Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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The State of California gave the San Bernardino City Unified School District (District) hardship funding to build a school. The State demanded that the District return funds the District did not use for the project (the project savings). Education Code section 17070.63(c) allowed a district to retain project savings for other proper purposes when the savings included funds received from the state. The District challenged the demand for return of the funding in an appeal to the State Allocation Board (Board). The Board upheld the state’s demand, relying on a regulation requiring the return of hardship funding. The District then filed an administrative mandamus action in the trial court, challenging the Board’s decision and the pertinent regulation. The trial court found the regulation conflicted with the statutory scheme and entered judgment in favor of the District. The Board appealed, contending the trial court erred by determining that section 17070.63(c) allowed a district to retain hardship funding, even though the regulation required return of unused hardship funding to the state. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that the regulation relied on by the Board improperly conflicted with the statutory scheme, and that the District was entitled to retain the hardship funding. View "San Bernardino City Unif. School Dist. v. State Allocation Bd." on Justia Law

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Head Start is a federal program that funds early childhood education for low-income children and provides other resources and education to the children’s families. Michigan Head Start grantees challenged the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Head Start program staff, contractors, and volunteers imposed by an interim final rule of the Department of Health and Human Services. The district court denied a preliminary injunction.The Sixth Circuit denied an injunction pending appeal. The plaintiffs have not shown that they will likely prevail on the merits. HHS likely did not violate the Administrative Procedure Act when it promulgated the vaccine requirement through an interim final rule instead of notice-and-comment rulemaking, 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B). That rule contains ample discussion of the evidence in support of a vaccine requirement and the justifications for the requirement, 86 Fed. Reg. 68,055-059. HHS likely has the statutory authority to issue a vaccine requirement for Head Start program staff, contractors, and volunteers under 42 U.S.C. 9836a(a)(1)(A), (E). The risk that unvaccinated staff members could transmit a deadly disease to Head Start children—who are ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine due to their young age—is “a threat to the health” of the children. The court noted HHS’s history of regulating the health of Head Start children and staff. View "Livingston Educational Service Agency v. Becerra" on Justia Law

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Two female students at Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), were videoed by other students engaging in sexual activity with male students at school. One student told school officials that the incident was forcible rape; afraid to remain at the school, she enrolled in a new school. When the other girl’s mother asked that something be done about the circulation of the video, school officials stated that it was a criminal matter and to contact Metro Police; the girl was called names in the hallway and threatened. She finished the school year at home.In a suit alleging violations of Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681(a), and constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court granted MNPS summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit vacated and remanded. Disciplinary records established that MNPS was aware of issues with sexual harassment in the school system before the two students reported their incidents. Many of these incidents involved photos or videos. To hold MNPS is immune from liability as long as no student is assaulted twice, would defeat Title IX’s purpose. With respect to one girl’s treatment after notifying the school of her harassment, a reasonable jury could conclude that, rather than take steps to remedy the violation, MNPS opted to avoid the problem, resulting in her having to homeschool or endure further misconduct. View "Doe v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County" on Justia Law

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Hasanaj, a teacher certified in Michigan, was employed by the Detroit Public Schools as a teacher for 10 years under a series of contracts. After about seven years, the District stopped sending him contract renewal notices. Hasanaj received “ineffective” ratings in the three years that followed. The District dismissed him as required by Mich. Comp. Laws 380.1249(2)(j).Hasanaj sued, alleging procedural due process violations because he and defendants “acted with the understanding that he had tenure,” the evaluation ratings violated Michigan’s statutory evaluation system, and now he cannot use his certificate to teach in Michigan. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the lawsuit. Hasanaj has not satisfied Michigan’s Teachers’ Tenure Act, Mich. Comp. Laws 38.71-.191, and has no protected property interest in continued employment. Hasanaj has not alleged that he satisfied the statutory probation requirements to acquire tenure. A contract or a tacit understanding cannot override the statutory requirements. It is irrelevant that Hasanaj stopped receiving contract renewal notices, that the three-strikes provision was invoked for firing him, that he was notified that he could appeal to the Tenure Commission, and that the parties stipulated before the Tenure Commission that Hasanaj obtained tenure. Nor was he deprived of his liberty to pursue his profession because he still holds a valid certificate to teach. View "Hasanaj v. Detroit Public Schools Community District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff is an education company that owns various trademarks, including "Read a Million Words," "Million Dollar Reader," "Millionaire Reader," and " Millionaire Reading Club." Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant, a public school district in Texas, based on trademark infringement. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant.The thrust of any Lanham Act complaint is that the defendant's use of the mark causes confusion which harms the plaintiff's interests. Here, Defendant's implementation of a "million-word reading challenge" would not result in any reasonable person being confused between Defendant's use of the terms and Plaintiff's products. Further, Plaintiff does not make any claim that Defendant was a competitor, only that their use of the terms caused confusion. View "Springboards to Educ v. Pharr San Juan" on Justia Law

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Daniel Schafer, a teacher at a high school in the Anderson Union High School District (District), had a sexual relationship on school premises with one of his students, plaintiff Jane Doe. Doe sued the District, principal Carol Germano, and superintendent Tim Azevedo for negligent hiring and negligent supervision. The trial court granted the District’s motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in favor of the District, finding that there was no evidence the District knew or should have known that Schafer posed a risk of harm to students. On appeal, Doe contended the trial court erred by granting summary judgment because the District had a duty to supervise and monitor Schafer and Doe, and whether the District breached its duty to Doe was a question of fact for the jury to decide. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding that on the trial court record, the District did not have a duty to review alarm data and video recordings in order to constantly monitor all teachers, students, and campus visitors, nor did it have such a duty specifically with regard to Schafer and Doe. View "Doe v. Anderson Union High School Dist." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, Speech First, is a voluntary membership organization dedicated to protecting students’ free-speech rights. It represents students who attend universities across the country, including the University of Central Florida (“UCF”). Several of Speech First’s UCF-based members have attested that they desire to express their beliefs and opinions about a range of topics but are inhibited from doing so by two University policies referred to as the “discriminatory- harassment” and “bias-related-incidents” policies. Shortly after filing suit, Plaintiff sought a preliminary injunction, which the district court denied.The Eleventh Circuit reversed in part and vacated in part the district court’s decision denying Plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction in its First Amendment violation claim against the University of Central Florida. The court held Plaintiff has standing to sue because the challenged policies chill its members’ speech and that the discriminatory-harassment policy likely violates the First Amendment.  Further, because the district court never considered the bias-related-incidents policy’s constitutionality on the merits—having erroneously concluded that Speech First lacked standing to challenge it, the court remanded for a determination of that issue.   The court reasoned that the discriminatory harassment and bias-related-incident policies objectively chill speech because its operation would cause a reasonable student to fear expressing potentially unpopular beliefs. Further, the court concluded that Plaintiff is substantially likely to establish that the discriminatory-harassment policy is both (1) impermissibly overbroad and (2) content and viewpoint-based restriction of speech. View "Speech First, Inc. v. Alexander Cartwright" on Justia Law

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Student is an elementary school pupil at the School District (“SD”). The SD moved her from general education into an essential academics program after they determined that despite the accommodations it offered her, Student was not making appropriate progress. Student’s mother objected to the SD’s decision and sought a due process hearing under the IDEA. A hearing officer concluded that the SD’s proposal was: (1) Student’s least restrictive environment; and (2) appropriate in light of her circumstances. Student’s mother appealed to the district court which affirmed the hearing officer’s decision. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the decision.   The court held that It is Student’s burden to establish that the SD’s decision violates IDEA and she has not carried that burden. The court reasoned that the proposed blended placement IEP is Student’s least restrictive environment. The court found that the SD took steps to accommodate Student by reviewing her overall record and found that she was not making appropriate progress in light of her circumstances. Further, the court considered what effect Student had on the general education classroom.   Finally, the court reasoned that to comply with the IDEA, a student’s plan must provide for exposure to nonhandicapped students to the maximum extent appropriate. Here, although Student occasionally saw glimpses of progress, the bottom line was one of minimal improvement and even regression. The proposed blended placement IEP was the next logical step when the SD found that Student was still not improving. View "H.W. v. Comal Indep Sch Dist" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the court charged with overseeing proceedings under Title III of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act confirming a plan of adjustment for the debts of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and two of its instrumentalities, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.In this case arising out of the effort to restructure the Commonwealth's sovereign debt under Title IIII, various organizations that represented some public school teachers and educators participating in the Commonwealth's pension system objected to the manner in which the plan of adjustment handled their claims to current and future pension payments. The Title III court approved the plan of adjustment over Appellants' objections. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Appellants' arguments on appeal failed. View "Financial Oversight & Management Board for Puerto Rico v. Federacion de Maestros de Puerto Rico, Inc." on Justia Law

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Indiana University hired Palmer, who is Black, as a lecturer in Business Marketing in 2010. In 2013, Palmer inquired about his potential for early promotion to senior lecturer. His Department Chair said that it was rare for lecturers to apply for senior lecturer prior to their sixth year and suggested that Palmer wait. Palmer did not apply for early promotion. In 2016, IU promoted Palmer to senior lecturer. Palmer also served as Diversity Coach in the MBA program, for an additional $25,000 per year and a reduced course load; he resigned as Diversity Coach after the 2016–2017 school year. . In 2016, the Marketing Department hired Gildea, who is white, as a new lecturer and as Director of the Business Marketing Academy (BMA). Palmer complained that Gildea’s base salary nearly matched Palmer’s base salary. Palmer earned $98,750; Gildea earned $94,000, with no other lecturer or senior lecturer in their department earning over $90,000. Palmer also complained of discrimination.Palmer filed an EEOC charge, alleging race discrimination in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(a)(1), and subsequently filed suit. Palmer’s failure-to-promote claim is time-barred. His unequal pay claim fails on the merits. Palmer enjoyed higher pay than all of his colleagues, except Gildea, who is not a proper comparator. View "Palmer v. Indiana University" on Justia Law