Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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Erick and his tenth-grade classmates attended an end-of-year party at a park. Erick told school aide Lopez that he was going to the park’s swimming pool, which was monitored by three lifeguards. Lopez did not enter the pool area but watched Erick from a designated observation area, as required by pool rules. Lopez allegedly knew that Erick had asthma and could not swim. Lopez saw Erick leave the pool and enter the locker area. He left the observation deck to wait for Erick at the locker room exit. Unbeknownst to Lopez, Erick returned to the pool. Five minutes later, Lopez began searching for Erick. He found lifeguards trying unsuccessfully to resuscitate Erick, who had drowned.Erick’s parents sued Lopez, the school district, and others for negligence and wrongful death, with a 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim for deprivation of familial relationship. The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. The Due Process Clause generally does not provide an affirmative right to government aid, but a state’s failure to protect may give rise to a section 1983 claim under the state-created danger exception, which applies when the state places the plaintiff in danger by acting with deliberate indifference to a known or obvious danger. The court applied a subjective standard; because the aide was unaware that Erick was in the pool area when he drowned, the defendants cannot be liable. View "Herrera v. Los Angeles Unified School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the school district for negligence and for breach of the mandatory duty to report suspected abuse under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA). The trial court granted the school district's motion for summary judgment.The Court of Appeal concluded, consistent with California negligence law, that school administrators have a duty to protect students from sexual abuse by school employees, even if the school does not have actual knowledge of a particular employee's history of committing, or propensity to commit, such abuse. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's order granting summary adjudication on plaintiff's negligence causes of action.The court also concluded that, as a matter of first impression, a plaintiff bringing a cause of action for breach of the mandatory duty to report suspected abuse under CANRA must prove it was objectively reasonable for a mandated reporter to suspect abuse based on the facts the reporter actually knew, not based on facts the reporter reasonably should have discovered. In this case, plaintiff did not create a triable issue of material fact regarding whether any of the school district's employees knew of facts from which a reasonable person in a like position could suspect abuse. Therefore, the court affirmed the trial court's order granting summary adjudication on plaintiff's CANRA cause of action. View "Doe v. Lawndale Elementary School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and her now-adult son K.S., a former high school student with a specific learning disability, filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), alleging that the school district neither provided K.S. with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) nor complied with procedural safeguards meant to ensure such.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision affirming two administrative decisions concluding that the school district did not violate the IDEA's substantive and procedural requirements. The court reviewed the voluminous record and the magistrate judge's thorough report that the district court adopted, discerning no reversible error in the district court's holding that: (1) the school district did not violate its obligation to identify and evaluate K.S. as a student with a suspected disability; (2) the individualized education programs and transition plan created for K.S. complied with IDEA's substantive requirements; and (3) the school district's procedural foot-faults in failing to include K.S. for the first manifestation determination review and failing to consider certain relevant information were not actionable. View "H v. Riesel Independent School District" on Justia Law

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Peyton Gifford and Mollie Gabaldon (“Parents”) filed a complaint as individuals, guardians ad litem for their son, and putative class representatives, alleging that the West Ada Joint School District #2 (“West Ada”) illegally charged tuition fees for the second half-day of kindergarten instruction. The district court dismissed Parents’ complaint for lack of standing because Parents did not pay the allegedly illegal fees. On appeal, the Idaho Supreme Court held that although the district court properly concluded that Parents lacked standing to pursue a claim based solely on an economic injury, it failed to consider whether Parents had standing to assert a second, discrete injury: loss of educational opportunity for their son. Accordingly, the Court concluded Parents had standing to pursue their educational claims. View "Gifford v. West Ada Joint School District #2" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a student with ADHD and disability-related behavioral issues, filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) alleging that the school district denied him equal access to a public education because of his disability. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to exhaust administrative procedures under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as required when a plaintiff seeks relief under other federal statutes for the denial of a free appropriate public education (FAPE).In 2020, the Ninth Circuit vacated the dismissal. The en banc court subsequently affirmed the dismissal, holding that exhaustion of the IDEA process was required because the gravamen of the complaint was the denial of a FAPE by failing to provide a one-on-one behavioral aide and related supportive services. The court analyzed two hypothetical questions: whether the plaintiff could have brought essentially the same claim if the alleged conduct had occurred at a non-school public facility, and whether an adult at the school could have pressed essentially the same grievance. A court also must consider the history of the proceedings, particularly whether the plaintiff has previously invoked the IDEA’s formal procedures to handle the dispute. The court rejected D.D.’s argument that he need not exhaust because he seeks compensatory damages for emotional distress, which is not available under the IDEA. The court declined to address whether D.D.’s settlement of the administrative proceedings equated to exhaustion or whether D.D.’s settlement rendered further exhaustion futile. View "D. D. v. Los Angeles Unified School District" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in this case centered on a determination of Appellant Manheim Township School District (“School District”) that one of its students, Appellee J.S., made terroristic threats to another student through social media – outside of the school day and off school property – substantially disrupting the school environment, and leading to his expulsion. The Supreme Court granted review to consider whether the School District denied J.S. due process during the expulsion process and to consider the proper standard by which to determine whether J.S. engaged in threatening speech unprotected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, or created a substantial disruption of the school environment. The Court determined J.S. did not engage in unprotected speech, and did not cause a substantial disruption to the school environment. Therefore, the Court concluded that the School District improperly expelled J.S., and affirmed the order of the Commonwealth Court. View "J.S., et al. v. Manheim Twp. SD" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants, Paula and Christopher LeRoy lost their 15-year-old son, Kennedy LeRoy, to suicide two days after finishing his sophomore year at Ayala High School in Chino. The LeRoys sued the Chino Valley Unified School District, Ayala’s principal, Diana Yarboi, and its assistant principal, Carlo Purther (collectively, Respondents). The LeRoys alleged Respondents were liable for Kennedy’s suicide because of their inadequate response to his complaints of bullying by his classmates. The trial court granted summary judgment for Respondents, and the LeRoys timely appealed. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded Respondents were statutorily immune from liability and therefore affirmed the judgment. View "Leroy v. Yarboi" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Christopher McVeigh sought a declaration that defendant, the Vermont School Boards Association (VSBA), was the functional equivalent of a public agency for purposes of the Vermont Public Records Act (PRA), and therefore had to comply with plaintiff’s request for copies of its records. The civil division concluded that the VSBA was not a public agency subject to the PRA and granted summary judgment in favor of the VSBA. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "McVeigh v. Vermont School Boards Association" on Justia Law

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“Jane Doe,” age 19, filed suit. She alleged in detail multiple acts of sexual harassment and sexual abuse, including rape, against her during several months when she was a student at a Fairfax County, Virginia middle school, and the school’s inaction to end the offensive conduct when it was ongoing. She claimed violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and other laws. She alleged that the defendants undoubtedly knew her identity from the extensive details included in the 40-page complaint. Nonetheless, the defendants filed motions to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff’s failure to provide her true name had deprived the court of subject-matter jurisdiction and that this jurisdictional flaw could no longer be remedied because the statute of limitations for the federal claims had lapsed days after Doe filed her complaint. The plaintiff then disclosed her true name to the court and requested that she be allowed to proceed under a pseudonym.The district court denied the defendants’ motions, and, because the sensitive nature of the allegations warranted “the utmost level of privacy,” it allowed the action to proceed pseudonymously. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. While the plaintiff had not adhered to FRCP 10(a), which requires that the title of a complaint include the names of all parties, that failure was immaterial to the court’s subject-matter jurisdiction. View "B.R. v. F.C.S.B." on Justia Law

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The plaintiff sued a school district for negligently supervising the fourth-grade teacher who molested her in 2010-2011. Before trial, the court admitted evidence that the woman had been sexually abused by someone else in 2013, reasoning that the evidence fell outside of the scope of Evidence Code sections 1106 and 7831 which regulate the admission of “the plaintiff’s sexual conduct” and that its probative value to contradict the plaintiff’s anticipated testimony attributing all of her emotional distress to the teacher’s molestation was not substantially outweighed by the danger of undue prejudice.The court of appeal dissolved a stay of proceedings and directed the trial court to either assess any prejudice flowing from the empaneled jury’s exposure to the mentioning of the 2013 incident during opening statements or begin the trial with a new jury. The term “plaintiff’s sexual conduct” in sections 1106 and 783 (and Code of Civil Procedure section 2017.220) encompasses sexual abuse to which a plaintiff has been involuntarily subjected as well as the plaintiff’s voluntary sexual conduct. Section 783 requires a trial court, after following certain procedures, to engage in a section 352 analysis identical to the one the trial court undertook. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the probative value of the subsequent sexual abuse was not outweighed by the danger of undue prejudice. View "Doe v. Superior Court" on Justia Law