Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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The union represents teachers and other professional employees at schools on U.S. military bases in Puerto Rico. In 2015, the federal agency and the union began negotiating a successor to an expired collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The union sought to continue workday provisions from the 2011 agreement. The agency sought to eliminate the dedicated hour for preparatory and professional tasks and to require teachers to be at school for that hour. The agency argued that these terms implicated its right to assign work (5 U.S.C. 7106(a)(2)(B) and were nonnegotiable. The Federal Service Impasses Panel factfinder concluded that the workday provisions were negotiable and recommended that the successor agreement maintain them; recommended terms to resolve other disputes, including new compensation terms; and recommended that the successor agreement incorporate all provisions on which the parties had already tentatively agreed. The Panel ordered the parties to adopt an entire CBA according to those recommendations.The Federal Labor Relations Authority held that the Panel lacked authority to impose the workday and agreed-to provisions. The Panel is authorized to resolve bargaining impasses but not to resolve antecedent legal questions about whether disputed provisions are negotiable. Those questions turn on the scope of the duty to bargain in good faith, which the Authority must determine. The D.C. Circuit affirmed those rulings but set aside a ruling that the workday provision imposed by the Panel infringed the agency’s statutory right to assign work. View "Antilles Consolidated Education Association v. Federal Labor Relations Authority" on Justia Law

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Appellant Derrick Lingnaw, a registered sex offender, sought declaratory relief from the district court asking whether he could legally reside on his property. The district court found Lingnaw’s residence was within five hundred feet of property on which a school was located, as that term was used in Idaho Code section 18-8329(1)(d). The court thus denied Lingnaw’s request to enjoin the Custer County Sheriff, Stuart Lumpkin, from interfering with Lingnaw’s ability to reside on his property. The court also denied Sheriff Lumpkin’s request for attorney fees and costs. On appeal, the parties mainly disputed the district court’s finding that Lingnaw’s residence was within five hundred feet of a school. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's ruling that Lingnaw's property was within five hundred feet of property on which a school was located. Lingnaw raised a question of fact as to whether the building, ruled as a "school," was simply a gymnasium and building leased by the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”); Lingnaw argued the plain meaning of “school” required some form of traditional educational instruction. The trial court found “that the gymnasium, as contemplated by the statute, is a school building utilized by the school for school functions on a regular basis . . . for sporting events and other school activities. And children are coming and going from that building on a regular basis.” Because it was “clear from the evidence” that Lingnaw’s property fell “well within” five hundred feet or the buildings’ property line, the district court found that Lingnaw lived within five hundred feet of a school. To this, the Supreme Court concurred. The district court's judgment was affirmed in all other respects. View "Lingnaw v. Lumpkin" on Justia Law

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The issue presented in this declaratory action before the South Carolina Supreme Court in its original jurisdiction was a challenge to the constitutionality of Governor Henry McMaster's allocation of $32 million in federal emergency education funding for the creation of the Safe Access to Flexible Education ("SAFE") Grants Program. Petitioners contended the program violated South Carolina's constitutional mandate prohibiting public funding of private schools. The Supreme Court held the Governor's decision constituted the use of public funds for the direct benefit of private educational institutions within the meaning of, and prohibited by, Article XI, Section 4 of the South Carolina Constitution. "Even in the midst of a pandemic, our State Constitution remains a constant, and the current circumstances cannot dictate our decision. Rather, no matter the circumstances, the Court has a responsibility to uphold the Constitution." View "Adams v. McMaster" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former high school student, filed suit alleging disability discrimination by school officials in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The district court dismissed the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and, in the alternative, as barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitations.The panel applied Fry v. Napoleon Cmty. Sch., 137 S. Ct. 743 (2017), and held that the crux of plaintiff's complaint seeks relief for the disability-based discrimination and harassment she faced at school, and not for the denial of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Therefore, plaintiff need not exhaust the administrative remedies under the IDEA, and the panel reversed the district court's order dismissing her complaint for failure to exhaust. The panel also vacated the district court's order dismissing the complaint as alternatively barred by the statute of limitations and remanded. On remand, the district court should reconsider whether any of plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of limitations in light of the panel's conclusion that plaintiff does not seek relief for the denial of a FAPE under the IDEA. View "McIntyre v. Eugene School District 4J" on Justia Law

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Three Pennsylvania teachers who obtained tenure contracts under the state’s Public School Code brought a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the Scranton School District deprived them of rights under the Contracts Clause when it applied a Pennsylvania law, Act 2017-55, to suspend them from employment. Act 55 amended the Public School Code to authorize the suspension of tenured teachers for economic reasons. Act 55 took effect after the plaintiffs entered into tenure contracts; they claimed the change in the law allowing for their suspensions based on economic reasons amounted to a substantial impairment of their tenure contract rights and that the suspensions were not a necessary or reasonable way to address the District’s financial problems.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claim. The teachers failed to state a section 1983 claim premised on the Contracts Clause because their complaint and its exhibits show that the suspensions were necessary and reasonable measures to advance the significant and legitimate public purpose of combatting the budget shortage. View "Watters v. Board of School Directors of the City of Scranton" on Justia Law

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D.S., a child with a disability who receives special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), appealed the district court's denial of his motion for summary judgment and grant of the Board's motion for summary judgment. After the child's parents disagreed with the functional behavioral assessment (FBA) that his school conducted, they sought an independent educational evaluation (IEE) at public expense.The Second Circuit held that an FBA is not an evaluation as that term is employed in the relevant IDEA provisions and that a parent's dissatisfaction with an FBA does not entitle them to a publicly funded IEE. In regard to the parents' disagreement with the child's 2014 reevaluation, the court held that parents need not file a due process complaint under the IDEA to disagree with an evaluation and that the statute of limitations does not apply here. Rather, the court held that the IDEA's cyclical evaluation process establishes the operative time frame in which a parent may disagree with an evaluation and obtain an IEE at public expense. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment, reversed the district court's decision, and remanded for further proceedings. View "D.S. v. Trumbull Board of Education" on Justia Law

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On October 25, 2011, Appellant Nicole B.’s then-eight-year-old son N.B. was sexually assaulted by three of his male fourth-grade classmates in a bathroom at his public elementary school in the City of Philadelphia. According to Appellant, N.B. had endured two months of pervasive physical and verbal harassment at school leading up to the sexual assault. During that time, both Appellant and N.B. reported the harassment to his teacher and to school administrators, to no avail. In November 2011, Appellant withdrew N.B. from the elementary school after learning of the attack. Over two years later, in 2014, Appellant filed an administrative complaint with the Human Relations Commission against the Philadelphia School District (“District”) in her individual capacity and on N.B.’s behalf, asserting claims of discrimination on the basis of gender and race under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”). The Human Relations Commission rejected Appellant’s complaint as untimely, because it was filed beyond the 180-day time limit. In this appeal by allowance, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered whether principles of equitable tolling found in PHRA, or Pennsylvania’s Minority Tolling Statute (“Minority Tolling Statute”), applied to an otherwise untimely complaint. After review, the Supreme Court found the PHRA’s equitable tolling provision applied to a minor whose parent failed to satisfy the applicable statute of limitations for filing an administrative complaint prior to the minor reaching the age of majority. By this finding, the Court reversed the order of the Commonwealth Court. View "Nicole B. v. Philadelphia Sch. Dist., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former medical school professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, filed suit against various professors and school administrators under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that they violated his Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights. Defendants voted to recommend firing plaintiff after conducting a hearing to address a student's sexual harassment claim against him.The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of qualified immunity and rendered judgment in favor of defendants, holding that plaintiff's deprivations of due process were not clearly established constitutional rights. In this case, the court found no merit in plaintiff's claim that one of the defendants was not impartial because the defendant knew the accuser in a university proceeding, and concluded that this was not enough to establish a due process claim of bias. The court also held that, although the Committee should have heard the accuser's testimony, it was not clearly established at the time that, in university disciplinary hearings where the outcome depends on credibility, the Due Process Clause demands the opportunity to confront witnesses or some reasonable alternative. Therefore, the district court erred in denying defendants' motion for summary judgment. View "Walsh v. Hodge" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a civil rights action alleging that school administrators discriminated against him because he is an African American male. In this case, on the first day of high school, the Dean of Students asked teachers to send students with dyed hair to his office. All the students sent to the Dean's office were African American. The Dean and the Principal did not let plaintiff attend class that day because of his "two toned" blonde hairstyle. Although many students of all races, male and female, wore dyed hair to school, plaintiff was the only one disciplined for violating the school's hair policy during the school year. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.The Fifth Circuit held that plaintiff's intentional discrimination claim was untimely, but his harassment claim was timely based on the continuing violation doctrine. The court reversed the dismissal of plaintiff's harassment claims under Title VI and Title IX against the Board, holding that plaintiff plausibly alleged that the Dean's harassment of plaintiff stemmed from a discriminatory view that African American males should not have two-toned blonde hair. Furthermore, the harassment may well have been so severe, pervasive, and offensive that it denied plaintiff an educational benefit, and it is plausible that the school board knew about the harassment, did little to ensure plaintiff was safe, and was therefore deliberately indifferent. However, the court held that plaintiff has not pleaded that the school board officials were deliberately indifferent to the Dean's retaliatory conduct. Therefore, the court affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's retaliation claim. View "Sewell v. Monroe City School Board" on Justia Law

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Two nurses, employed by the Board of Education, claim that the School Board retaliated against them for advocating for the rights of students who are disabled within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 701; and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act; and that the Board violated the Kentucky Whistleblower Act by retaliating against them for reporting a parent’s suspected child neglect to a state agency. One plaintiff also claimed that the School Board failed to accommodate her disability and constructively discharged her, in violation of the ADA and the KCRA. The district court granted the Board summary judgment.The Sixth Circuit reversed as to the retaliation claims under the ADA, Section 504, and the KCRA. A jury could “reasonably doubt” the Board’s explanation for its actions and find that it acted, at least in part, because of the protected advocacy. The court affirmed as to the whistleblower claims; the plaintiffs only allege that they reported a mother of possible neglect and do not allege that they reported any violation of law by their employer to a state agency. The court affirmed as to the individual claim for failure to accommodate disabilities. The nurse failed to provide any documentation about her disability diagnosis during the interactive process. View "Kirilenko-Ison v. Board of Education of Danville Independent Schools" on Justia Law