Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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John was a student at the University of California, Davis when fellow student Jane reported that he engaged in nonconsensual sexual intercourse with her in violation of University policy. John agreed they had sex but said Jane consented. Following an investigation, UC Davis found that on the night the two had sex, Jane was incapacitated due to alcohol such that she was unable to consent and that, given her condition, a reasonable person should have known she was unable to consent. John was suspended from all UC campuses for two years.The court of appeal affirmed the denial of a writ of administrative mandate to set aside the suspension. The court rejected John’s claim that he was denied a fair process in UC Davis’s investigation and adjudication because he was denied a live hearing and an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses before a fact-finder who was not also the investigator. In university disciplinary proceedings involving allegations of sexual misconduct, when the sanction is severe and credibility is central to the adjudication, the university must provide cross-examination at a live hearing before a neutral adjudicator who was not also the investigator. In this case, however, credibility was not central. John’s own account provided substantial evidence of the policy violation. The investigation was thorough, there is no evidence of investigator bias, and John was provided many opportunities to state his version of events and to review and respond to the evidence. View "Doe v. The Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law

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John Doe was a senior at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), when fellow student Jane Roe reported that he engaged in dating violence against her in violation of University of California policy. John admitted that, after arguing with Jane for hours, he “grabbed her, screamed in her face and shook her” and “eventually dragged her out of the bed to the front door” of his home. Following an investigation, the university found John violated UC policy, and he was suspended for three years, resulting in a three-year hold of his degree and diploma.The court of appeal affirmed the denial of John’s petition for a writ of administrative mandate seeking to set aside the disciplinary decision and suspension. John’s written statement alone provided sufficient evidence to establish he engaged in dating violence, including that his conduct caused bodily injury. The court rejected John’s claims he was denied a fair process because the fact finder did not observe the witnesses and John was not allowed to cross-examine witnesses, UCSB withheld evidence from him during its investigation, and the review committee failed to follow its own policy requiring an independent review of the disciplinary decision. View "Doe v. The Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law

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An ALJ concluded that the school district had failed to provide the student, who has Prader-Willi Syndrome, with a free appropriate public education (20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(1)(A)) because she required “total food security” to obtain a meaningful educational benefit at school. The ALJ ordered the student’s placement at the educational center, which treats students with Prader-Willi Syndrome and provides total food security at the district’s expense. After the district failed either to appeal or to comply with the order, the student’s parent sought a stay-put order. The district court denied relief.The Ninth Circuit reversed. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) stay-put provision provides that while an administrative appeal or civil action filed by an “aggrieved” party is ongoing, the student must remain in her then-current educational placement. A “party aggrieved” includes a parent who is aggrieved by a school district’s failure to either appeal or comply with a final administrative order and who seeks court enforcement of that order. The district court incorrectly interpreted the ALJ order as providing alternative remedies, rather than an immediate transfer to the educational center, where the student was to remain, at the district’s expense, until the ALJ determined that a new individualized education plan addressed the perceived inadequacies in her prior setting. Under the appropriate analysis, the ALJ order changed the student’s legal placement to the educational center. Under the IDEA’s stay-put provision, this new placement must be made and maintained. View "S. C. v. Lincoln County School District" on Justia Law

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A majority of the taxable inhabitants of Highspire Borough, Pennslyvania (the “Coalition”) filed a petition seeking to be established as a school district independent from Steelton-Highspire School District (“SHSD”) for the sole purpose of having the new school district be absorbed into the neighboring Middletown Area School District (“MASD”). The Secretary of Education issued an opinion and order denying the transfer on the grounds that the academic benefits to be enjoyed by the transferring students did not outweigh the educational detriments imposed upon the students in the SHSD and MASD districts. In particular, the Secretary concluded that the transfer would undermine the financial stability of SHSD and put a strain on class size and facilities at MASD. On appeal, the Commonwealth Court reversed, taking issue with the Secretary’s consideration of finances and holding that the Secretary should have instead narrowly focused on the academic benefits that would be enjoyed by the transferring students. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded that in this case, the Secretary properly considered financial impacts and appropriately focused on the quality of education for the students in all of the school districts associated with the proposed transfer. The Court therefore reversed the order of the Commonwealth Court and remanded for further proceedings. View "In Re: Appeal for Formation of Independent SD" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing this appeal of a decision of the Ohio State Board of Education, holding that the state board's final determination that a charter school must repay approximately $60 million in excess funding could not be appealed under Ohio Rev. Code Chapter 119.In 2016, the Ohio Department of Education determined that the state had overpaid the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), formerly Ohio's largest charter school, approximately $60 million based on a review of the school's enrollment data. ECOT appealed under Ohio Rev. Code 3314.08(K)(2)(b), which allows a charter school to appeal such a decision to the board of education for an informal hearing. The state board confirmed the department of education's determination. At issue was whether ECOT could appeal the board of education's "final" decision where section 3314.08(K)(2)(d) provides that any decision made by the board on such an appeal is final. The Supreme Court concluded that ECOT had no right to appeal the decision under Ohio Rev. Code Chapter 119. View "Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow v. State Board of Education" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against University officials, alleging that the University's then-existing events policy was unconstitutional facially and as applied to them under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. In this case, after Students for a Conservative Voice (SCV) brought Ben Shapiro to speak at the University, officials rejected various proposed venues for the event, citing security concerns. Ultimately, the officials approved a smaller, more remote venue than what SCV had requested.The Eighth Circuit concluded that SCV's facial challenges and requests for injunctive relief are now moot and that plaintiffs lack standing to maintain their as-applied claim. The court explained that the University's "Large Scale Event Process" policy had been replaced with a new "Major Events" policy, which was more detailed and pertains to the entirety of the University's campus, and plaintiffs failed to show that it is "virtually certain" that the prior policy will be reenacted. In regard to plaintiffs' as-applied claim, they have failed to show that the policy was in fact applied to them. The court stated that the record reflects that the officials' decisions were independent of the Large Scale Event Process and made within the scope of each officials' position at the University, but plaintiffs' complaint presents no First Amendment challenge to the officials' actions apart from the application of the now repealed policy. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's orders with respect to those claims and remanded with instructions to dismiss without prejudice. View "Young America's Foundation v. Kaler" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment resolving a dispute with the school district concerning the "facilities costs" for which the district may properly charge the charter school.The court concluded that a district must exclude from the facilities costs it charges a charter school all costs of both operations and ongoing maintenance if the charter school pays those costs for its own premises. The court explained that, while the text of the regulations is ambiguous and, in part, self-contradictory, the regulatory history and the statutory scheme, as well as the common understanding of all parties prior to the trial court’s unsolicited ruling, make clear that the state board did not intend such a result. In this case, Cal. Code Regs., tit. 5, section 11969.7 requires a district to exclude plant maintenance and operations costs from its facilities costs in calculating the pro rata share of a charter school that pays for its own operations and maintenance. Furthermore, section 11969.7 requires a district to exclude from facilities costs any contributions to its ongoing and major maintenance (OMM) account that are ultimately disbursed to pay costs of a type paid by the charter school. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Mt. Diablo Unified School District v. Clayton Valley Charter High School" on Justia Law

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The South Carolina Supreme Court granted petitioners' request for a declaration with respect to Provisos 1.108 and 1.103 of the 2021-2022 Appropriations Act1 were invalid. Proviso 1.108 (enacted June 22, 2021,) was directed to the South Carolina Department of Education for South Carolina's kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) public schools, and banned face mask mandates at any of its education facilities. Proviso 1.103 permitted school districts to offer a virtual education program for up to five percent of its student population based on the most recent 135 day ADM [(average daily membership)]count without impacting any state funding. For every student participating in the virtual program above the five percent threshold, the school district would not receive 47.22% of the State per pupil funding provided to that district as reported in the latest Revenue and Fiscal Affairs revenue per pupil report pursuant to Proviso 1.3. Although the School District did not require its students to wear masks in its education facilities, it claimed Proviso 1.108 conflicted with local laws regarding mask requirements in schools and placed the School District in an untenable position. In addition, Petitioners claimed the School District reached the five percent cap for virtual enrollment and did not wish to risk losing state funds by exceeding the cap in Proviso 1.103. The School District asked for guidance on its options and obligations regarding face masks and virtual education. Petitioners contended: (1) Provisos 1.108 and 1.103 violate the one-subject rule of article III, section 17 of the South Carolina Constitution; (2) the plain language of Proviso 1.108 permitted the School District to implement and enforce mask mandates in its education facilities if the School District did so with funds not appropriated or authorized in the 2021-2022 Appropriations Act; (3) Provisos 1.108 and 1.103 improperly invade the authority of local school boards; and (4) Provisos 1.108 and 1.103 denied equal protection to students and violated their constitutional right to free public education. The Supreme Court held the provisos were constitutional, and rejected the remaining challenges to the validity of the provisos. View "Richland County School District 2 v. Lucas" on Justia Law

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Citing a budget deficit, Chicago’s Board of Education laid off 1,077 teachers and 393 paraprofessional educators in 2011. The Chicago Teachers Union and a class of teachers (CTU) sued, alleging that the layoffs discriminated against African-American teachers and paraprofessionals in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. 2000e.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Board. While CTU made a prima facie case of disparate impact with evidence that African-Americans comprised approximately 30% of Union members at the time of the layoffs but made up just over 40% of Union members receiving layoff notices, the Board’s decision to tie layoffs to declining enrollment in schools was legitimate, job-related, and consistent with business necessity. Beyond noting the existence of open positions for which laid-off employees were qualified, CTU did not meet its burden of establishing that its proposed alternative of transferring employees was “available, equally valid and less discriminatory.” The Illinois statute’s designation of hiring discretion to principals neither promotes discrimination nor bears any relationship to the Board’s decision to tie layoffs to declining enrollment and the transfer alternative proposed by CTU is not consistent with the Collective Bargaining Agreement. CTU did not put forth any evidence of intentional discrimination by the Board. View "Chicago Teachers Union v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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The Sumter County Board of Education ("the SCBE") appealed a circuit court's dismissal of its complaint asserting claims of reformation of a deed, breach of contract, and fraud, as well as seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, against the University of West Alabama ("UWA"); UWA's president Dr. Kenneth Tucker, in his individual and official capacities; and UWA's former president, Dr. Richard Holland, in his individual and official capacities. Because a new high school had been built, in early 2010 the SCBE closed Livingston High School ("LHS"). Shortly thereafter, officials from UWA approached the SCBE about the possibility of purchasing the LHS property. In 2011, a "Statutory Warranty Deed" conveying the LHS property from the SCBE to UWA ("the deed") was executed, and it was signed on the SCBE's behalf by Dr. Morton. The deed did not contain any restrictions on the LHS property or its use. The deed was recorded in the Sumter Probate Court on June 27, 2011. In May 2017, the University Charter School ("UCS") filed an application with the Alabama Public Charter School Commission ("the APCSC") to establish a charter school in Sumter County. In its application, UCS stated that the LHS property was its first choice for the location of the school. The APCSC approved UCS's application in July 2017. In October 2017, it was publicly announced that UWA had an agreement with UCS for UCS to use the LHS property to house its school.3 The SCBE's complaint alleged that in November 2017 the SCBE contacted UWA president Dr. Tucker and "requested that Defendant UWA honor its covenant not to use Livingston High School property as a K-12 charter school." However, UCS continued its preparations, and in August 2018 UCS opened its charter school on the LHS property with over 300 students attending. In May 2018, the SCBE filed the complaint at issue here, and the circuit court ultimately dismissed the complaint. Because the Alabama Supreme Court found that a restrictive covenant in the sales contract violated clear public policies of the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act, the restrictive covenant was unenforceable. Therefore, the circuit court's judgment dismissing all the claims against the University defendants was affirmed. View "Sumter County Board of Education v. University of West Alabama, et al." on Justia Law