inflammatory and divisive statements.'" Finding no reversible error in the district court's grant of summary judgment to UNM, the Tenth Circuit affirmed dismissal of Pompeo's case. View "Pompeo v. Board of Regents" on Justia Law

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M.C. filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400(d)(1)(A), alleging that the district violated the IDEA by (1) failing to adequately document the services provided by a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI), (2) failing to specify the assistive technology (AT) devices provided, and (3) failing to file a response to the due process complaint. The court concluded that the district's failure to adequately document the TVI services and AT devices offered to M.C. violated the IDEA and denied M.C. a free appropriate public education (FAPE); these procedural violations deprived M.C.'s mother of her right to participate in the individualized education program (IEP) process and made it impossible for her to enforce the IEP and evaluate whether the services M.C. received were adequate; and, at the very least, plaintiffs were entitled to have the district draft a proper IEP and receive compensatory education he would have occupied but for the school's violations of the IDEA. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment and remanded. View "M.C. v. Antelope Valley Union High School District" on Justia Law