Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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Ronald Throupe, a Professor of Real Estate at the University of Denver ("DU"), brought an employment discrimination claim under Title IX against DU as well as several faculty and staff members. In 2013, Throupe was a candidate to serve as director of the Real Estate and Construction Management department. DU ultimately hired outside of the school, bringing in Barbara Jackson to lead the department. According to Throupe, upon Jackon’s arrival, she made clear in conversations with professors, she would force some of the tenured real estate faculty members to leave. In 2014, the University Title IX office was contacted multiple times about Throupe's relationship with a foreign graduate student. In an email to University officials, Jackson concluded "Ron believes he has done nothing but help this girl, but his behaviors have been totally unprofessional and inappropriate, his father/daughter views perverted, and his obsession out of control." The Title IX investigator and DU’s Manager of Equal Employment had a follow-up meeting with Throupe. Afterward, he sent an email to the Manager of Equal Employment formally reporting a hostile work environment. When Throupe later asked whether any actions had been taken in response to his report, the investigator told Throupe his claim “did not result in any formal investigation by the Office of Equal Employment.” However, the school issued him a written warning, admonishing him from further contact with the student. Throupe maintained that Jackson continued to harass him even after the written warning. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. Although Throupe had dedicated little space in his briefing to arguing any theory of sex discrimination, the district court identified two theories of sex discrimination in Throupe’s argument: that defendants created a hostile work environment and engaged in disparate treatment against him. But the court determined that Throupe had failed to establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination under either of these theories. Having dismissed Throupe’s sole federal claim, the district court declined to consider the remaining state law claims due to lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment, specifically concluding the district court did not err in concluding that Throupe failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether he was discriminated against on the basis of his sex. View "Throupe v. University of Denver" on Justia Law

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John Doe was expelled from the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (CHM) for allegedly sexually assaulting two women, Roe 1 and Roe 2, on the night of the school’s formal dance. An outside consultant had determined that the evidence supported a finding that Doe had sexually assaulted the women. CHM convened a panel, which affirmed those findings without an in-person hearing. While this process was ongoing, the Sixth Circuit held that universities must offer an in-person hearing with cross-examination in cases where the fact-finder’s determination depends on witness credibility.CHM then gave Doe an in-person hearing, conducted over the course of three days before a Resolution Officer selected by the university. Doe was permitted to testify and, through his attorney, to cross-examine Roe 1 and Roe 2. The Resolution Officer did not require Roe 1 to answer every question that Doe’s attorney posed. Both Doe and his attorney were present throughout the entire hearing. After considering the credibility of the witnesses, the Resolution Officer again found that the evidence supported a finding that Doe had sexually assaulted the women.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Doe’s suit alleging violations of the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and Title IX. Doe received ample due process throughout the course of his three-day hearing. View "Doe v. Michigan State University" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a petition for a writ of mandate as well as a complaint for due process violations against LAUSD and Defendant Sohn, seeking reinstatement and damages. Plaintiff contends that under Education Code section 44466, which governs tenure for university interns, he had acquired permanent status at the commencement of the 2018–2019 school year. Plaintiff argued that he had satisfied the requirements of section 44466 by completing his university coursework in advance of the 2017–2018 school year, serving that school year in a credentialed teaching position (first under his intern credential, and then his regular credential), then beginning the 2018–2019 school year under his regular credential.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment concluding that section 44466 contemplates that former university interns serve a complete year under a regular credential before acquiring tenure. The court explained that plaintiff did not acquire tenure under section 44466 because the post-internship year under section 44466 does not begin until the former intern is reemployed under a regular credential by the school district that employed him as an intern. Therefore, the trial court correctly ruled that plaintiff did not acquire tenure at the commencement of the 2018–2019 school year. View "McGroarty v. Los Angeles Unified School District" on Justia Law

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Chris and Suzanne Moore, as parents and next friends of Sydney Moore, a minor, appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Pamela Tyson and Jennifer Douthit, two employees of the Huntsville City Board of Education ("the Board"), with regard to negligence and wantonness claims asserted against Tyson and Douthit by the Moores arising from injuries suffered by Sydney at her elementary school. Tyson was employed by the Board as a teacher at Goldsmith-Schiffman Elementary School. Douthit was employed as the principal of the school. Sydney was enrolled at the school as a third-grade student in Tyson's class. Tyson left the students unsupervised in the classroom while she went to the restroom. During that time, Sydney and another student in the class left their seats, and, according to Sydney, the other student caused her to fall and hit her head and face on a counter in the classroom. Sydney suffered injuries from her fall, including fractures of her left orbital bone, her eye socket, and her nose and entrapment of her eye. Sydney was admitted for treatment at a hospital and underwent surgery as a result of the injuries. THe Alabama Supreme Court determined the Moores did not demonstrate the trial court erred in entering summary judgment in favor of Tyson and Douthit based on immunity. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Moore v. Tyson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming the decision of the Board of Trustees of Laramie County School District Number Two (the Board) dismissing Appellant from his teaching contract with Laramie County School District Number Two (the District) after Appellant disciplined his daughter at school, holding that substantial evidence supported the Board's dismissal decision.At issue was whether district policies and professional conduct standards applied to Appellant, a teacher, who disciplined his child, a student, on school grounds during school hours. The Board concluded that those policies and standards applied to Appellant and dismissed him. The district court affirmed the dismissal and affirmed the Board's decision to pay Appellant only a pro-rata portion of extra-duty pay for coaching track and no bonus following his suspension with pay. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) substantial evidence supported the Board's decision dismissing Appellant; and (2) there was no Board decision on extra-duty or bonus pay for this Court to review. View "Mirich v. State ex rel., Board of Trustees of Laramie County School District Two" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota alleging retaliation and sex discrimination under Title IX. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that the University violated Title IX by (1) retaliating against her for supporting a former coach in a sexual harassment investigation by not allowing her to redshirt; and (2) discriminating against her on the basis of sex.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the University's motion to dismiss because plaintiff did not have an actionable claim for retaliation under Title IX and she failed to show that she was treated differently because of her sex. In this case, plaintiff failed to allege that she engaged in a protected activity, and no part of Title IX designates participation in a sexual harassment investigation on the side of the accused as protected activity. In regard to plaintiff's claim that she was discriminated against on the basis of her sex when she was denied the right to redshirt, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts to support a claim of sex discrimination in violation of Title IX. View "Du Bois v. The Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota" on Justia Law

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Saddleback College and Juan Avalos, vice-president of Saddleback’s student services and its Title IX officer, appealed the granting of a writ of mandamus in favor of a Saddleback student, Marcus Knight. Knight petitioned for relief after he was disciplined when two female students complained that he was following them, taking photos of one of them on his phone, and touching them. Knight had multiple disabilities, including cerebral palsy and autism, which have complicated his experience at Saddleback. In March 2018, Knight received a letter from Avalos stating that he was “suspended” – barred from classes and campus activities. It appeared, however, that he was allowed to attend classes anyway, while he contested the suspension. Eventually the potential suspension was dropped, and a written disciplinary reprimand was placed in his student record instead. At trial, Knight based his petition on the ground that the college did not afford him a hearing during which he or his counsel could confront and cross-examine witnesses. The trial court granted the writ petition on that basis. The Court of Appeal determined Knight was not entitled to that level of due process: requiring a trial-like hearing before Saddleback could issue a written reprimand placed too great a burden on the college when compared to the minor detriment to Knight. "He received notice of the charges against him, and he had an opportunity to respond – several opportunities, in fact. Had the suspension gone forward, he would have had the hearing he feels he was entitled to. But it did not go forward, and he received a much lower level of discipline." Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment for Knight and directed the trial court to enter judgment for appellants. View "Knight v. South Orange Community College Dist." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the City of Peoria violated Ariz. Const. art. IX, section 7, the Gift Clause, by spending public funds to induce a private university to open a branch campus in Peoria.In 2015, Huntington University, Inc. (HU), an accredited private institution based in Indiana, and the City entered into an agreement for HU to open a campus in Peoria. In return, the City promised to pay HU almost $2 million for developing the campus and programs. Plaintiffs, Peoria taxpayers, brought this lawsuit asserting that the City's payments to HU violated the Gift Clause. The trial court granted summary judgment for the City, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with directions to enter summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, holding that the City's payments to HU violated the Gift Clause. View "Schires v. Carlat" on Justia Law

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Rehfield sued the Diocese, alleging retaliatory discharge and violation of the Whistleblower Act (740 ILCS 174/1). Rehfield was an educator for more than 43 years. In 2012, Rehfield was hired as the principal of St. Raphael Catholic School in Naperville. In 2016, Rehfield alerted teachers about an out-of-state parent, MacKinnon, whom Rehfield believed to present a threat based on his emails concerning his daughter. Eventually, the police issued an arrest warrant for MacKinnon. Against the advice of the police and the supervising priest, Rehfield distributed a photograph of MacKinnon and informed her staff to call 911 if they saw MacKinnon. In May 2017, the Naperville Sun published an inaccurate story about the situation: “Man vowed to ‘terrorize’ Naperville school: authorities.” Days after a meeting with angry parents, the Diocese terminated RehfieldThe trial court dismissed, reasoning that Rehfield was employed pursuant to a contract and “[c]ommon law retaliatory discharge claims may only be asserted by employees terminable at will.” The trial court also cited the doctrine of ecclesiastic abstention. The appellate court affirmed, stating that Rehfield was not a secular employee but a “member of the clergy.” The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Rehfield’s formal title (lay principal) does not necessarily indicate a religious role but her job duties entailed numerous religious functions in furtherance of the school’s Catholic mission. There is sufficient evidence to conclude that she was a minister and that the ministerial exception bars her whistleblower claim. View "Rehfield v. Diocese of Joliet" on Justia Law

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On September 28, 2018, Cheli, a computer system administrative assistant for the District, since 2014, was taken into a meeting with about 25 minutes’ notice. The District’s superintendent and Director of Computer Services terminated Cheli because a female student had alleged that Cheli had sexually harassed her three weeks prior. Cheli denied the allegations. The Board retroactively memorialized Cheli’s termination on October 9, 2018. Cheli never received notice of the Board meeting and did not receive written notice of the charges or the evidence against him but received a notice of termination via certified mail stating that “[t]he basis or grounds for discharge include incompetence.” That notice informed Cheli that he could request the written report. The District did not provide the report upon Cheli’s request.A collective bargaining agreement governed Cheli’s employment and provides for discipline for reasonable cause. An employee is entitled to a conference, attended by a representative of his choice, and a written explanation for the discipline. The District’s Policy Manual, however, contains a provision titled “Employment At-Will.”Cheli sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging the defendants violated his procedural due process rights. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. The collective bargaining agreement established that Cheli could not be terminated except “for reasonable cause,” which created a protected property interest for which he was entitled to due process View "Cheli v. Taylorville Community School District" on Justia Law