Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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T.O. and his parents appealed the district court's dismissal of their claims arising under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974. Plaintiffs' claims arose from a primary school disciplinary incident experienced by T.O.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the substantive due process claim, concluding that the facts simply do not suggest that T.O. was the subject of a random, malicious, and unprovoked attack, which would justify deviation from Fee v. Herndon, 900 F.2d 804. In this case, an aide removed T.O. from his classroom for disrupting class, and the teacher used force only after T.O. pushed and hit her. Even if the teacher's intervention were ill-advised and her reaction inappropriate, the court cannot say that it did not occur in a disciplinary context. Furthermore, the court has consistently held that Texas law provides adequate, alternative remedies in the form of both criminal and civil liability for school employees whose use of excessive disciplinary force results in injury to students in T.O.'s situation.The court also concluded that plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claims fail because this court has not conclusively determined whether the momentary use of force by a teacher against a student constitutes a Fourth Amendment seizure. In regard to the ADA and section 504 claims, the court concluded that the amended complaint failed to allege facts permitting the inference that either the teacher's actions or the school district's actions were based on T.O.'s disability. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying leave to amend. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's rulings. View "T.O. v. Fort Bend Independent School District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the ordered entered by the circuit court granting the motion to dismiss filed by Defendant, the Harrison County Board of Education, and dismissing Plaintiffs' complaint seeking damages for their student's injuries caused by an Assistant Principal's actions and the Board's response thereto, holding that the circuit court erred in part.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court properly dismissed Plaintiffs' claims for negligent hiring and negligent supervision; (2) the circuit court did not err by dismissing a portion Plaintiffs' claim for negligence per se, but the allegations of negligence per se that Petitioners set forth in their third iteration of the claim sufficiently stated a caused of action for negligence to defeat the Board's motion to dismiss; and (3) the circuit court erred in dismissing Plaintiffs' claim for negligent retention because Plaintiffs stated a claim for negligent retention sufficient to survive the Board's motion to dismiss this claim. View "C.C. v. Harrison County Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying the motion to dismiss this action against the Arkansas Department of Education, members of the Arkansas State Board of Education, and the Commissioner of Education (collectively, the State Board), holding that the circuit court correctly denied sovereign immunity on the constitutional delegation of authority claim.Several parents and grandparents of students in the Little Rock School District brought this lawsuit challenging the State Board's continued control of LRSD through limitations placed on a new school board. The State Board filed a motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity and lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' Administrative Procedure Act claim; (2) Plaintiffs failed to sufficiently plead an illegal-acts or ultra vires exception to sovereign immunity under Ark. Code Ann. 6-15-2917(c); and (3) the circuit court properly denied sovereign immunity on Plaintiffs' constitutional delegation of authority claim because the sufficiently pled challenge to the constitutionality of Ark. Code Ann. 6-15-2916 and -2917 overcame sovereign immunity. View "Arkansas Department of Education v. McCoy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former student at Oakton High School, filed suit under Title IX against the school board, alleging that her school’s administrators acted with deliberate indifference to reports that she had been sexually harassed by another Oakton student, "Jack Smith." The jury ruled against plaintiff and the district court subsequently denied her motion for a new trial.The Fourth Circuit reversed, holding that a school's receipt of a report that can objectively be taken to allege sexual harassment is sufficient to establish actual notice or knowledge under Title IX—regardless of whether school officials subjectively understood the report to allege sexual harassment or whether they believed the alleged harassment actually occurred. The court further concluded that under this standard, no evidence in the record supports the jury's conclusion that the school board lacked actual notice of Smith's alleged sexual harassment of plaintiff. Accordingly, the court remanded for a new trial. View "Doe v. Fairfax County School Board" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, parents of LD, filed suit against the school district and others after their daughter LD, a 13-year-old, 7th grade student, was sexually abused by her teacher, Brian Robeson.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the school district and the principal. The court concluded that plaintiffs failed to present any evidence that the principal had actual notice of the abuse, and the principal and the school district were entitled to summary judgment on plaintiffs' Title IX and 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims. The court also concluded that the district court did not err by granting summary judgment in favor of the school district and principal on plaintiffs' Nebraska Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act where plaintiffs' claim arose out of Robeson's sexual assault of LD, an intentional tort to which the Act's intentional tort exception applies. The court further concluded that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the principal on plaintiffs' aiding and abetting intentional infliction of emotional distress claim where nothing in the record, even when viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, indicates that the principal encouraged or assisted Robeson in inflicting emotional distress on LD.The court joined its sister circuits in finding that there is no right to a jury trial on the issue of damages following entry of default judgment. The court affirmed the district court's order denying plaintiffs' request for a jury trial on the issue of damages against Robeson. Finally, the court affirmed the $1,249,540.41 amount of damages awarded against Robeson. View "KD v. Douglas County School District No. 001" on Justia Law

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Leggett Elementary School principal Vincente called a child’s mother to pick him up. The mother stated that her “boyfriend who is a policeman” (Hendon) would come. Because of another emergency situation, police were at the school. Vincente saw Hendon speaking with Akron officers. Hendon wore all black, with a vest and badge that said “officer,” and his name on his uniform. When Hendon entered the office, the secretaries assumed he was a police officer. Hendon and Vincente talked briefly about Hendon’s efforts to restart the Scared Straight Program.The next morning, Hendon reappeared, uninvited, dressed in what looked like SWAT gear. He and Vincente spoke again about the Scared Straight Program. Later, when a teacher had a problem student, (M.J.) Hendon took M.J. out of the classroom and threw M.J. against a wall, verbally abusing him, then returned M.J. to class, Later another education teacher summoned Hendon, who took two misbehaving students inside and forced them to perform exercises. There were additional incidents, during which school staff, believing Hendon to be a police officer, allowed him to discipline children. Interacting with parents, Hendon stated that he was an officer with the Scared Straight program.Eventually, the Akron police arrested Hendon. Parents and children sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA, and Title VI. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants, rejecting “state-created danger” claims. The actual harm that M.J. experienced because of Vincente’s affirmative action is not the type that Vincente could have inferred from known facts. The plaintiffs had no evidence of discrimination. View "M.J. v. Akron City School District Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the order of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss, holding that governmental immunity did not bar Plaintiff's claim under the North Carolina Constitution for a school board's deliberate indifference to continual student harassment.Plaintiffs alleged that the school board's indifference denied students their constitutionally-guaranteed right to the opportunity to receive a sound basis education under N.C. Const. art. I, 15. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing in part that the claim under the North Carolina Constitution was barred by the defense of sovereign or governmental immunity. The trial court denied the motion in part and allowed the constitutional claim to proceed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that abuse or an abusive classroom environment does not violate a constitutional right to education. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that where a government entity with control over the school is deliberately indifferent to ongoing harassment that prevents a student from accessing his constitutionally guaranteed right to a sound basic education, the student has a colorable claim under the state Constitution. View "Deminski v. State Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the portions of the emergency order issued by Janel Heinrich, in her capacity as a local health officer of Public Health of Madison and Dane County, restricting or prohibiting in-person instruction in all schools in Dane County for grades 3-12, holding that those portions were unlawful and unenforceable and are hereby vacated.The disputed order was issued in an effort to decrease the spread of COVID-19. Petitioners - students - brought three cases challenging Heinrich's authority to issue the emergency order, contending that the order exceeded her statutory authority under Minn. Stat. 252.03, violated Petitioners' fundamental right to the free exercise of religioun under Wis. Const. art. I, 18, and violated parents' fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children under Wis. Const. art. I, 1. The Supreme Court consolidated the cases and held (1) local health officers do not have the statutory power to close schools under section 252.03; and (2) the order infringed Petitioners' fundamental right to the free exercise of religion guaranteed in the Wisconsin Constitution. View "St. Ambrose Academy, Inc. v. Parisi" on Justia Law

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Castelino enrolled at Rose-Hulman. Based on his ADHD and a learning disorder, Rose-Hulman granted him 100% extended time on tests and quizzes, which he was allowed to take in a distraction-free environment. Castelino was reprimanded for copying from another student’s homework and separately for submitting duplicate work. Castelino lied to his professor about the notes he used during an exam. Because this was Castelino’s third documented case of academic misconduct, it was forwarded to the Rules and Discipline Committee. Castelino was suspended for one quarter. Castelino unsuccessfully applied for readmission multiple times. The Dean did not recommend readmission, based on Castelino’s failure to accept responsibility for his actions and his history of behavioral issues, ranging from altercations and rude conduct on campus to complaints by female students that he was taking their photographs without permission. While suspended, Castelino was arrested for breach of peace, cultivation and sale of marijuana, operation of a drug factory, and possession of a hallucinogen.After being told that he would not be allowed to reapply, Castelino sued, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101, breach of contract, defamation, false advertising, invasion of privacy, and harassment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Rose-Hulman, noting Castelino’s “inscrutable” submissions and violations of court rules. Castelino fails to identify any facts establishing that Rose-Hulman or any professor failed to accommodate his learning disability. View "Castelino v. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology" on Justia Law

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Petitioners filed suit seeking injunctive relief, alleging that the denials of their requests for tuition funding violated their rights to the free exercise of religion under the First Amendment. Under Vermont's Town Tuition Program (TTP), sending districts pay tuition to independent schools on behalf of high-school-aged students residing in the districts. The district court found that the school districts—endeavoring to comply with a state constitutional provision—denied petitioners' funding requests solely because of the religious status of petitioners' chosen school. Following Supreme Court precedent, the district court ruled that the exclusion of petitioners from the TTP violated the First Amendment, and the district court granted a limited preliminary injunction in petitioners' favor. Because respondents wanted to develop new criteria for TTP eligibility that would satisfy the state constitution, the district court enjoined the school districts from continuing to exclude petitioners from the TTP based solely on the religious status of petitioners' chosen school. However, the district court declined to mandate that the districts allow petitioners to participate in the TTP until the case was resolved. Petitioners appealed and moved for an emergency injunction pending appeal that would prohibit the school districts from continuing to deny their TTP funding requests.The Second Circuit construed petitioners' motion as a petition for a writ of mandamus directing the district court to amend its preliminary injunction. In February 2021, the court granted the petition for writ of mandamus because petitioners clearly had a right to the relief they requested and mandamus was justified to enable them to obtain that relief. In this opinion, the court explained the reasons for its order granting the writ, concluding that petitioners have no other adequate means to attain the relief they desire; the district court was wrong to allow the school districts to continue to withhold TTP funds from petitioners while the districts developed new restrictions and safeguards; and the writ is appropriate where petitioners have been deprived of a public benefit as a result of the state's and the school districts' decades-long policy of unconstitutional religious discrimination. View "A.H. v. French" on Justia Law