Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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Adams, superintendent of the school district in 2013-2016, requested a forensic audit of the district’s expenditures and subsequently had disputes with board members that involved Adams filing a police complaint. The Board of Education revoked an offer to extend her three-year contract. Adams suspended the district’s business manager for financial irregularities. The Board blocked her email and told state education officials that Adams was no longer superintendent. Adams filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. A jury awarded $400,000 in damages. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding that the police report was not a personal grievance, but a matter of public concern within the scope of the First Amendment. The potential for physical altercations between public officials implies that an important public institution was not working properly, particularly given that a proposed forensic audit “seems to have unsettled at least one" Board member. The police report and the controversy more generally could have affected the outcome of elections and the daily management of the school system. The record permitted a reasonable jury to find that an ordinary employee in Adams’s position would be deterred from speaking by the prospect of losing her job and was permitted to consider the possibility that Adams would have remained on the job longer had she kept silent. Damages for a First Amendment violation are not limited by the duration of contracts. View "Adams v. Board of Education Harvey School District 152" on Justia Law

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Ramsey, a medical student. unsuccessfully sought testing accommodations for dyslexia and ADHD from the National Board of Medical Examiners. Ramsey sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Third Circuit affirmed the award of a preliminary injunction, requiring the Board to provide her accommodations. Ramsay established irreparable harm because she would likely be forced to withdraw from medical school if she could not take the initial test with accommodations and pass. The balance of equities tipped in her favor because granting her accommodations would not undermine the Board’s interests in fair and accurate testing and it was in the public interest for the ADA to be followed, to increase the number of physicians. Evidence that Ramsay’s reading, processing, and writing skills were abnormally low by multiple measures provided a sufficient comparison of her abilities to those of the general population to support the finding of disability. While the district court viewed Ramsay’s experts more favorably and found the Board’s experts unpersuasive, there is no indication that the court believed that it was compelled to defer to Ramsay’s experts; the court discounted the Board’s experts because they never met with Ramsay, engaged in too demanding an analysis of whether Ramsay had a disability, and overly focused on Ramsay’s academic achievements. View "Ramsay v. National Board of Medical Examiners" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that the University of Arizona violated Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681(a), by discriminating against plaintiff on the basis of sex during the course of a sexual misconduct disciplinary case against him. The Ninth Circuit reversed and vacated the district court's order and judgment dismissing the Title IX claim, holding that plaintiff stated a Title IX claim against the University because he plausibly alleged gender bias. The panel held that plaintiff's allegations of contemporaneous pressure and gender-based decisionmaking establish background indicia of sex discrimination relevant to his Title IX claim. In this case, a professor's comments regarding plaintiff's disciplinary case reflects an atmosphere of bias against plaintiff during the course of the University's disciplinary case. Furthermore, plaintiff was not permitted to appeal the punishment and the University's underlying finding of responsibility; plaintiff was not permitted to file a harassment complaint against the complainant; and the investigation was one-sided. Considering the combination of plaintiff's allegations of background indicia of sex discrimination along with the allegations concerning his particular disciplinary case, the panel stated that sex discrimination is a plausible explanation for the University's handling of the sexual misconduct disciplinary case against plaintiff. View "Schwake v. Arizona Board of Regents" on Justia Law

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Independent of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Minnesota has adopted an "open enrollment" process that allows a parent to enroll a student in a school outside of the student's local district. The Eighth Circuit held that the IDEA does not require a school district that enrolls a nonresident student like M.N.B. to provide transportation between the student's home and the school district where her parent has chosen to enroll her. The court saw nothing in the IDEA that provides clear notice to a state that it must cover transportation expenses when a student's travel is the result of a parent's choice under an open enrollment program. Therefore, under the circumstances presented here, the court concluded that the IDEA does not require the Osseo District to reimburse M.N.B.'s parent for the cost of transportation between her home and the border of the Osseo District. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of M.N.B. View "Osseo Area Schools v. M.N.B." on Justia Law

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Speech First challenged University of Illinois policies that allegedly impermissibly chill the speech of its student members. The Bias Assessment and Response Team (BART) responds to reports of bias-motivated incidents. Most students contacted by BART either do not respond or decline to meet; they suffer no consequences. If a student agrees to meet, BART staff explains that the student's conduct drew attention and gives the student an opportunity to reflect upon her behavior. BART’s reports are not referred to the University Police. The University Housing Bias Incident Protocol addresses bias-motivated incidents committed within University housing. There are no sanctions or discipline associated with a reported incident. When a student breaches his housing contract or violates University policy, there is a separate disciplinary process. Expression of the views described in the complaint would not contravene housing contracts nor violate any University policies. Individuals subject to student discipline may be subject to “No Contact Directives” (NCDs) and prohibited from communication with identified parties. NCDs do not constitute disciplinary findings and are not part of the students’ official disciplinary records. An NCD does not prohibit the student from talking or writing about the other. The University has not investigated or punished any members of Speech First under any of the challenged policies. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction. Speech First failed to demonstrate that its members face a credible fear that they will face discipline on the basis of their speech as a result of the policies. View "Speech First, Inc. v. Killeen" on Justia Law

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Navient sells student loans to borrowers and services and collects on student loans. Its “subprime loans,” which had high variable interest rates and origination fees, benefited schools by maximizing enrollment. Student borrowers were not informed that the loans had a high likelihood of default. In 2000-2007, 68-87% of Navient’s high-risk loans defaulted. Navient allegedly steered borrowers into consecutive forbearances after they had demonstrated a long-term inability to repay their loans. Navient would sometimes place borrowers in forbearance even though they would have qualified for $0 per month payments in an Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan. In 2011-2015, more than 60% of Navient’s borrowers who enrolled in IDR plans failed timely to renew their enrollment, allegedly because of deficient notifications. Navient also allegedly made misrepresentations concerning releases for cosigners and misapplied payments, resulting in borrowers and cosigners being improperly charged late fees and increased interest. Pennsylvania sued Navient under the Consumer Financial Protection Act, 12 U.S.C. 5552, and the state’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. Nine months earlier, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the states of Illinois and Washington had filed similar lawsuits. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion to dismiss. The federal Act permits concurrent action. The Higher Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1001, preempts state law claims based on failures to disclose required information but does not preempt claims based on affirmative misrepresentations. View "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Navient Corp" on Justia Law

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Decker developed the patented inventions while employed at the University of Texas and assigned the patents to UT. Gensetix obtained an exclusive license in the patents. The license agreement provides that, Gensetix must enforce the patents. The parties agreed to cooperate in any infringement suit and that nothing in the agreement would waive UT's sovereign immunity. Gensetix sued Baylor, alleging infringement and requested that UT join as a co-plaintiff. UT declined. Gensetix named UT as an involuntary plaintiff under FRCP 19(a). The district court dismissed, finding that UT is a sovereign state entity, so that the Eleventh Amendment barred joinder of UT, and that the suit could not proceed without UT. The Federal Circuit affirmed in part. UT did not voluntarily invoke federal jurisdiction; the Eleventh Amendment prevents “the indignity of subjecting a State to the coercive process of judicial tribunals” against its will. It is irrelevant that the license agreement requires the initiation of an infringement suit by Gensetix or cooperation by UT. The court erred in dismissing the suit without adequate analysis of Rule 19(b)'s factors: the extent to which a judgment might prejudice the missing required party or the existing parties; the extent to which any prejudice could be lessened; whether a judgment rendered in the required party’s absence would be adequate; and whether the plaintiff would have an adequate remedy if the action were dismissed. View "Gensetix, Inc. v. Baylor College of Medicine" on Justia Law

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Kesterson, a Kent State student-athlete, told her coach, Linder, that Linder’s son had raped her. Linder, a mandatory reporter under Kent State’s Title IX policy, never notified anyone. Linder stopped calling Kesterson by her nickname; chastised her in front of another coach for becoming emotional; removed Kesterson from her starting shortstop position and limited her playing time; and required Kesterson to attend events at the Linder home, where her accused rapist lived. Kenderson subsequently told other Kent State employees about the alleged rape, but none reported it. The university learned about the assault two years later when Kesterson made a complaint to the school’s Title IX office. An investigation led to Linder’s resignation. Kesterson sued Kent State, Linder, and another coach citing the free-speech retaliation protections of the First Amendment, her equal-protection rights, and Title IX. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part. A reasonable coach would have known at the time Linder acted that she could not retaliate against a student-athlete for reporting a sexual assault. Rejecting the Title IX claim, the court stated that Kent State’s employees’ failure to follow policy did not amount to deliberate indifference by the school. View "Kesterson v. Kent State University" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging violations of the Fourteenth Amendment and of state law arising from the suspension and termination of his employment. In this case, plaintiff was terminated from his position as an economics professor after the university concluded that plaintiff had sexually harassed his former student. The panel held that SCU, as a private university, does not become a state actor merely by virtue of being required by generally applicable civil rights laws to ameliorate sex (or any other form of) discrimination in educational activities as a condition of receiving state funding. Furthermore, the receipt of federal and state funds conditioned on compliance with anti-discrimination laws is insufficient to convert private conduct into state action. View "Heineke v. Santa Clara University" on Justia Law

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In 2008, after being denied tenure, George filed a discrimination lawsuit against Youngstown State University and was reinstated as part of a settlement agreement. As soon as the university’s obligations under the agreement expired, it declined to renew George’s contract and terminated his employment as a professor. George applied to several other positions within the university but was rejected. He then filed employment discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Following discovery, the district court granted YSU summary judgment, finding that George either failed to show causation, failed to show he was qualified for the job, or failed to show that YSU’s claimed reasons for firing (or not hiring) him were pretextual. The court also dismissed one of George’s failure-to-hire claims— which arose after this lawsuit was filed—based on an administrative exhaustion requirement. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to George reveals a genuine dispute of material fact as to each of the claims and the district court further erred in enforcing the administrative exhaustion requirement because the defendants expressly waived it below. View "George v. Youngstown State University" on Justia Law