Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff, formerly a tenured theology teacher at a Roman Catholic high school in Staten Island, appealed from the dismissal of his complaint against his labor union, the Federation of Catholic Teachers (the “FCT”), for allegedly breaching its duty of fair representation under the National Labor Relations Act (the “NLRA”) as amended by the Labor Management Relations Act (the “LMRA”), and for assorted violations under the New York State and New York City human rights laws. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s duty-of-fair representation claim with prejudice for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), reasoning that the NLRA and LMRA are inapplicable to disputes between parochial-school teachers and their labor unions under NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 440 U.S. 490 (1979).   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court concluded, as a matter of first impression, that Catholic Bishop does preclude Plaintiff’s duty-of-fair-representation claim, but that dismissal was warranted under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted, rather than for lack of federal subject-matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1). The court also concluded that Plaintiff has abandoned any challenge to the dismissal of his state and municipal-law claims. View "Jusino v. Fed'n of Cath. Tchrs., Inc." on Justia Law

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The California Legislature has required school children to be vaccinated for 10 diseases; COVID-19 was not yet among them. The issue here was whether a school district could require students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition for both: (1) attending in-person class; and (2) participating in extracurricular activities. The superior court determined there was a “statewide standard for school vaccination,” leaving “no room for each of the over 1,000 individual school districts to impose a patchwork of additional vaccine mandates.” On independent review, the Court of Appeal reached the same conclusion and affirmed the judgment. View "Let Them Choose v. San Diego Unified School Dist." on Justia Law

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Joshua Greer, a student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville ("the University"), and Young Americans for Liberty, a student organization at the University ("the plaintiffs"), appealed a judgment dismissing their action challenging the legality of the University's policy regulating speech in outdoor areas of the University's campus ("the policy"). The policy allowed University students and student organizations, among others, to reserve and use outdoor spaces on campus to engage in speech. Whether a reservation is required depends on the nature of the students' activities and expression. The general rule was that students had to make reservations for activities that make use of the outdoor areas of campus. No reservation was needed for "casual recreational or social activities," a term that the policy did not define. Similarly, no reservation was needed for "spontaneous activities of expression, which are generally prompted by news or affairs coming into public knowledge less than forty-eight (48) hours prior to the spontaneous expression." The policy then lists 20 designated areas on campus where spontaneous speech was allowed. Plaintiffs alleged that the policy violated the "Alabama Campus Free Speech Act" insofar as the policy generally required reservations for speech, creates the exception for "spontaneous" speech, and creates designated areas on campus for that spontaneous speech. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed the judgment dismissing the action on two grounds: (1) the policy plainly violates the Act insofar as the policy creates designated areas for spontaneous speech; and (2) there is at least one unresolved factual issue concerning the evaluation of the policy's time, place, and manner restrictions. View "Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, et al. v. St. John IV, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court permanently enjoining the State from implementing the Hope Scholarship Act, W. Va. Code 18-31-1 to -13, after declaring the Act to be unconstitutional, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion.The Act established the Hope Scholarship Program to create education-savings accounts that may only be used for specific educational purposes. Via statute, the Hope Scholarship's funding was "in addition to all other amounts required" to fund public education. Plaintiffs brought this complaint seeking injunctive and declaratory relief and arguing that the Act was unconstitutional. The circuit court ruled that the Act was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Act does not facially violate the "free schools" clause contained in W. Va. Const. art. XII, 1; (2) the Act does not impinge on a child's fundamental right to an education; (3) the Act does not violate W. Va. Const. art. XII, 4-5 or art. X, 5; and (4) the Act does not violate article XII, 2. View "State v. Beaver" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying relief in this declaratory judgment action to force a public referendum on the financing of a school district's proposed athletic stadium, holding that Plaintiffs failed to show prejudice to obtain judicial relief for a technical violation in their petition.Plaintiff-citizens collected signatures to force the public referendum at issue, but the school board determined that the number of signatures were insufficient to force a referendum. The school district, therefore, declined to accept the petition or proceed with the referendum. Plaintiff then brought this declaratory judgment action to force the referendum. The trial court granted summary judgment denying relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs' petition was facially invalid as lacking the requisite number of signatures; (2) the district court breached a directory duty under Iowa Code 277.7 to return the rejected petition, but Plaintiffs failed to show prejudice; and (3) therefore, Plaintiffs' due process claims failed, and summary judgment was proper. View "Save Our Stadiums v. Des Moines Independent Community School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleges that when she was fourteen years old, she was brutally sexually assaulted by another student in a stairwell at Cypress Creek High School, following an abusive relationship with the same student. After suffering severe injuries and weathering subsequent harassment, Plaintiff says that instead of investigating her assault and providing her with academic or other appropriate support, Cypress Creek recommended that she drop out of school. After doing so—and never returning to any high school—Plaintiff sued the school district under Title IX, arguing that it was deliberately indifferent both to the risk of her sexual assault and in response to her abusive relationship, sexual assault, and subsequent related harassment and bullying on school property.   The district granted Cypress Creek’s motion for summary judgment, and Plaintiff appealed. The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court explained that because the district court correctly concluded that the District was not deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s risk of sexual assault, the court affirmed that portion of the judgment.   However, the totality of the circumstances, including the District’s lack of investigation, awareness of the pre-assault abusive relationship, failure to prevent in-person and cyberattacks from the assailant and other students post-assault, and failure to provide any academic or other appropriate support to Plaintiff culminated in exactly what Title IX is designed to prevent—the tragedy of Plaintiff dropping out of school. A reasonable jury could find that the District violated Title IX based on these facts. Accordingly, the court reversed that portion of the judgment. View "Roe v. Cypress-Fairbanks Indep" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff States’ requested to preliminarily enjoin the United States Secretary of Education (“Secretary”) from implementing a plan to discharge student loan debt under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003(“HEROES Act”). The States contend the student loan debt relief plan contravenes the separation of powers and violates the Administrative Procedure Act because it exceeds the Secretary’s authority and is arbitrary and capricious. The district court denied the States’ motion for a preliminary injunction and dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction after determining none of the States had standing to bring the lawsuit.   The Eighth Circuit granted the Emergency Motion for Injunction Pending Appeal. The court concluded that at this stage of the litigation, an injunction limited to the plaintiff States, or even more broadly to student loans affecting the States, would be impractical and would fail to provide complete relief to the plaintiffs. MOHELA is purportedly one of the largest nonprofit student loan secondary markets in America. It services accounts nationwide and had $168.1 billion in student loan assets serviced as of June 30, 2022. Here the Secretary’s universal suspension of both loan payments and interest on student loans weighs against delving into such uncertainty at this stage. View "State of Nebraska v. Joseph Biden, Jr." on Justia Law

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From August 2018 through January 2019, plaintiffs were six-year-old first grade students who attended Maple Elementary School (Maple) within the Hesperia Unified School District (the District). Pedro Martinez worked at Maple as a janitor. Martinez’s position as a janitor did not require him to have any one-on-one contact with the students. Martinez engaged in a variety of activities with the students that plaintiffs characterized as “‘grooming’ activities” that were “designed to lure minor students, including [p]laintiffs, into a false sense of security around him.” Plaintiffs alleged that numerous District employees who were mandated reporters under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA), witnessed Martinez’s behavior and did not report it to school officials or to law enforcement, in violation of the District’s policies. In January 2019, the State charged Martinez with numerous felonies involving his alleged sexual abuse of minors. In February 2019, plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the District and Martinez, alleging numerous claims arising from Martinez’s alleged sexual abuse of plaintiffs. The trial court was persuaded by the District's argument, concluding that plaintiffs did not adequately plead a negligence cause of action against the District, because they failed to state any facts “establishing that [the] District knew of any prior acts of sexual abuse by Martinez and/or that the District had actual or constructive knowledge that Martinez was abusing [p]laintiffs so as to impose liability upon [the] District.” One month after plaintiffs sought reconsideration, the trial court entered judgment against plaintiffs. Plaintiffs argued on appeal that they were not required to plead facts demonstrating that the District had actual knowledge of past sexual abuse by Martinez, and that they otherwise pled sufficient facts to state negligence causes of action against the District. The Court of Appeal agreed with plaintiffs on all of those points. The Court disagreed with plaintiffs' contention that the trial court erred by dismissing their sex discrimination claims under Title IX and California Education Code section 220: plaintiffs’ allegations are insufficient to constitute actual notice of a violation of Title IX or Education Code section 220. The judgment of dismissal was reversed, the order sustaining the demurrer to the third amended complaint was vacated, and the trial court was directed to enter a new order sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend as to the causes of action under Title IX, Education Code section 220, and the Unruh Civil Rights Act but otherwise overruling the demurrer. View "Roe v. Hesperia Unified School Dist." on Justia Law

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After East Carolina University (“ECU”) dismissed Plaintiff from its School of Social Work’s Master’s Degree program, Neal sued the university alleging that its decision discriminated against her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The district court disagreed and granted summary judgment to ECU based on its conclusion that Plaintiff failed to come forward with evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact to support two elements of a prima facie case of discrimination. It determined that the record did not show that (1) she was “otherwise qualified to participate in ECU’s” program or (2) ECU dismissed her “on the basis of” her disability. Plaintiff challenged both grounds on appeal.   The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that for purposes of assessing ADA compliance, universities have a responsibility to the entire academic community and to the public to ensure that a student is qualified to meet the lawful requirements of their program, especially where, as here, conferral of a degree is a prerequisite to state licensure requirements. ECU properly exercised its discretion in that regard and assisted Plaintiff during her enrollment in the MSW Program. It gave her a second chance with the out-of-order readmission in the Spring 2014 semester. She received a third chance in the Fall 2014 semester following the A&R Committee proceeding. And MSW Program faculty gave her a fourth chance as they tried to work with her thereafter. Now, Plaintiff wants to force ECU to provide a fifth chance. The ADA contains no such requirement given an absence of evidence supporting her claim of discriminatory dismissal. View "Olivia Neal v. East Carolina University" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court exercised is constitutional power to address constitutional violations through equitable remedies by affirming and reinstating the trial court's directive instructing certain State officials to transfer the funds necessary to comply with years two and three of the State's comprehensive remedial plan (CRP), holding that this Court has an obligation to safeguard the constitutional rights of North Carolina's schoolchildren.In November 2021, the trial court issued the order before the Supreme Court for review. In the order, the trial court declared that the State had failed to fulfill its constitutional obligations to provide school children, especially those at risk and socioeconomically disadvantaged, their constitutional right to a sound basic education. The trial court ordered the State to transfer the total amount of funds necessary to effectuate years two and three of the CRP. The State Controller sought an order preventing her from being required to comply with the trial court's order. The court of appeals issued a writ of prohibition restraining the trial court from proceeding in the matter. Thereafter, the trial court issued an order removing that transfer directive. The Supreme Court stayed the writ of prohibition and reinstated the trial court's November 2021 directive, holding that the judiciary must fulfill its obligation to protect the fundamental rights of the State's individuals. View "Hoke County Bd. of Education v. State" on Justia Law