Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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Before the arrival of the pandemic in 2020 “Student A” was experiencing an exceedingly difficult eighth-grade year at Notre Dame of De Pere Catholic Middle School. Her classmate, “Student B,” repeatedly and inappropriately targeted Student A with sexually suggestive harassment beginning in 2019. Student A’s mother filed suit on behalf of herself and her daughter, alleging Title IX violations by the school's operator (GRACE), with breach of contract and negligence claims under Wisconsin state law.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the Title IX claim. GRACE is subject to Title IX and had actual knowledge of the harassment but GRACE was not deliberately indifferent to the harassment. GRACE responded promptly and the complaint did not allege that the bullying persisted beyond January 2020, Student B was suspended for several days in December 2019. School officials offered to change Student A’s seat in class and facilitated an apology from Student B; the response was not “clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances.” While it is possible that a school’s dress code, culture, and response to bullying could exclude a student from educational benefits on the basis of her sex, the Plaintiffs did not plead facts to support an inference that GRACE excluded Student A because of her sex. View "Jauquet v. Green Bay Area Catholic Education, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit denied Plaintiff's motion for an injunction preventing the implementation of a plan promulgated by the Boston Public Schools for admitting students to Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy, and John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science for the 2021-2022 school year, holding that Plaintiff did not show it was not entitled to the injunction.Plaintiff, a corporation acting on behalf of fourteen parents and children residing in Boston, asserted that the 2021-2022 admissions plan violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 76, 5. The district court entered judgment in Defendants' favor. Plaintiff appealed and moved for an order under Fed. R. Civ. P. 62(d) enjoining Defendants from implementing the plan during the pendency of this appeal. The First Circuit denied the motion, holding that Plaintiff failed to show a strong likelihood that it would prevail on the merits. View "Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence Corp. v. School Committee of City of Boston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals with respect to Plaintiff's constitutional claims, holding that a state university's dismissal of a student for poor academic performance does not implicate a liberty or property interest protected by the Texas Constitution's guarantee of due course of law.Plaintiff was dismissed from Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law after one year due to his failure to maintain the required grade point average. Plaintiff brought this suit against the School, alleging breach of contract and deprivation of his property and liberty without due course of law. The trial court granted the School's plea to the jurisdiction invoking sovereign immunity. The court of appeals reversed in part, concluding that Plaintiff's procedural and substantive due course of law claims were viable. The Supreme Court reversed in part and rendered judgment dismissing the case, holding that an academic dismissal from higher education does not implicate a protected liberty interest. View "Texas Southern University v. Villarreal" on Justia Law

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Shulick, an attorney, owned and operated DVHS, a for-profit business that provided alternative education to at-risk students. The School District of Philadelphia contracted with DVHS to operate Southwest School for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years. DVHS was to provide six teachers at a cost of $45,000 each; benefits for the staff at a total cost of $170,000 annually; four security workers totaling $130,000 annually; and a trained counselor and two psychology externs totaling $110,000 annually. The agreement was not flexible as to budgeted items. Shulick failed to employ the required dedicated security personnel, hired fewer teachers, provided fewer benefits, and paid his educators far less than required. Shulick had represented to the District that he would spend $850,000 on salary and benefits annually but spent about $396,000 in 2010-11 and $356,000 in 2011-12. Shulick directed the unspent funds to co-conspirator Fattah, the son of a former U.S. Representative, to pay off liabilities incurred across Shulick’s business ventures, keeping a cut for himself.Shulick was convicted of conspiring with Fattah to embezzle from a program receiving federal funds (18 U.S.C. 371), embezzling funds from a federally funded program (18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(A)), bank fraud (18 U.S.C. 1344), making a false statement to a bank (18 U.S.C. 1014), and three counts of filing false tax returns (26 U.S.C. 7206(1)). The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments ranging from speedy trial violations to errors in evidentiary rulings, faulty jury instructions, and sentencing miscalculations. View "United States v. Shulick" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's Title IX claim against the Visitors of Virginia State University and his Fourteenth Amendment claims against a university administrator. Plaintiff's claims arose from an altercation with a former girlfriend in a VSU dormitory.The court adopted the Seventh Circuit's approach, which closely tracks the text of Title IX, asking merely "do the alleged facts, if true, raise a plausible inference that the university discriminated against [the student] on the basis of sex?" By adopting this approach, the court merely emphasized that the text of Title IX prohibits all discrimination on the basis of sex. The court clarified that inherent in this approach is a requirement that a Title IX plaintiff adequately plead causation—that is, a causal link between the student’s sex and the university’s challenged disciplinary proceeding. The court concluded that plaintiff's Title IX claim was properly dismissed where there is no plausible inference that plaintiff's gender was the but-for cause of his treatment under VSU's disciplinary proceedings. Likewise, plaintiff's equal protection claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 fails for largely the same reasons. In regard to plaintiff's due process claim under section 1983, the court concluded that the administrator is entitled to qualified immunity because there was no clearly established right to continued enrollment in higher education. View "Sheppard v. Visitors of Virginia State University" on Justia Law

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For years, a municipality issued, and sought reimbursement for, construction bonds that did not satisfy the equal payments requirement of Alaska's school debt reimbursement program, and the Department of Education and Early Development reimbursed the municipality. But when the municipality, after a several year absence, sought reimbursement for additional bonds that did not comply with the equal payments requirement, the Department denied the reimbursement. The municipality sought administrative review, and the Department’s commissioner upheld the decision. The municipality then appealed to the superior court and requested a trial de novo. The superior court denied the request for a trial de novo and affirmed the Department’s decision. The municipality then appealed both the Department’s and superior court’s decisions. Because neither the Department nor the superior court erred, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed their decisions. View "North Slope Borough v. Alaska Dept. of Education & Early Devel." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the college, alleging that it mishandled the sexual misconduct disciplinary process and committed other acts of deliberate indifference in the wake of the first of two assaults. Plaintiff seeks relief under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Minnesota common law.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the college on all of plaintiff's claims. In regard to the Title IX claim, the court concluded that, on the record, it cannot say that a reasonable jury would conclude that the college's response to the sexual assault by Student One amounted to deliberate indifference. Although the court noted that the college could have been more inclusive during the sexual assault complaint and more attentive to plaintiff in the aftermath, the court agreed with the district court that permitting a meeting between plaintiff and Student One to take place, after the sexual assault proceedings had concluded, was not an act of deliberate indifference. Even if it was, it is far from clear that requiring plaintiff to attend the meeting would have violated Title IX. The court also concluded that, even assuming that track posters of Student One on campus qualify as sexual harassment for purposes of Title IX liability, the record evidence fails to support a finding that not removing the posters amounted to deliberate indifference. Finally, the evidence does not show that the college's conduct in the wake of plaintiff's complaint concerning Student Two was clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances. In regard to the ADA and Section 504 claims, the court concluded that nothing in the record suggests that the college denied plaintiff reasonable accommodations as she endeavored to finish her degree while struggling with challenges to her mental health brought on by the sexual assaults. View "Shank v. Carleton College" on Justia Law

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Meriwether, a Shawnee State University professor, is a devout Christian. In 2016, Shawnee told faculty to refer to students by their preferred pronouns. Meriwether’s department chair was dismissive of Meriwether’s concerns and religious beliefs. In 2018, Meriwether called on “Doe,” saying "Yes, sir." According to Meriwether, “no one . . . would have assumed that [Doe] was female.” Doe demanded that Meriwether “refer to [Doe] as a woman.” Meriwether believed that his sincerely-held religious beliefs prevented him from communicating messages about gender identity that he believes to be false. Doe became threatening. Meriwether reported the incident. Meriwether was advised to “eliminate all sex-based references.” Meriwether later accidentally referred to Doe as “Mr.” before immediately correcting himself. Doe again complained. Meriwether subsequently used only Doe’s last name, and awarded Doe a high grade. Meriwether continued to seek accommodation of his religious views; Shawnee would not compromise. The Title IX office concluded that Meriwether created a hostile environment without mentioning Meriwether’s religious beliefs. Shawnee placed a warning in Meriwether’s file. The faculty union filed an unsuccessful grievance.The Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal of Meriwether’s suit. Meriwether has plausibly alleged that Shawnee violated his First Amendment rights by compelling his speech or silence and casting a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom. Meriwether was speaking on a matter of public concern; Shawnee’s interest in punishing Meriwether’s speech is comparatively weak. Shawnee exhibited hostility to his religious beliefs and irregularities in its adjudication and investigation processes permit a plausible inference of non-neutrality. View "Meriwether v. Hartop" on Justia Law

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Vollono served on active duty in the Navy, 1996-1997 and 2001-2005. Vollono’s second stint was compulsory as a condition of his Naval Academy education. Vollono used chapter 30 Montgomery G.I. Bill educational benefits to pursue post-graduate education, 38 U.S.C. 3001, 3011. In 2009, the VA notified Vollono that he might be eligible for chapter 33 Post-9/11 G.I. Bill educational assistance. Vollono was mistakenly found eligible and elected to receive Post-9/11 benefits in lieu of Montgomery benefits to complete post-graduate education. In 2011, the VA regional office (RO) notified Vollono that he had erroneously received $60,507.08 in benefits, because his post-9/11 service was obligatory, precluding his eligibility for such benefits. The VA did not recoup the benefits. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals and Veterans Court affirmed the decision.The Board found that Vollono did not waive entitlement to Montgomery benefits; the RO found Vollono eligible for $29,107 in Montgomery benefits for completing his studies but found that it could not release payment of these funds that would be duplicative of his previous receipt of Post-9/11 benefits. The Board agreed, reasoning that 38 C.F.R. 21.7143(a) and 38 U.S.C. 3033 preclude the payment of duplicative educational benefits regardless of current eligibility. The Veterans Court and Federal Circuit affirmed. Awarding Montgomery benefits to Vollono would “lead to an absurd result of placing the appellant in a better position than that of those worthy veterans who were actually eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.” View "Vollono v. McDonough" on Justia Law

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Theta Xi challenges the decision by USC to suspend recognition of the fraternity's USC chapter for six years. The sanction stemmed from the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards' (SJACS) conclusion that Theta Xi had violated nine sections of the University Student Conduct Code, including sections prohibiting hazing and the serving of alcohol to anyone under 21. Theta Xi filed a petition for a writ of administrative mandamus against USC and others under Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5, alleging that USC's suspension decision should be set aside. The trial court denied the petition.The Court of Appeal affirmed and concluded that Theta Xi has not shown that USC violated its limitations policy and, even assuming the limitations policy restricted USC's jurisdiction, Theta Xi has not shown that USC acted in excess of its jurisdiction in suspending its recognition of Theta Xi's USC chapter. The court also concluded that USC's decision to suspend its recognition of Theta Xi's local chapter did not substantially affect any vested fundamental right held by Theta Xi. Therefore, the trial court properly declined to exercise its independent judgment in reviewing the evidentiary support for SJACS's factual findings, and properly applied the substantial evidence standard instead. The court further concluded that substantial evidence supported SJAC's alcohol-related findings and other challenged findings. In this case, SJACS's factual findings adequately supported USC's decision to suspend its recognition of Theta Xi's local chapter for six years. Finally, the court concluded that Theta Xi received a fair administrative hearing. View "Alpha Nu Association of Theta Xi v. University of Southern California" on Justia Law