Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the order of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss, holding that governmental immunity did not bar Plaintiff's claim under the North Carolina Constitution for a school board's deliberate indifference to continual student harassment.Plaintiffs alleged that the school board's indifference denied students their constitutionally-guaranteed right to the opportunity to receive a sound basis education under N.C. Const. art. I, 15. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing in part that the claim under the North Carolina Constitution was barred by the defense of sovereign or governmental immunity. The trial court denied the motion in part and allowed the constitutional claim to proceed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that abuse or an abusive classroom environment does not violate a constitutional right to education. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that where a government entity with control over the school is deliberately indifferent to ongoing harassment that prevents a student from accessing his constitutionally guaranteed right to a sound basic education, the student has a colorable claim under the state Constitution. View "Deminski v. State Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the portions of the emergency order issued by Janel Heinrich, in her capacity as a local health officer of Public Health of Madison and Dane County, restricting or prohibiting in-person instruction in all schools in Dane County for grades 3-12, holding that those portions were unlawful and unenforceable and are hereby vacated.The disputed order was issued in an effort to decrease the spread of COVID-19. Petitioners - students - brought three cases challenging Heinrich's authority to issue the emergency order, contending that the order exceeded her statutory authority under Minn. Stat. 252.03, violated Petitioners' fundamental right to the free exercise of religioun under Wis. Const. art. I, 18, and violated parents' fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children under Wis. Const. art. I, 1. The Supreme Court consolidated the cases and held (1) local health officers do not have the statutory power to close schools under section 252.03; and (2) the order infringed Petitioners' fundamental right to the free exercise of religion guaranteed in the Wisconsin Constitution. View "St. Ambrose Academy, Inc. v. Parisi" on Justia Law

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Castelino enrolled at Rose-Hulman. Based on his ADHD and a learning disorder, Rose-Hulman granted him 100% extended time on tests and quizzes, which he was allowed to take in a distraction-free environment. Castelino was reprimanded for copying from another student’s homework and separately for submitting duplicate work. Castelino lied to his professor about the notes he used during an exam. Because this was Castelino’s third documented case of academic misconduct, it was forwarded to the Rules and Discipline Committee. Castelino was suspended for one quarter. Castelino unsuccessfully applied for readmission multiple times. The Dean did not recommend readmission, based on Castelino’s failure to accept responsibility for his actions and his history of behavioral issues, ranging from altercations and rude conduct on campus to complaints by female students that he was taking their photographs without permission. While suspended, Castelino was arrested for breach of peace, cultivation and sale of marijuana, operation of a drug factory, and possession of a hallucinogen.After being told that he would not be allowed to reapply, Castelino sued, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101, breach of contract, defamation, false advertising, invasion of privacy, and harassment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Rose-Hulman, noting Castelino’s “inscrutable” submissions and violations of court rules. Castelino fails to identify any facts establishing that Rose-Hulman or any professor failed to accommodate his learning disability. View "Castelino v. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology" on Justia Law

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Petitioners filed suit seeking injunctive relief, alleging that the denials of their requests for tuition funding violated their rights to the free exercise of religion under the First Amendment. Under Vermont's Town Tuition Program (TTP), sending districts pay tuition to independent schools on behalf of high-school-aged students residing in the districts. The district court found that the school districts—endeavoring to comply with a state constitutional provision—denied petitioners' funding requests solely because of the religious status of petitioners' chosen school. Following Supreme Court precedent, the district court ruled that the exclusion of petitioners from the TTP violated the First Amendment, and the district court granted a limited preliminary injunction in petitioners' favor. Because respondents wanted to develop new criteria for TTP eligibility that would satisfy the state constitution, the district court enjoined the school districts from continuing to exclude petitioners from the TTP based solely on the religious status of petitioners' chosen school. However, the district court declined to mandate that the districts allow petitioners to participate in the TTP until the case was resolved. Petitioners appealed and moved for an emergency injunction pending appeal that would prohibit the school districts from continuing to deny their TTP funding requests.The Second Circuit construed petitioners' motion as a petition for a writ of mandamus directing the district court to amend its preliminary injunction. In February 2021, the court granted the petition for writ of mandamus because petitioners clearly had a right to the relief they requested and mandamus was justified to enable them to obtain that relief. In this opinion, the court explained the reasons for its order granting the writ, concluding that petitioners have no other adequate means to attain the relief they desire; the district court was wrong to allow the school districts to continue to withhold TTP funds from petitioners while the districts developed new restrictions and safeguards; and the writ is appropriate where petitioners have been deprived of a public benefit as a result of the state's and the school districts' decades-long policy of unconstitutional religious discrimination. View "A.H. v. French" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, ten former University of Minnesota football players, appealed the dismissal of their Amended Complaint against the University and two University officials, asserting a variety of claims arising out of the University’s investigation of a complaint of sexual assault and harassment by another student, Jane Doe. Plaintiffs are African-American males who alleged that the University targeted them on the basis of their sex and race and unfairly punished them in response to Jane's accusations. The district court dismissed all claims.The Eighth Circuit concluded that plaintiffs' complaint alleged a number of circumstances which, taken together, are sufficient to support a plausible claim that the University discriminated against plaintiffs on the basis of sex. In this case, plaintiffs alleged that the University was biased against them because of external pressures from the campus community and the federal government, and plaintiffs alleged historical facts that reinforce the inference of bias in this specific proceeding. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' Title IX discrimination claims.The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Title IX claims for retaliation where plaintiffs did not plausibly allege that their request for a Student Sexual Misconduct Subcommittee hearing was tantamount to a complaint of sex discrimination, and even if a request for a hearing made by a person accused of sexual misconduct could amount to protected activity, the Amended Complaint did not plausibly plead prima facie retaliation claims. The court also affirmed the dismissal of the race discrimination claims where the Amended Complaint did not plausibly allege a comparator similarly situated to plaintiffs in all relevant aspects; affirmed the dismissal of plaintiffs' due process claims where plaintiffs failed to exhaust the existing procedures for appealing the University's disciplinary decision and failed to allege prehearing deprivations or deprivation of protected property or liberty interests in violation of due process; and affirmed the dismissal of the contract and negligence claims on Eleventh Amendment grounds. View "John Does 1-2 v. Regents of the University of Minnesota" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals concluding that the Commissioner of Education had jurisdiction over a group of teachers' grievances and that some of the grievances were untimely and others were timely, holding that the grievances were timely filed.Teachers at Dallas Independent School District (DISD) objected to the district's method of evaluating teacher performance and filed grievances. DISD denied the grievances as untimely. The Teachers appealed to the Commissioner, who concluded that the untimely presentation of the grievances to the school board deprived him of jurisdiction. The district court affirmed. The court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the Commissioner had jurisdiction to hear the appeal of the Teachers' grievance; (2) the Teachers' grievance was timely filed with DISD, and therefore, the portion of the court of appeals' judgment upholding the dismissal of portions of the grievance as untimely was erroneous; and (3) the portion of the court of appeals' opinion reversing the dismissal of part of the grievance is affirmed. View "Davis v. Morath" on Justia Law

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Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1 authorizes an award of “up to treble damages” in a tort action for childhood sexual assault where the assault occurred “as the result of a cover-up.” Government Code section 818 exempts a public entity from an award of damages “imposed primarily for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.”Plaintiff sued the school district (LAUSD) alleging an LAUSD employee sexually assaulted her when she was 14 years old and the assault resulted from LAUSD’s cover-up of the employee’s sexual assault of another student. She requested treble damages under section 340.1. The trial court denied LAUSD’s motion to strike the damages request. The court of appeal reversed. While the harm caused by childhood sexual assault is undoubtedly amplified if a victim learns the assault resulted from a deliberate cover-up by those charged with the victim’s care, noneconomic damages under general tort principles already provide compensation for this added psychological trauma. The treble damages provision has no compensatory function. Section 340.1 generally serves to ensure perpetrators of sexual assault are held accountable for the harm they inflict but its text unambiguously demonstrates the treble damages provision’s purpose is to deter future cover-ups by punishing past cover-ups. Because treble damages under section 340.1 are primarily exemplary and punitive, a public entity like LAUSD maintains sovereign immunity from liability for such damages. View "Los Angeles Unified School District v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of mandamus ordering the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to approve Relators' applications for Quality Community School Support (QCSS) grants and to pay them the amounts due under 2019 Am.Sub.H.B. No. 166 (H.B. 166), holding that Relators were entitled to the writ.Under the QCSS program, a community school that has met certain criteria would receive grant funding for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2011 fiscal years. Relators, twelve Horizon Science Academy community schools, had applied for QCSS grants, but ODE denied the applications, concluding that ODE was not "in good standing" as required by section 265.335 of H.B. 166. The ODE's determination was made on the grounds that the schools' operator was a foreign corporation not licensed with the Ohio secretary of state. The Supreme Court granted Relators' requested writ of mandamus, holding that ODE's interpretation of "in good standing" was incorrect. View "State ex rel. Horizon Science Academy of Lorain, Inc. v. Ohio Department of Education" on Justia Law

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Doe became a TCNJ tenure-track Assistant Professor in 2016, after giving birth to her third child. She alleges that the Dean and the Department Chair suggested that they were relieved that she would not need pregnancy-related accommodations in the future. Doe received positive reviews for 2017. Doe claims that after she became pregnant again, she was reassigned to a less desirable class. After Doe had her fourth child, the Dean, the Chair, and others, repeatedly asked whether she was done having children. She notified TCNJ that she was pregnant again. In 2018, a TCNJ professor attended the same class that the professor had positively reviewed in 2017 but entered a negative review; Doe claims there were no material changes. The Chair reported “non-material deficiencies” after having given her a positive review in 2017. Doe complained to the Provost, who allegedly “placed a record of discipline” in Doe’s personnel file for the Reappointment Committee. She claims she “suffered emotional trauma, became depressed, and had a miscarriage,” and that she was falsely accused of canceling classes, supported by “doctored” student comments. Doe was not reappointed.She filed suit, alleging gender, national origin, and pregnancy discrimination, and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of her motion to proceed anonymously. Doe’s case does not merit appellate review under the collateral order doctrine. Nothing indicated that Doe’s interest in anonymity outweighs the public’s interest in open judicial proceedings. View "Doe v. The College of New Jersey" on Justia Law

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Defendant James Bourgeois, an elected member of the Lafourche Parish Council, was found guilty by a unanimous jury of filing or maintaining false public records. The charge arose from the allegation that defendant had falsely asserted in his Parish Council election qualifying form that he was domiciled in Lafourche Parish. The trial court sentenced him to a suspended sentence of three years imprisonment at hard labor with two years of probation. The court of appeal reversed the conviction and vacated the sentence because it found the evidence insufficient to prove that defendant falsely represented his domicile on his qualifying form. There was no dispute that the election qualifying form was a public record and that defendant filed it. The sole question for the Louisiana Supreme Court was whether the evidence, when viewed under the due process standard of Jackson v. Virginia, was sufficient to prove the form contained a false statement with regard to defendant’s domicile. The Supreme Court determined the State’s case “was not so lacking that it should not have even been submitted to the jury. The State introduced evidence from which the jury could rationally find that defendant had abandoned his domicile in Lafourche Parish and established a new domicile in Jefferson Parish by the time he filed his election qualifying form. The jury was not forced to speculate to reach this conclusion, as the court of appeal found.” Accordingly, judgment was reversed and defendant’s conviction and sentence were reinstated. View "Louisiana v. Bourgeois" on Justia Law