Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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School districts sought a judgment declaring that the Governor and the State of Illinois, have a constitutional obligation to provide them with the funding necessary to meet or achieve the learning standards established by the Illinois State Board of Education. Plaintiffs asked the court to enter judgment for the necessary amounts and for the court to “[r]etain jurisdiction to enforce such schedule of payments.”The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The plaintiffs abandoned their claims against the State; the Governor is not a proper defendant because he does not have authority to grant the relief requested by the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs acknowledged that an appropriation of public funds may come only from the General Assembly. This case does not involve an actual controversy between the parties as required to grant declaratory relief. View "Cahokia Unit School District No. 187 v. Pritzker" on Justia Law

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In 2017, an arbitrator found that Western Illinois University violated its collective bargaining agreement with respect to layoffs. In 2018, the arbitrator entered a supplemental award, finding that the University failed to comply with the earlier award. The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board then found that the University committed an unfair labor practice in violation of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, 115 ILCS 5/14(a)(1), (8), by failing to comply with the two arbitration awards. The Act requires that public education employers arbitrate disputes arising under a collective bargaining agreement. Refusal to comply with the provisions of a binding arbitration award is an “unfair labor practice” under the Act. The appellate court vacated the Board’s decision.The Illinois Supreme Court agreed. An arbitrator in the public educational labor relations context exceeds his authority by reviewing a party’s compliance with his own award in contravention of the Act, which vests exclusive primary jurisdiction over arbitration awards with the Board. The Board may not limit the evidence it will consider in an unfair labor practice proceeding under the Act to the evidence before the arbitrator. Under the Act, arbitrators retain limited jurisdiction of the awards for the sole purpose of resolving remedial issues that may arise from the award itself. View "Western Illinois University v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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John was a student at the University of California, Davis when fellow student Jane reported that he engaged in nonconsensual sexual intercourse with her in violation of University policy. John agreed they had sex but said Jane consented. Following an investigation, UC Davis found that on the night the two had sex, Jane was incapacitated due to alcohol such that she was unable to consent and that, given her condition, a reasonable person should have known she was unable to consent. John was suspended from all UC campuses for two years.The court of appeal affirmed the denial of a writ of administrative mandate to set aside the suspension. The court rejected John’s claim that he was denied a fair process in UC Davis’s investigation and adjudication because he was denied a live hearing and an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses before a fact-finder who was not also the investigator. In university disciplinary proceedings involving allegations of sexual misconduct, when the sanction is severe and credibility is central to the adjudication, the university must provide cross-examination at a live hearing before a neutral adjudicator who was not also the investigator. In this case, however, credibility was not central. John’s own account provided substantial evidence of the policy violation. The investigation was thorough, there is no evidence of investigator bias, and John was provided many opportunities to state his version of events and to review and respond to the evidence. View "Doe v. The Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law

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John Doe was a senior at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), when fellow student Jane Roe reported that he engaged in dating violence against her in violation of University of California policy. John admitted that, after arguing with Jane for hours, he “grabbed her, screamed in her face and shook her” and “eventually dragged her out of the bed to the front door” of his home. Following an investigation, the university found John violated UC policy, and he was suspended for three years, resulting in a three-year hold of his degree and diploma.The court of appeal affirmed the denial of John’s petition for a writ of administrative mandate seeking to set aside the disciplinary decision and suspension. John’s written statement alone provided sufficient evidence to establish he engaged in dating violence, including that his conduct caused bodily injury. The court rejected John’s claims he was denied a fair process because the fact finder did not observe the witnesses and John was not allowed to cross-examine witnesses, UCSB withheld evidence from him during its investigation, and the review committee failed to follow its own policy requiring an independent review of the disciplinary decision. View "Doe v. The Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law

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An ALJ concluded that the school district had failed to provide the student, who has Prader-Willi Syndrome, with a free appropriate public education (20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(1)(A)) because she required “total food security” to obtain a meaningful educational benefit at school. The ALJ ordered the student’s placement at the educational center, which treats students with Prader-Willi Syndrome and provides total food security at the district’s expense. After the district failed either to appeal or to comply with the order, the student’s parent sought a stay-put order. The district court denied relief.The Ninth Circuit reversed. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) stay-put provision provides that while an administrative appeal or civil action filed by an “aggrieved” party is ongoing, the student must remain in her then-current educational placement. A “party aggrieved” includes a parent who is aggrieved by a school district’s failure to either appeal or comply with a final administrative order and who seeks court enforcement of that order. The district court incorrectly interpreted the ALJ order as providing alternative remedies, rather than an immediate transfer to the educational center, where the student was to remain, at the district’s expense, until the ALJ determined that a new individualized education plan addressed the perceived inadequacies in her prior setting. Under the appropriate analysis, the ALJ order changed the student’s legal placement to the educational center. Under the IDEA’s stay-put provision, this new placement must be made and maintained. View "S. C. v. Lincoln County School District" on Justia Law

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A majority of the taxable inhabitants of Highspire Borough, Pennslyvania (the “Coalition”) filed a petition seeking to be established as a school district independent from Steelton-Highspire School District (“SHSD”) for the sole purpose of having the new school district be absorbed into the neighboring Middletown Area School District (“MASD”). The Secretary of Education issued an opinion and order denying the transfer on the grounds that the academic benefits to be enjoyed by the transferring students did not outweigh the educational detriments imposed upon the students in the SHSD and MASD districts. In particular, the Secretary concluded that the transfer would undermine the financial stability of SHSD and put a strain on class size and facilities at MASD. On appeal, the Commonwealth Court reversed, taking issue with the Secretary’s consideration of finances and holding that the Secretary should have instead narrowly focused on the academic benefits that would be enjoyed by the transferring students. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded that in this case, the Secretary properly considered financial impacts and appropriately focused on the quality of education for the students in all of the school districts associated with the proposed transfer. The Court therefore reversed the order of the Commonwealth Court and remanded for further proceedings. View "In Re: Appeal for Formation of Independent SD" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing this appeal of a decision of the Ohio State Board of Education, holding that the state board's final determination that a charter school must repay approximately $60 million in excess funding could not be appealed under Ohio Rev. Code Chapter 119.In 2016, the Ohio Department of Education determined that the state had overpaid the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), formerly Ohio's largest charter school, approximately $60 million based on a review of the school's enrollment data. ECOT appealed under Ohio Rev. Code 3314.08(K)(2)(b), which allows a charter school to appeal such a decision to the board of education for an informal hearing. The state board confirmed the department of education's determination. At issue was whether ECOT could appeal the board of education's "final" decision where section 3314.08(K)(2)(d) provides that any decision made by the board on such an appeal is final. The Supreme Court concluded that ECOT had no right to appeal the decision under Ohio Rev. Code Chapter 119. View "Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow v. State Board of Education" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against University officials, alleging that the University's then-existing events policy was unconstitutional facially and as applied to them under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. In this case, after Students for a Conservative Voice (SCV) brought Ben Shapiro to speak at the University, officials rejected various proposed venues for the event, citing security concerns. Ultimately, the officials approved a smaller, more remote venue than what SCV had requested.The Eighth Circuit concluded that SCV's facial challenges and requests for injunctive relief are now moot and that plaintiffs lack standing to maintain their as-applied claim. The court explained that the University's "Large Scale Event Process" policy had been replaced with a new "Major Events" policy, which was more detailed and pertains to the entirety of the University's campus, and plaintiffs failed to show that it is "virtually certain" that the prior policy will be reenacted. In regard to plaintiffs' as-applied claim, they have failed to show that the policy was in fact applied to them. The court stated that the record reflects that the officials' decisions were independent of the Large Scale Event Process and made within the scope of each officials' position at the University, but plaintiffs' complaint presents no First Amendment challenge to the officials' actions apart from the application of the now repealed policy. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's orders with respect to those claims and remanded with instructions to dismiss without prejudice. View "Young America's Foundation v. Kaler" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment resolving a dispute with the school district concerning the "facilities costs" for which the district may properly charge the charter school.The court concluded that a district must exclude from the facilities costs it charges a charter school all costs of both operations and ongoing maintenance if the charter school pays those costs for its own premises. The court explained that, while the text of the regulations is ambiguous and, in part, self-contradictory, the regulatory history and the statutory scheme, as well as the common understanding of all parties prior to the trial court’s unsolicited ruling, make clear that the state board did not intend such a result. In this case, Cal. Code Regs., tit. 5, section 11969.7 requires a district to exclude plant maintenance and operations costs from its facilities costs in calculating the pro rata share of a charter school that pays for its own operations and maintenance. Furthermore, section 11969.7 requires a district to exclude from facilities costs any contributions to its ongoing and major maintenance (OMM) account that are ultimately disbursed to pay costs of a type paid by the charter school. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Mt. Diablo Unified School District v. Clayton Valley Charter High School" on Justia Law

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The South Carolina Supreme Court granted petitioners' request for a declaration with respect to Provisos 1.108 and 1.103 of the 2021-2022 Appropriations Act1 were invalid. Proviso 1.108 (enacted June 22, 2021,) was directed to the South Carolina Department of Education for South Carolina's kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) public schools, and banned face mask mandates at any of its education facilities. Proviso 1.103 permitted school districts to offer a virtual education program for up to five percent of its student population based on the most recent 135 day ADM [(average daily membership)]count without impacting any state funding. For every student participating in the virtual program above the five percent threshold, the school district would not receive 47.22% of the State per pupil funding provided to that district as reported in the latest Revenue and Fiscal Affairs revenue per pupil report pursuant to Proviso 1.3. Although the School District did not require its students to wear masks in its education facilities, it claimed Proviso 1.108 conflicted with local laws regarding mask requirements in schools and placed the School District in an untenable position. In addition, Petitioners claimed the School District reached the five percent cap for virtual enrollment and did not wish to risk losing state funds by exceeding the cap in Proviso 1.103. The School District asked for guidance on its options and obligations regarding face masks and virtual education. Petitioners contended: (1) Provisos 1.108 and 1.103 violate the one-subject rule of article III, section 17 of the South Carolina Constitution; (2) the plain language of Proviso 1.108 permitted the School District to implement and enforce mask mandates in its education facilities if the School District did so with funds not appropriated or authorized in the 2021-2022 Appropriations Act; (3) Provisos 1.108 and 1.103 improperly invade the authority of local school boards; and (4) Provisos 1.108 and 1.103 denied equal protection to students and violated their constitutional right to free public education. The Supreme Court held the provisos were constitutional, and rejected the remaining challenges to the validity of the provisos. View "Richland County School District 2 v. Lucas" on Justia Law