Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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S.S. was a student in the Cobb County School District. S.S.’s parents challenged the adequacy of the individualized educational plans. S.S.’s parents fought the school district for two years and eventually filed an administrative complaint requesting a due process hearing under the Act with the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings. In the administrative complaint, S.S. alleged that the school district failed to provide her with a free and appropriate public education under the Act. The school district moved for summary determination of the administrative complaint. S.S. challenged the administrative law judge’s decision in the Northern District of Georgia.The district court denied the school district’s motion for summary judgment and remanded to the administrative law judge for a due process hearing. The school district appealed the district court’s remand order.   The DC Circuit concluded that remand orders from district courts to administrative agencies for further proceedings under the Act are not final and appealable under section 1291. And because the district court’s remand order was not final and appealable, the court wrote it lacks appellate jurisdiction to review it. Accordingly, the court dismissed the school district’s appeal. View "S.S. v. Cobb County School District" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit dismissed this appeal from the dismissal of a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit filed by Plaintiffs, two college students, against Defendants, their former universities and university officials, asserting constitutional challenges to the universities' COVID-19 vaccination policies, holding that Plaintiffs' claims are moot.The policies at issue required all students either to be vaccinated or to obtain an exemption to be allowed onto campus. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief seeking exemptions from the policies. The district court denied relief and granted Defendants' motion to dismiss. The First Circuit dismissed Plaintiffs' ensuing appeal, holding that where one student had graduated and the other student was no longer enrolled, Plaintiffs' claims were moot. View "Harris v. University of Massachusetts, Lowell" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment dismissing Plaintiff's federal claims against Brown University and reversed the grant of summary judgment as to Plaintiff's state law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, holding that there were triable issues precluding summary judgment.Jane Doe, a white woman, filed a complaint against Plaintiff, an African-American man who was then a freshman at Brown University, alleging sexual misconduct. After a multi-year process leading to Plaintiff's suspension from school and his suicide attempt. A year before he graduated, Plaintiff brought this action in Rhode Island state court alleging that Brown discriminated against him and intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon him. The district court granted summary judgment for Brown. The First Circuit reversed in part, holding that Plaintiff presented evidence that would allow a jury reasonably to conclude that Brown should be held liable for the tortious conduct of its officials in intentionally causing Plaintiff severe emotional distress under Rhode Island common law. View "Doe v. Brown University" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that liability under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code 51, was not available in this case, where Plaintiff alleged that he was sexually assaulted by fellow students and a school district staff member at his high school.Plaintiff, through his guardian, sued the West Contra Costa Unified School District asserting various claims arising out of his high school experiences, including allegations that the District had violated the Act. The District demurred to the Act cause of action on the ground that the District was not a "business establishment" within the meaning of the Act. The trial court sustained the demurrer. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an original petition for writ of mandate, which the court of appeal denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Act, as currently written, cannot reasonably be interpreted to encompass public school districts in situations such as the one this case presented. View "Brennon B. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders entered by the Fourth and Eighteenth Judicial District Courts denying their requests for preliminary injunctions to enjoin the masking requirements of Defendants, school districts in Missoula and Gallatin Counties, that were adopted in response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, holding that the district courts did not err.Plaintiffs filed complaints and motions for preliminary injunctions shortly after Defendants' adoption of the masking policies for the 2021-2022 school year, seeking to enjoin the masking requirements based upon constitutional privacy, individual dignity, and parental rights. Both district courts denied the motions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district courts did not manifestly abuse their discretion by denying the preliminary injunctions. View "Stand Up Montana v. Missoula County Public Schools" on Justia Law

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This case involves allegations that a teacher restrained, secluded, and abused her students as a teacher in a special education classroom. The students’ parents sued the teacher, along with Aberdeen School District (“ASD”) and a host of its administrative officials, on their children’s behalf under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. The district court denied the teacher’s assertion of qualified immunity from claims for infringing the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of three students, identified as A.A., B.B., and C.C.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of qualified immunity for the teacher on the students’ Fourth Amendment claims to the extent held above. In all other respects, the court reversed the denial of qualified immunity for the teacher and the remaining ASD officials. The court explained that it found four violations of clearly established Fourth Amendment rights: (1) secluding A.A. in the little room before February 4, 2016; (2) secluding B.B. in the calm-down corner using dividers; (3) grabbing B.B.’s arms to push him into the swimming pool; and (4) pinning C.C. down to strip his clothes off. The teacher is not entitled to qualified immunity for those violations but is for all other unreasonable seizure allegations. However, the court wrote, the remaining generalized assertions of physical and verbal abuse fail to meet the high bar required for a substantive due process violation. View "Jane Doe v. Becky Guffin" on Justia Law

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A child, through his parents, brought a due process challenge under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), claiming that the School District failed to provide him a free appropriate public education (FAPE). An administrative law judge agreed and ordered compensatory education. The district court affirmed but reduced the compensatory education award based on the statute of limitations. The parties cross-appealed. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit found that the school provided the child with a FAPE and reversed the district court's order. View "Minnetonka Public Schools v. M.L.K." on Justia Law

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Two Mississippi school districts disputed whether the disbursement of past revenues generated from sixteenth section land located in townships shared by the two school districts and received by one, should have been shared by the other. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that the applicable governing statutes placed the burden on the noncustodial school district to provide student lists to the custodial school district, and made it unlawful for the custodial school district to pay over “until the lists . . . have been made.” Because the one-year period delineated in Section 29-3-119(4) did not place a time limit on litigation but rather a time limit on when a noncustodial district could make a claim with a custodial district, it was not a statute of limitations. Commensurate with its duty to presume the validity of legislative enactments, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court and render judgment in favor of the custodial district, Wayne County School District, because Quitman School District’s claims were outside the prescribed time limit in the statute. View "Wayne County School District v. Quitman School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Thomas Lowell provided piano tuning services to defendant Medford School District and assisted in producing concerts performed in defendant’s facilities. While providing production assistance for a particular concert, plain- tiff noticed an echo near the stage. He complained to the school theater technician, Stephanie Malone, and, later, feeling that Malone had not adequately responded, he followed up with her. Malone reported to her supervisor that plaintiff appeared to be intoxicated, that he “smelled of alcohol,” and that “this was not the first time.” The supervisor repeated Malone’s statements to a district support services assistant. The assistant sent emails summarizing Malone’s statements to three other district employees, including the supervisor of purchasing. The assistant expressed concerns that appearing on district property under the influence of alcohol violated district policy and the terms of plaintiff’s piano tuning contract. Plaintiff brought this defamation action against Malone, the supervisor and assistant, later substituting the School district for the individual defendants. Defendant answered, asserting multiple affirmative defenses, including the one at issue here: that public employees are entitled to an absolute privilege for defamatory statements made in the course and scope of their employment. The trial court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment on that basis. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed, finding that defendant as a public employer, did not have an affirmative defense of absolute privilege that entitled it to summary judgment. View "Lowell v. Medford School Dist. 549C" on Justia Law

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The parties to this matter—Plaintiff, on behalf of her son, and the Belton School District—disagree about the appropriate school placement for Plaintiff’s son pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. Section 1400 et seq. Plaintiff appealed the decision of the district court granting judgment on the administrative record to the District.   On appeal, Plaintiff asserts that transferring her son to Trails West would violate his right under the IDEA to be educated in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Alternatively, Plaintiff argued, if her son needs additional services, the District should provide them in her son’s current placement. Thus, the question is whether Kentucky Trail or Trails West is the LRE in which Plaintiff’s son can receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).   The Eighth Circuit affirmed finding no clear error in the district court’s factual findings and agreed that a preponderance of the evidence supports the AHC’s conclusion that placement at Trails West respects Plaintiff’s son's rights under the IDEA. Second, although Plaintiff emphasizes the social benefit her son receives from his more integrated placement at Kentucky Trail, the evidence shows that her son receives all of his instruction in the special education classroom and eats lunch there as well, and he has contact with nondisabled peers only when passing in the hallways or at recess. Further, there was sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that placement at Trails West offers substantial benefits for Plaintiff’s son. View "J.P. v. Belton School District No. 124" on Justia Law