Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs, low-income African-American women whose children attend public schools in Mississippi, filed suit against state officials, alleging that the current version of the Mississippi Constitution violates the "school rights and privileges" condition of the Mississippi Readmission Act. The district court held that the suit was barred by the Eleventh Amendment and dismissed. Although the Fifth Circuit agreed that a portion of the relief plaintiffs seek is prohibited by the Eleventh Amendment, the court held that the suit also partially sought relief that satisfied the Ex parte Young exception to sovereign immunity. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, and vacated and remanded in part. View "Williams v. Reeves" on Justia Law

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Dr. Sandra Leal appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment to the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL). Leal brought suit against USM and the IHL for breach of contract and disability discrimination. Dr. Sandra Leal was a junior faculty member at USM. After spending several years at USM, Leal applied for tenure and promotion in 2012, but, at the recommendation of faculty members, she deferred her application for one year. In September of 2013, she resubmitted her application and materials. On October 4, 2013, her department voted not to recommend her application. Leal was notified of this on October 7, 2013. Each review of her application cited an insufficient number of publications as the primary reason for not recommending Leal’s application. Following these reviews, in March of 2014, Leal wrote to USM’s then-provost. Leal had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis throughout her time at USM, but, for the first time, she claimed it as a disability. She requested an additional year to remedy her insufficient number of publications. Both the provost and USM’s president recommended that Leal’s application be denied. Leal was notified of these determinations on March 24, 2014, and April 30, 2014, respectively. Leal sought review of her application by the IHL, and the IHL considered her request and ultimately rejected her application too. Because Leal has failed to demonstrate any genuine issue of material fact and failed to demonstrate that USM and the IHL were not entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment. View "Leal v. University of So. Miss." on Justia Law

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A fifth-grade student, C.T., lit a match during the bus ride home from an Ohio elementary school. The students sat in assigned seats, with the youngest students at the front of the bus. School administrators moved C.T. to the front of the bus, where he sexually assaulted a kindergarten student, Doe, as they rode home from school over several weeks. The bus driver apparently was aware that C.T. had moved across the aisle to sit with Doe but police concluded that the driver was not aware of the assaults. C.T. was expelled. Doe’s parents brought a state-created-danger claim against the School District and five employees. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment, holding that no reasonable jury could find that they knowingly exposed Doe to the risk of sexual assault. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating “that the Constitution does not empower federal judges to remedy every situation” that is “heart-wrenching.” Nothing about C.T.’s school record could have put the school employees on notice that C.T. posed a risk of sexually assaulting Doe. The school employees’ responses to the risk also do not show the “callous disregard” or “conscience-shocking” behavior that state-created-danger cases require. Certain employees could have done more in implementing C.T.’s discipline, but their actions did not amount to “callous disregard for the safety” of Doe. View "Doe v. Jackson Local School District Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Education upholding the decision of the North East Independent School District board to end Respondent's continuing teaching contract, holding that the record supported the board's and Commissioner's decisions. At issue was whether state and federal laws requiring school districts to record grades and evaluate student progress provide standards of conduct for the teaching provision such that the teacher's failure to comply with district policies implementing those laws supports termination for "good cause." The Commissioner agreed that Respondent's conduct was "good cause per se" for termination. The trial court reversed. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that "good cause per se" has no basis in Tex. Educ. Code 21.156(a)'s good cause definition. The Supreme Court revered, holding (1) Respondent preserved her complaint for judicial review; (2) the Commissioner erred in employing the "good cause per se" test, which has no basis in the Education Code's plain text; and (3) evidence of a failure to meet a district policy that implements state law supports a good cause determination. View "North East Independent School District v. Riou" on Justia Law

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In this appeal by allowance, the issue this case presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's review centered on whether the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education's (“State System”) policy regarding the protection of minors ― requiring, inter alia, that faculty members submit to criminal background checks and report to their university employers if they are arrested or convicted of a serious crime, or found or indicated to be a perpetrator of child abuse ― constituted an inherent managerial policy or prerogative, rendering it nonbargainable for purposes of collective bargaining between the faculty and the State System. The Supreme Court determined the policy at issue constituted a nonbargainable inherent managerial policy. The Court reversed the Commonwealth Court, which held to the contrary. View "APSCUF v. PLRB" on Justia Law

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Joll, an accomplished runner and an experienced running coach, had been a middle school teacher for more than 25 years. She applied for a job as the assistant coach of a high school girls’ cross-country team. The school hired a younger man for the job but invited Joll to apply for the same position on the boys’ team. She did so but the school hired a younger man again. She filed suit for sex and age discrimination. After discovery, the district court granted summary judgment for the school district, concluding that Joll had not offered enough evidence of either form of discrimination to present to a jury. The Seventh Circuit reversed, stating that the district court apparently asked “whether any particular piece of evidence proves the case by itself,” rather than aggregating the evidence “to find an overall likelihood of discrimination.” Joll offered evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to find that the school district used hiring procedures tilted in favor of the male applicants, applied sex-role stereotypes during the interview process, and manipulated the criteria for hiring in ways that were inconsistent except that they always favored the male applicants. View "Joll v. Valparaiso Community Schools" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the county, the school board, and state officials, alleging claims arising out of the Mississippi legislature's July 2016 decision to administratively consolidate two school districts and restructure the school board responsible for governing the newly-formed district. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction, and grant of defendants' motion to dismiss. The court held that the appointive structure of the interim board was rationally related to a legitimate governmental purpose; plaintiffs' claim that the structure of the permanent board violates the Equal Protection clause was not supported by law and plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the statute's selective grant of the franchise; and defendants' decision to fire Montgomery County School District employees and retain employees of the former Winona Municipal Separate School District must be upheld where Winona was a higher performing school district than Montgomery, and the Superintendent may have felt that the most seamless and efficient way to implement the consolidation would be to absorb the Montgomery district into the better-performing Winona district. Finally, because plaintiffs' equal protection claims failed on the merits, they have not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success and were not entitled to preliminary relief. View "Butts v. Aultman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court dismissing students' claims seeking to recover for lost funding for services denied to them under the GEAR UP program due to mismanagement and embezzlement, holding that the students lacked standing to bring their claims. The students in this case attended schools that GEAR UP was meant to serve and now attended college. The students claimed to have been denied GEAR UP benefits in their schools due to embezzlement and negligent supervision, among other claims. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, concluding that the students had standing to bring their claims but that the claims were preempted by federal law. The Supreme Court affirmed but on other grounds, holding the students failed to show standing because they failed to show how an award of monetary damages would redress the alleged past loss of supplemental educational services. View "Black Bear v. Mid-Central Educational Cooperative" on Justia Law

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Foster and the respondent were classmates an off-site executive MBA program based in Los Angeles through the University of Michigan. Students participated in once-a-month, weekend sessions at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. Foster developed a friendship with the respondent but the two did not have a dating or sexual relationship. The respondent began sending complimentary texts, giving Foster unsolicited gifts, expressing romantic interest. and making unwanted physical contact. He came to her hotel room and removed his clothing. Foster reported that the respondent had sexually harassed her to the University, which made arrangements so that the two would not stay in the same hotel, eat together, attend social functions together, or interact in class. Foster was not satisfied with the arrangements. During the next “residency,” the respondent sent vulgar text messages to administrators, violated the restrictions, and was barred from the second day of classes. His communications became increasingly aggressive. Foster obtained a restraining order but the respondent appeared at graduation in Michigan. The district court rejected Foster’s deliberate-indifference claim under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681–1688, on summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Foster established a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the University was deliberately indifferent by alleging that the University’s response to the respondent’s unwillingness to comply with its orders was clearly unreasonable and caused her to undergo further harassment. View "Foster v. Board of Regents of University of Michigan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the Assessor and others, seeking a refund of property taxes and special assessments, and for declaratory relief. The Court of Appeal found no support in statutory or case law for plaintiffs' claim that a nonprofit charter school should be treated as a public school district for purposes of applying the implied exemption, which plaintiffs contend exempts public schools from having to pay both taxes and special assessments. The court explained that the Legislature has specified precisely how, and to what extent, and under which statutory provisions charter schools are deemed to be part of the system of public schools, or deemed to be a school district. Notably absent is any suggestion that charters schools are to be treated like school districts for taxation purposes. The court rejected plaintiffs' claims to the contrary. View "Los Angeles Leadership Academy, Inc. v. Prang" on Justia Law