Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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Vianney appealed the district court's summary judgment rulings on their Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) claims, Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Missouri RFRA) claim; and inverse condemnation claim under Missouri's Constitution. The Eighth Circuit affirmed as to the RLUIPA claims, holding that the city's lighting and sound regulations did not substantially burden, rather than merely inconvenienced, Vianney's religious exercise. In this case, Vianney has not demonstrated that a requirement that it avail itself of alternatives would substantially burden its religious exercise, and the record demonstrated that Vianney was not treated less favorably than other schools. The court also affirmed as to the inverse condemnation claim, holding that Missouri courts have held that the reasonable exercise of a city's police power does not constitute a taking and the regulations here did not impose unusually restrictive limitations. However, the court vacated as to the Missouri RFRA claim, because the district court abused its discretion in deciding this state law claim on the merits after granting the city summary judgment on the RLUIPA claims. Accordingly, the court remanded to the district court with instructions to dismiss the claim without prejudice. View "Marianist Province of the U.S. v. City of Kirkwood" on Justia Law

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Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (Physicians Committee) filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking to prohibit local educational agencies Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and Poway Unified School District (PUSD) from serving processed meats in their schools, and directing them to modify wellness policies to reflect the goal of reducing or eliminating processed meats. The local educational agencies demurred, arguing they were under no statutory obligation to reduce or eliminate processed meat from schools. The trial court granted the demurrers. Physicians Committee appealed, contending the local educational agencies' failure to reduce or eliminate processed meat from schools abused their discretion in developing statutorily-mandated, local wellness policies. After review, the Court of Appeal disagreed and affirmed the judgment. View "Physicians Com. for Responsible etc. v. L.A. Unified School Dist." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, four female students each reported sexual assault to the campus police and authorities. The plaintiffs contend that the administration’s response was inadequate, caused them physical and emotional harm, and consequently denied them educational opportunities. They sued, claiming violations of Title IX, Due Process and Equal Protection under 42 U.S.C. 1983, and Michigan law. The district court dismissed all but three claims under Title IX and one section 1983 claim. The Sixth Circuit remanded for dismissal of those claims. A victim of “student-on-student sexual harassment” has a private cause of action against the school under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681, if the harassment was “pervasive” and the school’s response “caused” the injury. A student-victim must plead, and ultimately prove, that the school had actual knowledge of actionable sexual harassment and that the school’s deliberate indifference to it resulted in further actionable sexual harassment against the student-victim, which caused the Title IX injuries. A student-victim’s subjective dissatisfaction with the school’s response is immaterial to whether the school’s response caused the claimed Title IX violation. Because none of the plaintiffs suffered any actionable sexual harassment after the school’s response, they did not suffer “pervasive” sexual harassment and cannot meet the causation element. The court also held that the individual defendant is entitled to qualified immunity. View "Kollaritsch v. Michigan State University Board of Trustees" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing with prejudice Transparent GMU's petition for writ of mandamus seeking to obtain donor information under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA), Va. Code 2.2-3700 et seq., from George Mason University (GMU) and the George Mason University Foundation, Inc. (the Foundation), holding that the Foundation's records were not subject to disclosure under VFOIA. Transparent filed VFOIA requests with GMU and the Foundation seeking records of grants and donations involving contributions to or for GMU from any of several charitable foundations. The Foundation, a privately held corporation established the raise funds and manage donations given for the benefit of GMU, responded that it was not a public body and its records were not public records subject to VFOIA. Transparent filed a petition for mandamus relief. The circuit court found that the Foundation was not a public body under VFOIA and dismissed the petition with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding the Foundation was not a public body subject to VFOIA. View "Transparent GMU v. George Mason University" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court made permanent a preliminary writ of prohibition it issued barring the circuit court from taking any further action other than to vacate an order overruling Relator's motion for summary judgment and to enter judgment for Relator, holding that Relator was entitled to official immunity. Israel Mariano, a student at Independence Academy, filed a negligence suit against Relator, an in-school suspension teacher, in his individual capacity for injuries Mariano sustained when Relator physically restrained him and broke his arm. The circuit court overruled Relator's motion summary judgment claiming he was entitled to official immunity. Relator sought a writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that Relator was entitled to official immunity under the circumstances of this case. View "State ex rel. Alsup v. Honorable James F. Kanatzar" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court reversing the judgment of the trial court after concluding that expert testimony was necessary to establish the standard of care in this negligence action, holding that, under the facts of this case, expert testimony was not necessary. Plaintiffs, a minor child, by and through her mother, alleged that the City of Waterbury and the Waterbury Board of Education were negligent for injuries sustained by the child during recess at a Waterbury public school. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. The Appellate Court reversed, concluding that the trial court improperly found in the absence of expert testimony that Defendants breached their duty of care to the child on the basis that there was an inadequate number of adults on the playground to supervise the students at the time the child was injured. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the fact finder here did not need to apply scientific or specialized knowledge to determine whether Defendants adequately supervised the children in this case. View "Osborn v. Waterbury" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court reversing the decision of the state agency that oversees law-enforcement training refusing a state university's application seeking authorization to establish and operate a new law enforcement training academy for senior university students majoring in criminal justice studies, holding that the circuit court did not err. In denying the university's application to create a new law enforcement training academy the state agency concluded that the university's proposed academy was not necessary. The circuit court reversed the state agency's decision and ordered that the agency approve the university's application, finding that the agency's decision was arbitrary, capricious, and unsupported by law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the agency's decision to deny the university's application to establish and operate an entry-level law enforcement training academy was arbitrary, capricious, and not supported by any statutory authority. View "Division of Justice & Community Service v. Fairmont State University" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court granting a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Trustees of Boston College (BC) from imposing a suspension of one year on John Doe, a student, who was found to have engaged in the sexual assault of a female student, holding that the district court erred in finding a probability of success as to Doe's claim under Massachusetts contract law. The suspension decision in this case was the outcome of a disciplinary complaint filed against Doe, and the suspension decision was the outcome of the procedures set forth in BC's student sexual misconduct policy. In issuing the preliminary injunction the district court found Doe had shown a probability of success on the merits of the state law claim of violation of a contractual obligation of basic fairness. The First Circuit vacated the injunction, holding (1) to the extent the district court was attempting to base its ruling on a prediction of future developments in Massachusetts contract law, the court erred; and (2) where current Massachusetts law does not require the college discipline process Doe argues must be a part of a contractual obligation of basic fairness the court erred in granting the injunction. View "Doe v. Trustees of Boston College" on Justia Law

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Amanda M. (“Parent”), the mother of Nathan M., a child with autism, challenged an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) developed with Harrison School District No. 2 (“the District”) that proposed removing Nathan from Alpine Autism Center (a private, autism-only facility) and placing him in Otero Elementary School (a public school). Nathan’s mother contended the school district did not comply with numerous procedural requirements in developing the IEP and that the IEP itself failed to offer Nathan a “free appropriate public education” as required by the Act. The Tenth Circuit determined that because the IEP at issue governed a schoolyear that has passed, and because the various IEP deficiencies alleged by Parent were not capable of repetition yet evading review, the case was moot. View "Nathan M. v. Harrison School District No. 2" on Justia Law

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The question of whether all speech over the microphone was government speech is a heavily fact-intensive one that looks at the history of the government's use of the medium for communicative purposes, the implication of government endorsement of messages carried over that medium, and the degree of government control over those messages. After FHSAA denied access to a loudspeaker for a proposed religious speech before a high school football game, Cambridge Christian filed suit alleging claims arising under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the United States and Florida Constitutions. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Eleventh Circuit held that Cambridge Christian's claims for relief under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses have been adequately and plausibly pled. In this case, the history factor weighed against finding government speech and the control factor was indeterminate. Therefore, based on the limited record, the court found that it was plausible that the multitude of messages delivered over the loudspeaker should be viewed as private, not government, speech. While the court agreed with the district court that the loudspeaker was a nonpublic forum, the court held that Cambridge Christian has plausibly alleged that it was arbitrarily and haphazardly denied access to the forum in violation of the First Amendment. The court also could not say that in denying communal prayer over the loudspeaker, the FHSAA did not infringe on Cambridge Christian's free exercise of religion. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's decision in part. The court affirmed the district court's decision holding that Cambridge Christian failed to plead a substantial burden under the Florida Religious Free Restoration Act (FRFRA) because it has not alleged that the FHSAA forbade it from engaging in conduct that its religion mandates. The court also affirmed the district court's decision insofar as it rejected Cambridge Christian's request for declaratory relief under the Establishment Clauses. View "Cambridge Christian School, Inc. v. Florida High School Athletic Assoc., Inc." on Justia Law