Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part in an action brought by parents and a student challenging the State of California's extended prohibition on in-person schooling during the Covid-19 pandemic. The panel concluded that, despite recent changes to the State's Covid-related regulations, this case is not moot.On the merits, the panel held that the district court properly rejected the substantive due process claims of those plaintiffs who challenge California's decision to temporarily provide public education in an almost exclusively online format. The panel explained that both it and the Supreme Court have repeatedly declined to recognize a federal constitutional right to have the State affirmatively provide an education in any particular manner, and plaintiffs have not made a sufficient showing that the panel can or should recognize such a right in this case.However, in regard to the State's interference in the in-person provision of private education to the children of five of the plaintiffs in this case, the panel concluded that the State's forced closure of their private schools implicates a right that has long been considered fundamental under the applicable caselaw—the right of parents to control their children's education and to choose their children's educational forum. The panel explained that California's ban on in-person schooling abridges a fundamental liberty of these five plaintiffs that is protected by the Due Process Clause, and thus that prohibition can be upheld only if it withstands strict scrutiny. Given the State's closure order's lack of narrow tailoring, the panel cannot say that, as a matter of law, it survives such scrutiny. Therefore, the panel reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to these five plaintiffs and remanded for further proceedings.In regard to plaintiffs' claims under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the panel concluded that the public-school plaintiffs have failed to make a sufficient showing of a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The panel explained that the challenged distinctions that the State has drawn between public schools and other facilities are subject only to rational-basis scrutiny, and these distinctions readily survive that lenient review. In regard to the private-school plaintiffs, the panel vacated the district court's judgment rejecting their Equal Protection claims and remanded for further consideration in light of the conclusion that the State's actions implicate a fundamental right of those plaintiffs. View "Brach v. Newsom" on Justia Law

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Chatman, an African-American, worked as an instructor assistant, 1988-1996. From 1997-2009, she worked as a school library assistant. In 2009, the Board of Education informed her that it was eliminating her position. Chatman learned that the Board had replaced Chatman (age 62) with a younger, non-African American employee in the same role. Chatman filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the EEOC and then sued in Illinois state court. The Board settled. In addition to a monetary payment, the district was to arrange for interviews for open positions for which Chatman was qualified. Chatman began identifying available positions but did not receive any job offer. She filed a new charge with the EEOC and later filed suit, alleging violations of Title VII’s anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation provisions, and violation of the anti-discrimination provision of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Board, finding certain claims barred by the statute of limitations, and, regarding other positions, that Chatman could not establish that she was qualified for the positions, nor could she establish that the Board’s nondiscriminatory reasons for not offering her the positions were pretextual for discrimination. Chatman could not establish that she was denied a job because of her prior protected activity. View "Chatman v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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S.B., a 12-year-old boy with Down Syndrome, requires special education. In 2014, S.B. and his parents moved from New York to Lakewood, New Jersey. S.B.’s parents requested an individualized education program (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 20 U.S.C. 140, from the Lakewood Township School District. Lakewood determined it could not provide S.B. an IDEA-mandated free appropriate public education (FAPE) at its own public schools. It crafted an IEP that placed S.B. at the private School for Children with Hidden Intelligence (SCHI) and reimbursed the costs. In November 2016, the family moved homes and transferred S.B. from Lakewood to the Howell School District. Howell’s staff reviewed the Lakewood IEP, met with the family, and indicated “that [S.B.’s] IEP can be implemented in [Howell’s special education] class at Memorial Elementary School where [S.B.] will receive a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.” His parents continued to send S.B. to SCHI. In February 2017, Howell terminated S.B.’s enrollment.After a due process hearing, an ALJ ruled for Howell. The district court granted Howell summary judgment. The Third Circuit affirmed. While section 1415(j), the “stay-put” provision, provides generally that eligible students must remain in their current educational settings during certain procedures, section 1414(d)(2)(C)(i)(I), the intrastate transfer provision, says that schools need only provide eligible transfer students comparable services to those they were previously receiving. View "Y.B. v. Howell Township Board of Education" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Kaleb Vasseur, an elementary school student in Fayston, Vermont, filed a superior court action arguing that the way his school district elected its school board members violated the Vermont Constitution. The court dismissed the complaint for lack of constitutional standing. Plaintiff appealed the court’s order that denied his motion to amend the complaint because the proposed amended complaint also failed to satisfy the standing requirement. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the superior court. View "Vasseur v. Vermont" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that University employees violated InterVarsity's First Amendment rights and denial of qualified immunity. In this case, the University deregistered InterVarsity as a Registered Student Organization based on the University's determination that InterVarsity had violated the University's Policy on Human Rights by requiring its leaders to subscribe to certain religious beliefs.The court agreed with the district court that the University's policy was reasonable and viewpoint neutral, but not as applied to InterVarsity. The court explained that the University's choice to selectively apply the policy against InterVarsity suggests a preference for certain viewpoints over InterVarsity's. Furthermore, these rights were clearly established at the time of the violation. View "Intervarsity Christian Fellowship/USA v. University of Iowa" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's preliminary injunction ordering E.E.'s current educational placement as his "stay put" placement during the pendency of judicial proceedings in a suit brought under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).The panel concluded that the ALJ acted without legal authority in determining that E.E.'s potential future placement in the 2020 individualized education plan (IEP) constituted his current placement for purposes of E.E.'s stay put placement. Therefore, because the ALJ acted ultra vires, her stay put determination was void. Consequently, the parents' stay put motion did not seek to modify an existing stay put order, so the district court correctly entered an automatic preliminary injunction pursuant to Joshua A. v. Rocklin Unified Sch. Dist., 559 F.3d 1036, 1037 (9th Cir. 2009). Furthermore, the school district's proposed exception to the stay put provision is not supported by either the text of the IDEA or any other legal authority, and the panel declined to adopt it. View "E.E. v. Norris School District" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated its previous opinion and substituted it with this opinion. This revised opinion does not reach the Title IX question and reaches only one ground under the Equal Protection Clause instead of the three Equal Protection rulings the court made in the August 7 opinion.Plaintiff, a recent high school graduate and a transgender young man, filed suit against the school board through his next friend and mother, alleging violations of his rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.The court affirmed the district court's entry of judgment in favor of plaintiff on the equal protection claim under the heightened intermediate scrutiny standard, concluding that the school district's policy barring plaintiff from the boys' restroom violates the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection, because the school district assigns students to sex-specific bathrooms in an arbitrary manner. In this case, the school board has not met its "demanding" constitutional burden by showing a substantial relationship between its policy for excluding transgender students from certain restrooms and student privacy. The court affirmed the district court's award of damages because plaintiff undoubtedly suffered harm as a result of this violation. Because plaintiff prevails on his equal protection claim, which fully entitles him to the relief granted by the district court, the court declined to reach his Title IX claim. View "Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County, Florida" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a putative class action against the School District, claiming that shortcomings in the District’s translation and interpretation services violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400.The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the District, based on failure to exhaust administrative remedies. A “systemic exception” to IDEA’s administrative exhaustion requirement applies where plaintiffs “allege systemic legal deficiencies and, correspondingly, request system-wide relief" that cannot be addressed through the administrative process. The fact that a complaint is structured as a class action seeking injunctive relief, without more, does not excuse exhaustion; the systemic exception applies when plaintiffs challenge policies that threaten basic IDEA goals, not mere components of special education programs. Both named plaintiffs could bring the same IDEA claim from their complaint before a hearing officer who could then order that the District provide each parent with translated individualized education plans, more qualified or consistent interpretation services, or whatever process would ensure meaningful participation for that parent. Both the claim and the relief would be individualized, even if the relief could create spillover benefits for other parents. View "T.R. v. School District of Philadelphia" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, which (A) declared the Board to be in violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for denying a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to disabled students between the ages of 21 and 22 while providing a free public education to nondisabled students in the same age range, and (B) permanently enjoined the Board and its successors, employees, and agents, etc., from terminating, on the basis of age, FAPEs for plaintiff class members who have not received a regular high school diploma before they reach the age of 22.The court concluded that the original plaintiff, D.J., had standing to bring the action where D.J. received ten months less of special education than he would have if not for the Board's enforcement of the challenged state regulation, thereby demonstrating injury for purposes of Article III standing. Furthermore, D.J.'s standing was entirely traceable to the Board's enforcement of the regulations at issue and the injury could be redressed by judicial action. On the merits, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in interpreting the IDEA term "public education" to encompass free adult education programs offered by the State of Connecticut. The court considered all of the Board's arguments on appeal and found them to be without merit. View "A.R. v. Connecticut State Board of Education" on Justia Law

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In 2016, a Madison student fired a gun and injured four students. Approximately two years later, the School Board enacted a resolution allowing staff to carry concealed weapons. Around the same time, Madison students walked out of class during the school day to protest gun violence; school administration disciplined those students. The plaintiffs began attending Board meetings. At one meeting, three were not allowed to speak for failure to complete a “public participation form,” in person, at least two business days before the meeting. Another plaintiff finished his (under three-minute) speech while a security officer escorted him from the room.The plaintiffs sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging the Board Policy’s “use of vague and undefined terms” and “the imposition of content-based restrictions on speech.” The district court granted the Board summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed in part. The Policy’s restrictions on “abusive,” “personally directed,” and “antagonist” statements discriminate based on viewpoint and were unconstitutionally applied to silence the plaintiff. The antagonistic restriction, by definition, prohibits speech opposing the Board. The plaintiff spoke calmly and refrained from personal attacks or vitriol, focusing on his stringent opposition to the Board’s policy and his belief that the Board was not being honest about its motives. The preregistration requirement is a content-neutral time, place, manner restriction that narrowly serves a significant government interest and leaves ample alternative channels. View "Ison v. Madison Local School District Board of Education" on Justia Law