Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries
Yerba Buena Neighborhood Consortium, LLC v. Regents of the University of California
UCSF's 107-acre Parnassus Heights campus currently accommodates two hospitals, various medical clinics, four professional schools, a graduate program, and space for research, student housing, parking, and other support uses. In 2014, UCSF prepared a long-range development plan for its multiple sites around San Francisco, to accommodate most of UCSF’s growth at the Mission Bay campus. There were concerns that the Parnassus campus was overwhelming its neighborhood. In 2020, UCSF undertook a new plan for the Parnassus campus with multiple new buildings and infrastructure resulting in a 50 percent net increase in building space over 30 years.An environmental impact report (EIR) was prepared for the Plan's initial phase (California Environmental Quality Act, Pub. Resources Code 21000, identifying as significant, unavoidable adverse impacts: wind hazards, increased air pollutants, the demolition of historically significant structures, and increased ambient noise levels during construction.The court of appeal affirmed the rejection of challenges to the EIR. The EIR considers a reasonable range of alternatives and need not consider in detail an alternative that placed some anticipated development off campus. The EIR improperly declines to analyze the impact on public transit, but the error is not prejudicial. The aesthetic effects of an “employment center project on an infill site within a transit priority area” are deemed not significant. The EIR is not required to adopt a mitigation measure preserving certain historically significant buildings and its mitigation measure for wind impacts is adequate. View "Yerba Buena Neighborhood Consortium, LLC v. Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law
Elijah Wells v. Creighton Preparatory School
Creighton Preparatory School expelled Plaintiff after he made lewd remarks about a teacher. Plaintiff sued Creighton under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 on the theory that the school had discriminated against him by failing to perform an “adequate and impartial investigation.” The district court granted Creighton’s motion to dismiss. It first dismissed the Title IX claim because Plaintiff had failed to “allege [that] his sex played any part in the disciplinary process at all.” Then, with the federal question gone, it declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s breach-of-contract claim.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Plaintiff does not allege that Creighton faced external pressure to punish male students, much less gave in by expelling him. The court reasoned that without an allegation of that kind, the complaint fails to plausibly allege the sort of “causal connection between the flawed outcome and gender bias” required to make an erroneous outcome theory work.Further, the court wrote that treating men and women differently can support an inference of sex discrimination, but it requires identifying a similarly situated member of the opposite sex who has been “treated more favorably.” For Plaintiff, he had to find “a female accused of sexual harassment” who received better treatment. There are no female students at Creighton, an all-boys school, let alone any who have faced sexual-misconduct allegations. The court explained that to the extent that Plaintiff argues that believing them over him raises an inference of discrimination, there is nothing alleged that the school did so because of his sex. View "Elijah Wells v. Creighton Preparatory School" on Justia Law
Shaw v. L.A. Unified School Dist.
Plaintiffs alleged that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Defendants Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD or the District) and its then Superintendent adopted distance-learning policies that discriminated against poor students and students of color in violation of the California Constitution. Plaintiffs rest their challenge on various side letter contract agreements between LAUSD and the teacher’s union, Defendant United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), which Plaintiffs contend implemented the distance-learning framework established by the Legislature in a discriminatory fashion. However, the District has returned to in-person instruction, and both the side letter agreements and the statutory framework that authorized them have expired. Nevertheless, Plaintiffs continue to seek injunctive relief to remedy what they contend are ongoing harms caused by the allegedly unconstitutional policies. The trial court sustained, with leave to amend, LAUSD’s demurrer on mootness grounds and granted, with leave to amend, its motion to strike the prayer for relief, reasoning that the requested remedies would not be manageable on a class-wide basis. The Second Appellate District reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded with instructions. The court held that the trial court prematurely struck the prayer for relief at the pleading stage, notwithstanding the end of distance learning. Because Plaintiffs propose a seemingly viable remedy for the past and continuing harms they allege, their constitutional claims are not moot. The court wrote that the constitutionality of expired policies is measured by reference to the statewide standards that existed when the policies were in effect. Accordingly, the trial court erred by sustaining LAUSD’s demurrer to the eighth cause of action on mootness grounds. View "Shaw v. L.A. Unified School Dist." on Justia Law
Brinsmead v. Elk Grove Unified Sch. Dist.
In January 2020, after waiting 40 minutes for a school bus that never came, 16-year-old G. got picked up from the bus stop by a friend whom she had texted. During their ride to school, the friend’s car was hit head on by another driver, causing G. to suffer fatal injuries. G.’s parents sued the school district, a board member of the school district, and school district employees (collectively, the district) for wrongful death. The parents alleged the district was liable because it breached its duty to timely retrieve G. from the designated school bus stop, to provide notice of and instructions regarding delayed buses, and to provide a reasonably safe and reliable bus system. The district demurred asserting immunity under Education Code section 44808. The trial court sustained the demurrer to the parents’ first amended complaint without leave to amend and entered a judgment of dismissal. The Court of Appeal concluded the parents pleaded sufficient facts to fall outside section 44808 immunity for purposes of demurrer and reversed. View "Brinsmead v. Elk Grove Unified Sch. Dist." on Justia Law
Biggs v. Chicago Board of Education
Biggs served as interim principal of Burke Elementary School on an at-will basis. Under the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Transportation Policy, no CPS school employee may drive a student in a personal vehicle without written consent from the school’s principal and the student’s legal guardian. The principal must retain copies of the driver's license and insurance documentation. An investigation revealed that for many years, Biggs had directed her subordinates to mark late students as tardy, rather than absent, regardless of how many instructional minutes they received in a day, which likely skewed Burke’s attendance data. Biggs admitted that she had ordered Burke employees to pick up students in personal vehicles without written parental consent and did not keep copies of the drivers’ licenses or insurance documentation. Biggs was fired and designated Do Not Hire. The designation does not necessarily prevent the employee from being hired at a non-CPS school. It was disclosed at community meetings that Biggs’s firing was “about integrity” and a redacted copy of the report was read aloud.Biggs sued, 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging deprivation of her liberty to pursue her occupation without due process, citing "stigmatizing public statements" in connection with her termination. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of the suit. No reasonable jury could find that Biggs had suffered a tangible loss of employment opportunities within her occupation; she experienced nothing more than the customary difficulties and delays that individuals encounter when looking for a new job, especially after being fired. View "Biggs v. Chicago Board of Education" on Justia Law
John Doe v. University of Iowa
The University of Iowa expelled graduate student John Doe after investigating two accusations of sexual misconduct brought against him by different complainants. The Iowa Board of Regents affirmed the decision. Doe sued the University and University officials, claiming, in part, discrimination on the basis of sex under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. Section 1681(a), and procedural due process violations, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. The district court granted qualified immunity to the University officials, dismissed the procedural due process claims against them, and granted the University summary judgment on the remaining claims. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that it is not convinced that institutional efforts to prevent sexual misconduct on campus, including educational programs that challenge students to evaluate the impact of gender norms on rape culture, amount to evidence of external pressure on the University that supports an inference of bias. The court held that Doe failed to provide “sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable jury to find that [the University] disciplined him on the basis of sex.” Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on Doe’s Title IX claim. Further, the court explained that the University provided adequate notice of the charges. Therefore, the court wrote that because Doe failed to show the University officials’ conduct violated his federal rights, it affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Doe’s claims against the University officials. View "John Doe v. University of Iowa" on Justia Law
FELLOWSHIP OF CHRISTIAN ATHLETES, ET AL V. SAN JOSE UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATIO, ET AL
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), is a ministry group formed for student-athletes to engage in various activities through their shared Christian faith. FCA holds certain core religious beliefs, including a belief that sexual intimacy is designed only to be expressed within the confines of a marriage between one man and one woman. The San Jose Unified School District (District) revoked FCA’s status as an official student club on multiple campuses for violation of the District’s nondiscrimination policies. FCA filed a motion for a preliminary injunction for violation of FCA’s First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion and free speech and directed the district court to enter an order reinstating FCA’s recognition as an official Associated Student Body (ASB) approved student club. The district court denied the motion. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial. The en banc court held that the District’s Pioneer High School FCA had representational organizational standing and its claims for prospective injunctive relief were not moot. FCA National had organizational standing, and its claims were not moot because the District’s actions frustrated FCA National’s mission and required it to divert organizational resources, which it would continue to do in order to challenge the District’s policies. The en banc court next held that the district court erred in applying a heightened standard applicable to mandatory injunctions. The en banc court held that FCA and the other plaintiffs demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their Free Exercise claims. View "FELLOWSHIP OF CHRISTIAN ATHLETES, ET AL V. SAN JOSE UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATIO, ET AL" on Justia Law
Wahkiakum Sch. Dist. No. 200 v. Washington
In this action, the Wahkiakum School District (WSD) alleged the State of Washington “fail[ed] to amply fund the [WSD]’s needed facilities [and] infrastructure.” WSD argued that this failure violated the Washington Constitution, article IX, section 1. The complaint explained the impact of this lack of ample funding for facilities and infrastructure: “The [WSD] is a poor, rural school district located along the banks of the Columbia River. It has less than 500 students. Approximately 57% of its students are low income. It has less than 3500 registered voters. And the per capita income of its voters is approximately $29,000.” Specifically, the WSD requested that the State pay the cost of rebuilding its elementary, middle, and high schools; it estimated more than $50 million in construction costs. The State moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim (CR 12(b)(6)) and for lack of jurisdiction (CR 12(b)(1)). In support of its motion, the State argued, “[F]unding for school construction and other capital expenditures is governed by entirely different constitutional and statutory provisions that primarily look to local school districts themselves, with the State providing funding assistance. As such, WSD fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted . . . .” It also argued that the court could not award monetary damages because the legislature has not created a private right of action and monetary damages would violate separation of powers principles. The WSD conceded that it failed to file a tort claim form and thus that its claim for monetary damages was barred. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss with prejudice. After review, the Washington Supreme Court concluded the constitution did not include capital construction costs within the category of “education” costs for which the State alone must make “ample provision.” The Court thus affirmed the trial court's decision to grant the motion to dismiss. View "Wahkiakum Sch. Dist. No. 200 v. Washington" on Justia Law
A. B. v. Brownsburg Community School Corp.
C.B., a minor, suffers from generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and ADHD. During the 2017-2018 school year, the Brownsburg School Corporation determined that C.B. was eligible for accommodations under the Rehabilitation Act. In 2019, C.B. brought a shotgun shell to school with a device believed capable of discharging the shell. Brownsburg recommended expulsion. Conferences and administrative hearings followed. In April 2020, Brownsburg offered to pay for a new independent education evaluation of C.B. and to revisit C.B.’s eligibility for an individualized education plan under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). C.B.’s parents agreed to various compromises if Brownsburg agreed to pay for all attorney’s fees. In July, Brownsburg indicated willingness to pay part of the fees. C.B.’s parents rejected Brownsburg’s offer and reinstated their initial demands. Brownsburg sought dismissal of the proceedings, citing its concessions and “extreme effort” to resolve this case short of an administrative hearing. The parents requested factual findings regarding attorney’s fees and acknowledgment as the “prevailing party.” The hearing officer ultimately adopted the parties’ concession regarding services for C.B. and dismissed the petitions.C.B.’s parents sued for attorney’s fees under the IDEA’, 20 U.S.C. 1415(i)(3)(B)(i)(I). The district court granted Brownsburg summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed, concluding that the parents were the “prevailing party” and could be eligible for fees. Brownsburg's agreement to provide every student-related remedy set out in C.B.’s parents’ due process request was not binding until the hearing officer issued a finding. View "A. B. v. Brownsburg Community School Corp." on Justia Law
Jasmine Adams, et al v. Demopolis City Schools, et al
A nine-year-old girl took her own life after a classmate repeatedly delivered racist insults to her. The girl's mother and grandmother sought to hold the school system and several school officials accountable for her death. The family filed a lawsuit asserting claims arising under federal and state law against the school system and the school officials. The district court granted summary judgment to the school system and its officials, concluding that the family failed to satisfy various elements of their federal statutory claims and that qualified immunity barred at least one of the claims. The court concluded that the state law claims failed on immunity grounds. The family appealed.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. Although the response of the school system and its officials was "truly discouraging," the standard for relief in cases of student-on-student harassment was not met. The court explained that a reasonable jury could not find that DCS acted with deliberate indifference, that it intentionally discriminated against the girl, or that Defendants' actions were arbitrary or conscience-shocking. Thus, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to the defendants on the family's Title IX, Title VI, equal protection, and substantive due process claims. View "Jasmine Adams, et al v. Demopolis City Schools, et al" on Justia Law