Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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In December 2018, E.F. (minor) and L.S. were ninth graders enrolled in the same art class in high school. For unknown reasons, minor offered L.S. a Cup of Noodles, microwaved it, and handed it to him. When L.S. went to drink the broth, it smelled of bleach and he threw it out. The juvenile court entered a temporary restraining order (TRO) and, subsequently, a three-year restraining order against E.F., charged with poisoning one of her high school classmates. Among other things, this appeal presents the following question: Is a prosecutor seeking a TRO under Welfare and Institutions Code section 213.5 required to give advance notice of her intent to do so (or is notice at the hearing where the TRO is requested sufficient)? The court in In re L.W., 44 Cal.App.5th 44 (2020) held that advance notice is required. The Court of Appeal disagreed, holding that express language in section 213.5 authorized courts to authorize TROs without notice in advance of the hearing. “The minor appearing at the arraignment with counsel is still notified of the prosecutor’s TRO application and has the opportunity to oppose the application. Because due process guarantees notice and the opportunity to be heard, the issuance of TROs under section 213.5 accords with due process and thus provides no basis to read section 213.5 in a counter- textual manner to avoid possible constitutional infirmity.” View "In re E.F." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court reversing the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices' summary decision of complaint without informal contested case hearing against Montana Board of Regents of Higher Education member Martha Sheehy, holding that Sheehy did not violate the Montana Code of Ethics, that the Commissioner lacks enforcement authority over regents, and that regents are public employees subject to the Ethics Code. The Commissioner concluded that Regents are public employees subject to the Commissioner's Ethics Code enforcement authority and that Sheehy violated the Ethics Code by soliciting support for a ballot issue while suing public time, facilities, and equipment. The district court overruled the Commissioner's summary decision, concluding that the Ethics Code does not apply to regents, that the Commissioner lacked enforcement authority over regents, and that Sheehy's statements did not violate the Ethics Code. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the Ethics Code applies to the Board of Regents of the Montana University System; (2) Sheehy did not violate the Ethics Code; and (3) the Commissioner does not have authority to enforce the Ethics Code against members of a state administrative board, like the Board of Regents. View "Sheehy v. Commissioner of Political Practices" on Justia Law

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A policy that allows transgender students to use school bathroom and locker facilities that match their self-identified gender in the same manner that cisgender students utilize those facilities does not infringe Fourteenth Amendment privacy or parental rights or First Amendment free exercise rights, nor does it create actionable sex harassment under Title IX. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action challenging an Oregon public school district's Student Safety Plan as violating the Constitution and numerous other laws. The Plan allowed transgender students to use school bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers that match their gender identity rather than the biological sex they were assigned at birth. The panel held that plaintiffs failed to state a federal claim upon which relief can be granted, and that the district court's carefully-crafted Student Safety Plan seeks to avoid discrimination and ensure the safety and well-being of transgender students. The panel held that there is no Fourteenth Amendment right to privacy to avoid all risk of intimate exposure to or by a transgender person who was assigned the opposite biological sex at birth; a policy that treats all students equally does not discriminate based on sex in violation of Title IX, and the normal use of privacy facilities does not constitute actionable sexual harassment under Title IX just because a person is transgender; the Fourteenth Amendment does not provide a fundamental parental right to determine the bathroom policies of the public schools to which parents may send their children, either independent of the parental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children or encompassed by it; and the school district's policy is rationally related to a legitimate state purpose, and does not infringe plaintiffs' First Amendment free exercise rights because it does not target religious conduct. View "Parents for Privacy v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a district court decision to grant defendant David Pool’s motion to suppress the results of a warrantless blood draw on the grounds that it was an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In 2016, a police officer came upon the scene of an automobile accident involving two vehicles, one of which was driven by Pool. Pool had failed to negotiate a turn and his vehicle was hit by oncoming traffic. He was not wearing a seatbelt and his airbag deployed in the crash. As a result, he sustained a head injury and was unconscious when the officer arrived at the scene. Pool’s son, a passenger in the vehicle, informed the officer that Pool had not been staying in his traffic lane prior to the crash. He also asserted that the doctors who had prescribed medication to Pool never told him that he could not drive while taking his medications. When Pool regained consciousness, the officer questioned him and noted that he appeared “very lethargic” and “had a presentation similar to a drunk driver . . . slurred speech and thick tongue and obviously disoriented.” Pool told the officer that he believed he had taken his prescription medications that day. Shortly thereafter, a large “baggy” containing seven bottles of prescription medication was recovered from Pool’s vehicle. The officer recognized several of the medications and suspected that they had caused Pool to be impaired. Around that time, Pool and his son were taken to the hospital. The officer followed to question Pool further. At the hospital, the officer ruled out alcohol as a cause of Pool’s impairment based upon the results of a horizontal gaze nystagmus test. The officer did not conduct other field sobriety tests, as he believed Pool’s medical condition rendered it improper for him to do so. Instead, he obtained a blood sample to be used for evidentiary testing. The issue this appeal presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review centered on the officer’s justification for obtaining the blood sample without a warrant. The State maintained that pursuant to Idaho’s implied consent law, I.C. 18-8002(1), the search was reasonable and the district court erred in requiring proof of exigency. The Supreme Court concurred and reversed the district court. View "Idaho v. Pool" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit on behalf of her 12 year old son, alleging that an assistant principal violated her son's Fourth Amendment rights by searching his pockets after a teacher caught him selling contraband candy. Plaintiff initially alleged that the principal had grabbed her son's genitalia. The district court denied the principal qualified immunity. After the undisputed record evidence later demonstrated that, at most, the principal had only searched the boy's pocket and did not grab his genitalia, the district court granted the principal qualified immunity. On appeal, plaintiff complained that the district court misunderstood her earlier argument and that she never claimed that the principal grabbed her son's genitalia, but that he unreasonably searched the son's pockets. Accepting plaintiff's contention as true, the Fifth Circuit held that the district court should have granted qualified immunity to the principal earlier. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment. View "S. O. v. Hinds County School District" on Justia Law

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Poplarville School District and Pearl River County sought to undo the July 1, 2018 consolidation of the Lumberton Public School District and the Lamar County School District. In 2016, the Mississippi Legislature adopted Senate Bill 2500, which, after being signed into law, was codified as Mississippi Code Section 37-7-104.5, the purpose of which was to administratively dissolve, consolidate, and split the Lumberton Public School District at the Lamar and Pearl River County line. The statute created the Commission on the Administrative Consolidation of the Lumberton Public Schools to work in conjunction with the Mississippi State Board of Education to accomplish the consolidation goal. However, Poplarville School District contended that instead of following the directive of Section 37-7-104.5, the Commission dissolved the Lumberton School District and consolidated all of it, to include the students who reside in Pearl River County, into the Lamar County School District. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors was a “person aggrieved” for purposes of Section 37-7-115, publication was not necessary pursuant to Section 37-7-115, and Section 37-7-115 was an exclusive remedy. Furthermore, the Court held the chancery court did not err by finding that the appeal was untimely filed pursuant to Section 37-7-115, and affirmed the chancery court's decision. View "Pearl River County Board of Supervisors v. Mississippi State Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying certain defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint, holding that Defendants were not entitled to sovereign immunity. Plaintiffs, the parents of four school-age children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, brought this action seeking judgment from the City of Norwalk's Board of Education and three of its members. Plaintiffs alleged that the negligent hiring and supervision of Stacy Lore, who was hired to provide autism related services to children in the school district, proximately caused them to suffer permanent and ongoing injuries and losses. The Board filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and, in the alternative, claiming that the doctrine of sovereign immunity mandated dismissal of the claims. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss on the ground that Plaintiffs had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. The Supreme Court affirmed but on other grounds, holding (1) the trial court improperly dismissed this action on the ground that Plaintiffs had not exhausted their administrative remedies; and (2) the Board and its members were not entitled to sovereign immunity because they were acting under the control of, and as an agent of, the municipality rather than the state. View "Graham v. Friedlander" on Justia Law

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Three plaintiffs filed suit against UC, under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, alleging that UC violated Title IX by failing to adequately respond to their individual assaults and that UC violated Title IX by maintaining a general policy of deliberate indifference to reports of sexual misconduct, which heightened the risk that plaintiffs would be assaulted. The Ninth Circuit held that a plaintiff alleging a Title IX claim against a school that arises from student-on-student or faculty-on-student sexual harassment or assault must establish five elements: (1) the school exercised substantial control over the harasser and the context in which the harassment occurred; (2) the harassment was so severe that it deprived the plaintiff of educational opportunities; (3) a school official with authority to address the alleged discrimination had actual knowledge of it; (4) the school acted with deliberate indifference to the harassment, such that the school's response was clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances; and (5) the school's deliberate indifference subjected the student to harassment. The panel affirmed the dismissal of two of the plaintiffs' individual claims and affirmed the district court's holding that the third plaintiff failed to establish triable issues. The panel vacated the district court's dismissal of the pre-assault claim, holding that allegations that UC had actual knowledge or acted with deliberate indifference to a particular incident of harassment are unnecessary to sustain this theory of liability. Rather, all plaintiffs needed to allege are facts demonstrating (1) a school maintained a policy of deliberate indifference to reports of sexual misconduct, (2) which created a heightened risk of sexual harassment, (3) in a context subject to the school’s control, and (4) the plaintiff was harassed as a result. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Karasek v. Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law

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By calling a teacher’s instructional work in a specialized and separate school district educational program, provided outside of regular school instructional hours, an “extracurricular assignment,” the school district claimed the teacher had no tenure protection to that position and had no recourse when she was replaced by a non-tenured teacher and suffered a loss in compensation. The district wrapped the label “extracurricular” around the assignment even though the after-hours instructional program was provided by the school district in order to fulfill core curriculum requirements for certain students unable to fulfill those requirements through the school district’s day program. The teaching position in which petitioner served in the alternative education program was tenure eligible. Indeed, the Board of Education and the Commissioner both conceded that a person serving in that “BookBinders” position exclusively for the requisite period of time would have been entitled to tenure. But petitioner was denied tenure because she already held tenure in a teaching position in the district’s regular-education day-instruction program. After review, of the Commissioner of Education’s decision regarding the teacher’s tenure, the New Jersey Supreme Court concluded petitioner met the statutory criteria for tenure, and that she was entitled to a remedy for the violation of her right not to be removed or reduced in salary while protected by tenure for her work in the BookBinders program. View "Melnyk v. Board of Education of the Delsea Regional High School District" on Justia Law

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While at Rhodes College, Bose was accepted into the George Washington University medical school early selection program. Bose completed Professor Bea’s course, Organic Chemistry I. The following summer, Bea approached Bose on campus, asking personal questions and inviting her to have dinner. Bose declined. Bose took Bea’s Organic Chemistry II class the following semester. Bose also took a corresponding lab course with a different professor. Bea regularly visited the lab, starting conversations with Bose and offering to help her; he did not give the same attention to other students. Bea gave his students the option to take tests early. Bose often used this option and took tests in Bea’s office while he taught another class. After Bose asked Bea, in the presence of a classmate, to stop asking about her boyfriend and “keep the relationship professional,” Bea’s behavior changed. Bose claims Bea misrecorded her test score and would not respond to Bose’s requests for help. Bea told a colleague that he suspected a student of cheating, then created a fake answer key and stayed logged in on his computer. Bea later testified that Bose took Quiz 5 in Bea’s office and that her answers matched the fake answer key precisely. The Honor Council voted to expel Bose. An investigator determined that her allegations of sexual harassment could not be sustained. Bose sued, alleging retaliation under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681–88, and defamation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the rejection of Bose’s Title IX claim. There is no individual liability under Title IX; the court declined to apply the cat’s paw theory, which imputes the discriminatory animus of another to the funding recipient, as inconsistent with Title IX principles. The district court erred by holding that Bea’s statements were subject to absolute privilege under Tennessee defamation law. View "Bose v. Bea" on Justia Law