Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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After O.W. was withdrawn from school, the administrative hearing officer found that the school district violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and awarded O.W. two years of private school tuition. The district court affirmed and the school district appealed. The Fifth Circuit held that the IDEA's text and structure, including its implementing regulations, compel a conclusion that the child find and expedited evaluation requirements are separate and independent such that a violation of the latter does not mean a violation of the former. Therefore, the district court erred to the extent it held otherwise. The court also held that the continued use of behavioral interventions was not a proactive step toward compliance with the school district's child find duties, and thus a child find violation occurred. In regard to claims that the district court failed to implement O.W.'s individualized education program (IEP), the district court did not err in finding that the use of the take-discipline was a significant or substantial departure from the IEP; the district court erred in concluding that eight instances of physical restraints violated O.W.'s IEP; and the single instance of police involvement did not rise to the level of an actionable violation. Furthermore, the district court correctly concluded the May 18, 2015, modification rose to the level of an actionable violation, but erred in finding the May 6, 2015, modification represented an actionable failure to implement O.W.'s IEP. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the remedy issue for reconsideration. View "Spring Branch Independent School District v. O.W." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court issuing an injunction enjoining the implementation of Senate Bill 78 (SB 78) on the grounds that it violates article X, section 8 of the Utah Constitution, holding that State Board of Education members are not employed in the state's education systems and are therefore not covered by article X, section 8. In 2016, the legislature passed SB 78, which makes the office of State Board of Education a partisan office and requires Board members to be elected through the general partisan election process. The district court concluded that Board members hold "employment" in a legal sense in the State's education system and therefore fell within the purview of article X, section 8. Thus, the court concluded, SB 78 was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court reversed the district court and reinstated SB 78, holding that because the Utah Constitution omits Board members from being in a condition of employment in the state's education systems, SB 78 does not violate the Utah Constitution. View "Richards v. Cox" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to UTA in an appeal arising out of a Title IX suit for damages alleging that UTA discriminated on the basis of sex in disciplining Thomas Klocke. Klocke was placed on disciplinary probation by UTA and was not allowed to attend class because he had harassed another student for being gay. Klocke committed suicide shortly afterwards. His estate filed suit against UTA, seeking damages for Klocke's suffering and anguish prior to his death. The court held that UTA's disciplinary decisions were reasonable and justifiable on non-discriminatory grounds, and an inference of gender bias in these circumstances would necessarily be speculative. The court also held that the selective enforcement claim failed because none of the cases that the estate has identified permit the inference that similarly situated female students were treated more favorably than Klocke. Finally, the estate cited no additional evidence to support a retaliation claim. View "Klocke v. University of Texas at Arlington" on Justia Law

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In chancery court, Plaintiffs challenged the two sources of funding for charter schools provided for under the Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2013. Plaintiffs contended the Act was unconstitutional under Article 8, Sections 206 and 208, of the Mississippi Constitution. Also, one of the charter-school intervenors maintained that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the suit. The chancellor held that the Plaintiffs did have standing to sue and that they did not prove that either source of funding was unconstitutional. Before the Mississippi Supreme Court, Plaintiffs concentrated their argument under Article 8, Section 206, of the Mississippi Constitution, alleging that a charter school’s ad valorem funding was unconstitutional. They did not appeal the chancellor’s ruling concerning per-pupil funds. The Jackson Public School District (JPS) maintained that the chancellor erred in denying its motion to be dismissed from the suit. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court, agreeing Plaintiffs had standing to sue, and that they did not meet their burden to demonstrate that Section 37-28-55 was unconstitutional. The Court found JPS’s arguments concerning its motion to dismiss were waived on appeal for failure to raise the issue in a cross-appeal. View "Araujo v. Bryant" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the University under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and various state laws, alleging that the University failed to protect them against stalking and sexual harassment by a fellow student. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the University, holding that, because Plaintiff Kirkpatrick could not satisfy the actual knowledge element, her Title IX claim failed as a matter of law and the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the University on that claim; the district court properly granted summary judgment to the University on Pearson's Title IX claim because there was no genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the University was deliberately indifferent to any stalking or harassment that she experienced; and the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' state law premises liability and general negligence claims, because plaintiffs could not establish that the school owed them a duty of care under Missouri law. View "Pearson v. Logan University" on Justia Law

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Endres has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; since age six, Endres has taken medication to treat that condition, beginning with Ritalin. Endres began medical school at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED). Endres passed 14 required classes during his first year at NEOMED, but having stopped taking Ritalin because of side effects, Endres failed one class. NEOMED made Endres repeat the entire first-year curriculum including the classes he had passed. During a test in a class he had already passed, Endres appeared to shift his eyes repeatedly toward another student’s laptop. NEOMED dismissed Endres for cheating. Endres sued, citing procedural due process violations, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The district court dismissed Endres’s complaint as untimely, stating that even if Endres’s due process claim were timely, the NEOMED official is entitled to qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding the case timely. The statute of limitations did not start until Endres learned that a second panel issued a final, non-appealable decision recommending his dismissal. Endres alleged facts which, taken as true, establish several violations of his procedural due process rights. Because the contours of those rights were not clearly established, the court affirmed the grant of qualified immunity to the official, which immunizes her from damages though not from injunctive relief. View "Endres v. Northeast Ohio Medical University" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss or alternatively for summary judgment regarding plaintiffs' disability-related claims under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or the Americans with Disabilities Act. Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from an officers' treatment of their autistic, eight year old son. The Fifth Circuit vacated, holding that there were material disputes of fact and this case was distinguishable from Hainze v. Richards, 207 F.3d 795 (2000), because there was no exigent circumstance. In this case, the court held that a jump rope in the hands of an eight year old child was not a weapon and was not capable of inflicting the same injuries or damage as an actual weapon, even if he called the jump rope his "nunchucks." At the very least, the court held that whether an eight year old twirling a child's jump rope created a danger of physical harm or a potentially life-threatening situation is a dispute of material fact. Because there are disputes of material fact, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Wilson v. City of Southlake" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged the trial court's dismissal with prejudice of their claims brought against the state level defendants. Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from their allegations that KHSD adopted and implemented a district-wide disciplinary program that was biased toward minority students, students who speak limited English, and others similarly situated. The Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal of most of plaintiffs' claims against the state level defendants, either because such claims did not state a cause of action or because they were brought against the local level defendants but not the state level defendants. However, the court ultimately found that plaintiffs have stated a cause of action under the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and they have properly petitioned for a writ of mandate based on the state level defendants' ministerial duty to monitor the practices of local school districts for violations of federal law. Therefore, the court held that the trial court wrongly sustained the state level defendants' demurrer as to those claims, as well as plaintiffs' request for declaratory relief on the same issues. In a related conclusion, the court held that plaintiffs' complaint had sufficient allegations to demonstrate associational standing for one of the community organizations to pursue these claims against the state level defendants. View "Collins v. Thurmond" on Justia Law

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Beginning in 2009, Plaintiff Rajesh Singh worked as an untenured professor in the School of Library and Information Management (SLIM) at Emporia State University (ESU). He was informed in February 2014 that his annual contract would not be renewed. He sued ESU and various administrators in their individual capacities, asserting several retaliation and discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the Kansas Act Against Discrimination (KAAD); and the Civil Rights Act of 1871. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants on every claim except one: a First Amendment retaliation claim under section 1983 against Provost David Cordle. Provost Cordle appealed the denial of summary judgment on the ground that he was entitled to qualified immunity. The district court then certified as final under Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) its order granting summary judgment on all other claims, and Plaintiff filed a cross-appeal, challenging the grant of summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claims: (1) ESU and the individual Defendants discriminated against him by not renewing his contract; and (2) ESU and the individual Defendants retaliated against him for filing discrimination complaints with ESU’s human resources department and the Kansas Human Rights Commission (KHRC). The Tenth Circuit found the claims against ESU were brought under Title VII and the KAAD, and the claims against the individual Defendants were brought under section 1983. The Court reversed the district court’s denial of summary judgment for Provost Cordle and affirmed grants of summary judgment on the remaining claims. Cordle was entitled to qualified immunity because he could have reasonably believed that the speech for which he allegedly punished Plaintiff was not on a matter of public concern. As for the discrimination claims, the district court properly granted summary judgment because Plaintiff did not establish a genuine issue of fact that ESU’s given reason for his nonrenewal, that he was noncollegial, was pretextual. “Although Plaintiff contends that these discrimination claims survive under the cat’s-paw theory of liability, he does not provide adequate evidence that the allegedly biased supervisor - his school’s dean - proximately caused the ultimate nonrenewal decision.” The Court affirmed summary judgment on Plaintiff’s retaliation claims because he failed to present adequate evidence that the ESU employees who allegedly retaliated against him knew that he had filed formal discrimination complaints. View "Singh v. Cordle" on Justia Law

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Sensabaugh, the former head football coach at David Crockett High School in Washington County, Tennessee, made two Facebook posts expressing his concerns about the conditions and practices of schools within the District. The posts included pictures of students. Sensabaugh refused to comply with requests to remove the posts and became aggressive with his supervisors who noted other alleged misconduct, including his use of profane language with students and his requiring a student to practice while injured. He was fired after a guidance meeting where his conduct caused his supervisor to report her concern “that Sensabaugh posed a threat to the safety of the students and staff.” He sued, raising First Amendment retaliation and municipal liability claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants, finding no causal connection between Sensabaugh’s Facebook posts and his termination. A thorough independent investigation preceded Sensabaugh’s termination; that investigation concluded that the misconduct allegations were substantiated in full or in part and that the misconduct supported termination. View "Sensabaugh v. Halliburton" on Justia Law