Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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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

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D.T.’s parents, concerned that their son, who has autism, was not getting an appropriate education in the Tennessee schools, removed him from public school and placed him in a private therapy program, where he improved. They were convicted of truancy. To avoid further prosecution. they enrolled D.T. in a state-approved private school and a private therapy program. To have the option of removing him from school again in the future, they sought a preliminary injunction to keep the state from charging them with truancy. They argued they had the right to remove D.T. from school because federal disability law preempts state educational requirements. The district court found that D.T.’s parents had not yet suffered an immediate and irreparable injury. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. The hypothetical threat of prosecution is not an “immediate,” “irreparable” injury that warrants the “extraordinary remedy” of a preliminary injunction. View "D.T. v. Sumner County Schools" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court declining to modify a restriction on alienability of paintings painted by artist Grant Wood and donated in 1976 to Coe College in Cedar Rapids, holding that the 1976 gift was restricted. A foundation donated the paintings to the college, and the gift letter stated that "this would be their permanent home, hanging on the walls of Stewart Memorial Library." While the college traditionally treated the paintings on its books as an unrestricted gift that could be sold or otherwise alienated, in 2016, an auditor determined the paintings should be treated as a restricted gift. The college subsequently filed a petition seeking a judicial interpretation of the gift's terms. The district court ruled that there existed a restriction on the alienability of the paintings and declined to modify the restriction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the language in the gift letter did restrict the gift; (2) the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act does not apply; and (3) it was premature to consider the application of the common law doctrine of cy pres because there was no showing the gift restrictions cannot be carried out at present. View "In re Application of Coe College for Interpretation of Purported Gift Restrictions v. Coe College" on Justia Law

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Parents, students, taxpayers, and community organizations filed suit alleging that the school district adopted and implemented a district-wide disciplinary program that was biased toward minority students, students who speak limited English, and others similarly situated. This case arose from information released to the public regarding suspensions, transfers, and other disciplinary proceedings in the school district that allegedly demonstrated that racial bias affected how the school district disciplined minority students, and actions taken by the school district to actively hide this fact from the public. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's dismissal of most of plaintiffs' claims against the state level defendants, either because the claims did not state a cause of action or such claims may be brought against the local level defendants but not the state level defendants. The court held, however, that plaintiffs have stated a cause of action for disparate impact under California's equal protection clause and they have properly petitioned for a writ of mandate based on the state level defendants' ministerial duty to monitor the practices of local school districts for violations of federal law. Therefore, the court held that the trial court wrongly sustained the state-level defendants' demurrer on those claims, along with plaintiffs' request for declaratory relief on the same issues. The court also held that plaintiffs' complaint contained sufficient allegations to demonstrate associational standing for one of the community organizations to pursue these claims against the state level defendants. View "Collins v. Thurmond" on Justia Law

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After M.L. was dismissed from the cheerleading squad when her coaches discovered her Twitter posts contained profanity and sexual innuendo, her mother filed suit against defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violation of M.L.'s rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection. The district court held that the individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and dismissed M.L.'s complaint for failure to state a claim. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that no clearly established law placed the constitutionality of defendants' conduct beyond debate at the time of M.L.'s dismissal from the team. The court held that nothing in its precedent allows a school to discipline nonthreatening off campus speech simply because an administrator considers it offensive, harassing, or disruptive; it is indisputable that non-threatening student expression is entitled to First Amendment protection, even though the extent of that protection may be diminished if the speech is composed by a student on campus, or purposefully brought onto a school campus; and as a general rule, speech that the speaker does not intend to reach the school community remains outside the reach of school officials. In this case, the court held that no clearly established law placed M.L.'s right's beyond debate at the time of the sanction, particularly given the unique extracurricular context. The court also affirmed the district court's dismissal of the claims for municipal liability, vagueness, and overbreadth, because M.L. failed to plead facts that would entitle her to relief. View "Longoria v. San Benito Independent Consolidated School District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the opinion of the court of appeals insofar as it vacated the trial court's judgment convicting Defendant of tampering of physical evidence but reversed insofar as the court reversed Defendant's other convictions, holding that there was insufficient evidence to convict Defendant of tampering with physical evidence. Defendant, while in the presence of a police officer, dropped or tossed physical evidence of a possessory crime. Defendant was subsequently convicted of first-degree possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and tampering with physical evidence. The court of appeals reversed, holding that there was insufficient evidence to support all three crimes. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the trial court (1) did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a directed verdict on the possession charges; but (2) erred in denying Defendant's motion for a directed verdict with respect to the tampering with physical evidence charge. View "Commonwealth v. James" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's Title IX complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Plaintiff's claims stemmed from an incident at school where another student raped her special needs child. Based on the Supreme Court's recent decision in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, 137 S. Ct. 743 (2017), the court held that if a disabled person seeks Title IX relief that a non-disabled person could also seek and requests relief that is different from or in addition to a free appropriate public education (FAPE), the IDEA's exhaustion requirement does not apply. In this case, plaintiff's claim involved simple discrimination, irrespective of the IDEA's FAPE obligation. Were all traces of the child's disabilities removed, the court explained that plaintiff's claim would look nearly identical to allegations that the school was deliberately indifferent to the child's sexual abuse. Therefore, the court held that the gravamen of the complaint was not about the denial of a FAPE, and the IDEA's exhaustion requirement does not apply. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Doe v. Dallas Independent School District" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the university in an action brought by a student, alleging substantive due process and equal protection claims in connection with the university's evaluation of allegations that the student cheated on an exam. The court held that the district court abused its discretion by refusing to consider the student's expert reports solely because they were unsworn, without considering whether the opinions were capable of being presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence. In regard to the substantive due process claim, the court held that the student failed to identify any summary judgment evidence raising a genuine fact issue that defendants did not actually exercise professional judgment in resolving the cheating allegations, or that the result of the process was beyond the pale of reasoned academic decision-making. Likewise, the court held that the student failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact as to his equal protection claim. In this case, there was nothing in the record to suggest that the student was intentionally treated in a manner irrationally different from other similarly situated students. View "Patel v. Texas Tech University" on Justia Law

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The named plaintiff, Mike Zeyen sought declaratory relief and recovery of damages from Pocatello/Chubbuck School District No. 25 on behalf of all students currently enrolled in the district and their guardians. Zeyen alleged that School District 25’s practice of charging fees violated Article IX, section 1, of the Idaho Constitution. Zeyen first sought to certify the class to include all students within School District 25. Zeyen’s later motion to amend sought to add a takings claim under both the Idaho and U.S. Constitutions. The district court denied Zeyen’s motion for class certification based on lack of standing and denied his motion to amend both as untimely and prejudicial to School District 25. The Idaho Supreme Court determined Zeyen failed to show that the district court abused its discretion by denying his second motion for leave to amend the complaint. Furthermore, the Court determined Zeyen lacked standing to bring his class action suit. The Court therefore affirmed the district court's denial of Zeyen's motion to certify the class and denial of his motion for leave to amend the first amended complaint. View "Zeyen v. Pocatello/Chubbuck School Dist 25" on Justia Law