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After the Department of Education issued a proposed determination that Texas was ineligible for $33.3 million of future grants because of the shortfall in both aggregate and per capita state funding, the state argued that it had complied with the "maintenance of state financial support" (MFS) requirement because funding under a weighted-student model had remained constant. The Fifth Circuit denied Texas' petition for review and held that the weighted-student model contravenes the plain meaning of the MFS clause. The court explained that, under the weighted-student model, Texas may reduce the amount of funding for special education if it determines that the needs of children with disabilities have changed. In this case, Texas violated the plain requirements of the MFS clause by doing so and was therefore ineligible for the corresponding amount of future Individuals and Disabilities Education Act Part B grants. Finally, the MFS clause did not exceed Congress's spending power by failing to provide sufficiently clear notice of its requirements. View "Texas Education Agency v. United States Department of Education" on Justia Law

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Ashby’s son was a member of his elementary school choir. In 2014 and 2015, the choir performed a Christmas concert at a local museum in a historic building. The building was not then accessible to persons with disabilities. Ashby, who uses a wheelchair, was unable to attend the concerts. She sued the School Corporation, alleging discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12132, and the Rehabilitation Act. The district court concluded that the Christmas concert was not a “service, program, or activity of” the Warrick Schools, nor was the concert an activity “provided or made available” by the School Corporation and granted summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, accepting the Department of Justice’s suggestion that when a public entity offers a program in conjunction with a private entity, the question of whether a service, program, or activity is one “of” a public entity is fact-based and that there is a “spectrum” of possible relationships ranging from a “true joint endeavor” to participation in a wholly private event. The Department’s interpretation of its regulations is a reasonable one that offers a loose but practical framework that aids in decision-making. Upon close examination of the record, it is clear that the event in question was not a service, program, or activity provided or made available by the School Corporation. View "Ashby v. Warrick County School Corp" on Justia Law

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Mother contends that Utica Schools (UCS) violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 because the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) for her son, Dylan did provide him with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Dylan suffers from Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Tourette’s Disorder, and symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. During the 2012–2013 school year, Dylan was 18 years old and in his fifth year of high school. Dylan's IEP provided that Dylan’s IEP team would implement and document a trial of “assistive technology” and that his curriculum would be evenly split between special education and general education classes. The “Post-Secondary Vision and Transition Activities” section listed several activities in which Dylan was interested that could lead to employment but did not list any next steps or resources. UCS placed Dylan in Community Based Inclusion (CBI) for two periods of his school day. CBI covers “daily living skills, employability training, recreation[,] leisure, [and] personal social skills.” Dylan was enrolled in three special education classes and one general education class, so the CBI placement was inconsistent with his IEP. After mother objected, UCS provided Dylan with instruction in the office, apart from other students. By June 2013, the school had reevaluated Dylan and developed a new IEP, which was amended several times. Mother voluntarily withdrew Dylan from UCS and enrolled him in private school. She filed an administrative complaint with the Michigan Department of Education. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment, noting that the district acknowledged denying Dylan a FAPE. UCS was ordered to pay for 1,200 hours of tutoring and one year of transition planning as compensatory education and to pay $210,654.65 in attorney fees and costs. View "Somberg v. Utica Community Schools" on Justia Law

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Heidi Hendrickson filed suit against the Moses Lake School District to recover for injuries she suffered while operating a table saw in a woodshop class at Moses Lake High School. The jury found the District was negligent, but that its negligence was not a proximate cause of Hendrickson's injuries. Hendrickson appealed, arguing the trial court erred in instructing the jury that the District owed a her a duty of ordinary care instead of a heightened duty. The Court of Appeals agreed with Hendrickson and reversed, remanding for a new trial. The Washington Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate court, however, finding school districts were subject to an ordinary duty of care. As a result, the Supreme Court reinstated the jury's verdict. View "Hendrickson v. Moses Lake Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the decision of the district court and remanded this case for entry of judgment in favor of Plaintiff and for remedial proceedings, holding that the district court erred in finding that Rhode Island does not discriminate against students with disabilities by failing to provide free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualifying students of the same age. Plaintiff, through her parent and on behalf of a certified class of those similarly situated, brought this action claiming that Rhode Island violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by providing “public education” to individuals without disabilities between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-two but does not provide special education services to individuals with disabilities of the same age. The district court concluded that the adult education programs provided to non-disabled Rhode Island students beyond the age of twenty-one do not constitute “public education” within the meaning of the IDEA. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that the adult education services in Rhode Island qualify as “public education” within the meaning of the IDEA. View "K.L. v. Rhode Island Board of Education" on Justia Law

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In 1984, a Tennessee jury convicted Zagorski of two first-degree murders and sentenced him to death. The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and sentence; state courts denied post-conviction relief. Zagorski sought federal habeas corpus relief, alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate an alternative suspect, that the court erred by improperly instructing the jury on the meaning of mitigating circumstances, and that the jury could not constitutionally impose the death penalty because prosecutors originally offered a plea deal for two life sentences. Finding all three arguments procedurally defaulted, the district court denied relief, the Sixth Circuit affirmed, and the Supreme Court denied certiorari. The Supreme Court subsequently decided "Martinez," permitting ineffective assistance of counsel at initial-review collateral proceedings to establish cause for a prisoner’s procedural default of an ineffective assistance claim at trial. Zagorski sought post-judgment relief under FRCP 60(b)(6), which grants courts equitable power to vacate judgments “to achieve substantial justice” in the most “unusual and extreme situations.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of relief, “giving due deference to the district court’s discretion in balancing the equities” and noting that, given the overwhelming evidence, a more thorough investigation of another suspect would not have reasonably been likely to affect the outcome. View "Zagorski v. Mays" on Justia Law

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A group of residents in South Burlington, Vermont presented a petition for a district-wide vote on whether to reinstate "Rebels" as the name for the District's athletic teams after the South Burlington School District decided to change the name. The District refused to include the item in a district-wide vote and residents appealed, alleging that the District violated their rights under the Vermont Constitution and seeking an order compelling the District to include the item on the ballot. The trial court denied the District’s motion to dismiss, concluding that residents presented sufficient facts to support their request. The District then filed this interlocutory appeal. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that neither the applicable statutes nor the Vermont Constitution compelled the District to put the petitions to a district-wide vote. Therefore, the Court reversed the trial court’s order and remanded for entry of judgment for the District. View "Skiff, Jr. v. South Burlington School District" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Washington voters approved I-1240, codified at chapter 28A.710 RCW, which created a public charter school system.In League of Women Voters v. Washington, 184 Wn.2d 393 (2015), the Washington Supreme Court held that I-1240 violated article IX, section 2 of the Washington Constitution, finding I-1240 incorrectly designated charter schools as common schools and then impermissibly supported them with money allocated for common schools. Because the unconstitutional provisions of I-1240 were not severable, the Court did not reach the other challenges raised by the plaintiffs. In 2016, the Washington legislature enacted the Charter School Act with amendments designed to cure its constitutional defects. Plaintiffs brought suit seeking a declaratory judgment that the new Act was facially unconstitutional. A number of charter schools joined the suit as intervenor-respondents. On cross motions for summary judgment, the trial court concluded that the Act did not on its face violate the Washington Constitution. Plaintiffs then sought direct review from the Washington Supreme Court. "While each side of the discussion may have legitimate points of view, it is not the province of this court to express favor or disfavor of the legislature's policy decision to create charter schools. . . . We conclude that its only unconstitutional provision is severable, and thus we affirm the trial court in part and hold that the remainder of the Charter School Act is constitutional on its face." View "El Centro de la Raza v. Washington" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court finding that George Mason University’s (GMU) decision to deny Maheen Malik’s tuition reclassification was arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law, holding that there was no support for Malik’s assertion that GMU’s decision to classify her as an out-of-state student was arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise contrary to law. Malik filed a petition in the circuit court for review of GMU’s final administrative decision to deny her in-state tuition. After two hearings, the circuit court found GMU’s decision to be contrary to Virginia law and arbitrary and capricious. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court exceeded the scope of its review by reweighing the evidence and substituting its judgment for that of GMU; and (2) ample evidence supported GMU’s conclusion that Malik failed to carry her burden of proving that she was an in-state student for purposes of tuition. View "George Mason University v. Malik" on Justia Law

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A party is bound by the terms of a consent decree that it voluntarily entered. The Fifth Circuit mostly affirmed the district court's judgment finding that Delta had violated a consent decree requiring Delta to comply with a desegregation order that it had voluntarily entered into. In this case, the desegregation requirements arose out of and served to resolve a longstanding desegregation effort in Concordia Parish properly overseen by the district court; were within the scope of the case; and furthered the equal protection objectives of the original complaint. The court rejected Delta's alternative argument that the district court's order granting further relief exceeded its remedial authority. Finally, the court vacated a portion of the district court's order requiring Delta to obtain authorization before enrolling students from other parishes under separate desegregation orders. View "Smith v. School Board of Concordia Parish" on Justia Law