Justia Education Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
Achay v. Huntington Beach Union High School Dist.
Plaintiff C. Achay was a student on a high school track team, which usually practiced after school until 5:30 p.m. One day practice ended early, so Achay and her friend walked to Starbucks and returned about 45 minutes later. On the way back to the open campus, they encountered a stranger who Achay thought was “suspicious.” Someone identified him as A. Meer, a former student who was “kind of weird.” Achay retrieved her schoolbooks from the girls’ locker room, which was to be locked at 6:00 p.m. While Achay was walking from the girls’ locker room to the school parking lot she was stabbed by Meer, suffering serious injuries. Achay sued defendant Huntington Beach Union High School District (the District) for negligence. The District moved for summary judgment on the grounds of duty and causation. The trial court granted the motion, finding the District owed Achay no duty of care because at the time of the stabbing, she “was no longer on campus during school hours during a school-related activity.” To this the Court of Appeal disagreed: at the time of the stabbing, Achay was on campus to retrieve her books from an open locker room after her track practice and another sports team was still practicing nearby. “Achay’s brief departure from school is a red herring.” Alternatively, the trial court stated it “cannot assume that more security would have prevented the incident from occurring.” But the Court found that was “plainly a triable issue of material fact: whether the District used reasonable security measures to protect Achay from an arguably preventable injury at the hands of Meer.” Thus, the Court reversed the trial court’s order, which granted the District’s motion for summary judgment. View "Achay v. Huntington Beach Union High School Dist." on Justia Law
Doe v. The Regents of the University of California
In 2015, John and Jane were students at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). On September 7, they went to a party together and then had a sexual encounter. The next day, a dispute arose about whether the encounter was consensual. Jane filed a police report, which led to an investigation but no criminal charges. Jane filed a complaint with UCSB’s Title IX and Sexual Harassment Policy Compliance Office, 20 U.S.C. 1681. An investigator opined that John sexually assaulted Jane and recommended that John be suspended for three years. A Review Committee denied John’s appeal.John sought judicial review; his petition named only the University; Jane is described as a “[n]on-party.” The trial court granted John’s petition, finding that John was not afforded procedural due process during the University’s investigation. Jane moved to vacate the order on the ground that she did not receive notice of or an opportunity to participate in, the writ proceeding. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of Jane’s motion. While Jane’s interests were affected by the mandate proceeding, such that she may have been a real party in interest or a necessary party, she has not established that she was an indispensable party. Nor has she established that the absence of even an indispensable party is grounds to void a judgment. View "Doe v. The Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law
San Bernardino City Unif. School Dist. v. State Allocation Bd.
The State of California gave the San Bernardino City Unified School District (District) hardship funding to build a school. The State demanded that the District return funds the District did not use for the project (the project savings). Education Code section 17070.63(c) allowed a district to retain project savings for other proper purposes when the savings included funds received from the state. The District challenged the demand for return of the funding in an appeal to the State Allocation Board (Board). The Board upheld the state’s demand, relying on a regulation requiring the return of hardship funding. The District then filed an administrative mandamus action in the trial court, challenging the Board’s decision and the pertinent regulation. The trial court found the regulation conflicted with the statutory scheme and entered judgment in favor of the District. The Board appealed, contending the trial court erred by determining that section 17070.63(c) allowed a district to retain hardship funding, even though the regulation required return of unused hardship funding to the state. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that the regulation relied on by the Board improperly conflicted with the statutory scheme, and that the District was entitled to retain the hardship funding. View "San Bernardino City Unif. School Dist. v. State Allocation Bd." on Justia Law
Doe v. Anderson Union High School Dist.
Daniel Schafer, a teacher at a high school in the Anderson Union High School District (District), had a sexual relationship on school premises with one of his students, plaintiff Jane Doe. Doe sued the District, principal Carol Germano, and superintendent Tim Azevedo for negligent hiring and negligent supervision. The trial court granted the District’s motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in favor of the District, finding that there was no evidence the District knew or should have known that Schafer posed a risk of harm to students. On appeal, Doe contended the trial court erred by granting summary judgment because the District had a duty to supervise and monitor Schafer and Doe, and whether the District breached its duty to Doe was a question of fact for the jury to decide. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding that on the trial court record, the District did not have a duty to review alarm data and video recordings in order to constantly monitor all teachers, students, and campus visitors, nor did it have such a duty specifically with regard to Schafer and Doe. View "Doe v. Anderson Union High School Dist." on Justia Law
Teacher v. Cal. Western School of Law
Plaintiff Christopher Teacher filed a complaint seeking a writ of administrative mandate against California Western School of Law (CWSL) challenging the procedures CWSL followed in expelling him from the law school. The trial court denied Teacher’s request for a writ and entered a judgment in favor of CWSL. On appeal, Teacher claimed, among other things, that CWSL failed to provide him with a fair administrative process in expelling him. The Court of Appeal concurred, finding CWSL’s disciplinary procedures expressly provided, “The student or the student’s spokesperson shall have the right to cross[-]examine witnesses.” Notwithstanding this, CWSL did not afford Teacher the opportunity to cross-examine any of the witnesses on whose statements CWSL relied in reaching its decision to expel Teacher. In light of the fact that CWSL deprived Teacher of this important right guaranteed by its own procedures, the Court reversed judgment, emphasizing that it did not reach any conclusion as to Teacher’s commission of the misconduct that CWSL alleged. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Teacher v. Cal. Western School of Law" on Justia Law
Srouy v. San Diego Unified School District
Vanndrya Srouy graduated from Crawford High School (Crawford) in the San Diego Unified School District (the District). While a student at Crawford, he was a member of its varsity football team. After Srouy graduated, he found himself named as a co-defendant in a lawsuit filed by a football referee, John Herlich, who claimed to have been injured when Srouy blocked an opponent, who fell into Herlich, during a school football game. The District (as co-defendant) rejected Srouy’s tender of his defense in the Herlich lawsuit. Srouy then filed underlying lawsuit against the District, claiming the District violated a mandatory duty to defend him in the Herlich lawsuit. Srouy alleged this duty arose under the free school guarantee and the equal protection clause of the California Constitution; title 5, section 350 of the California Code of Regulations; and/or Education Code section 44808. The trial court granted the District’s demurrer without leave to amend and dismissed Srouy’s operative complaint. "Although Srouy’s plight evokes our sympathy," the Court of Appeals found its ability to respond was "constrained by the law, and the allegations of this case do not afford a judicial solution. We leave it to the Legislature to determine whether the needs of student athletes in Srouy’s position are sufficiently addressed by current law, and if not, to craft an appropriate solution." Judgment was affirmed. View "Srouy v. San Diego Unified School District" on Justia Law
San Diego Unified School Dist. v. State of Cal.
In 2017 and 2018, the California Legislature enacted two statutes, Government Code sections 17581.96 and 17581.97, in part to fulfill the state’s obligation to reimburse school districts under article XIII B, section 6 of the state constitution. Both statutes provided one-time funding to school districts in a certain year, either in fiscal year 2017-2018 or 2018-2019, and both stated that the provided funds “shall first satisfy any outstanding” amounts owed to the school districts under article XIII B, section 6. Appellants were nine school districts that objected to these two statutes in a suit against the State and the State Controller. In their view, article XIII B, section 6 prohibited the state from reimbursing school districts in the manner that sections 17581.96 and 17581.97 allowed. The trial court, however, disagreed, finding no merit to Appellants’ claim. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "San Diego Unified School Dist. v. State of Cal." on Justia Law
Doe v. Lawndale Elementary School District
Plaintiff filed suit against the school district for negligence and for breach of the mandatory duty to report suspected abuse under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA). The trial court granted the school district's motion for summary judgment.The Court of Appeal concluded, consistent with California negligence law, that school administrators have a duty to protect students from sexual abuse by school employees, even if the school does not have actual knowledge of a particular employee's history of committing, or propensity to commit, such abuse. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's order granting summary adjudication on plaintiff's negligence causes of action.The court also concluded that, as a matter of first impression, a plaintiff bringing a cause of action for breach of the mandatory duty to report suspected abuse under CANRA must prove it was objectively reasonable for a mandated reporter to suspect abuse based on the facts the reporter actually knew, not based on facts the reporter reasonably should have discovered. In this case, plaintiff did not create a triable issue of material fact regarding whether any of the school district's employees knew of facts from which a reasonable person in a like position could suspect abuse. Therefore, the court affirmed the trial court's order granting summary adjudication on plaintiff's CANRA cause of action. View "Doe v. Lawndale Elementary School District" on Justia Law
Leroy v. Yarboi
Plaintiffs-appellants, Paula and Christopher LeRoy lost their 15-year-old son, Kennedy LeRoy, to suicide two days after finishing his sophomore year at Ayala High School in Chino. The LeRoys sued the Chino Valley Unified School District, Ayala’s principal, Diana Yarboi, and its assistant principal, Carlo Purther (collectively, Respondents). The LeRoys alleged Respondents were liable for Kennedy’s suicide because of their inadequate response to his complaints of bullying by his classmates. The trial court granted summary judgment for Respondents, and the LeRoys timely appealed. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded Respondents were statutorily immune from liability and therefore affirmed the judgment. View "Leroy v. Yarboi" on Justia Law
Doe v. Superior Court
The plaintiff sued a school district for negligently supervising the fourth-grade teacher who molested her in 2010-2011. Before trial, the court admitted evidence that the woman had been sexually abused by someone else in 2013, reasoning that the evidence fell outside of the scope of Evidence Code sections 1106 and 7831 which regulate the admission of “the plaintiff’s sexual conduct” and that its probative value to contradict the plaintiff’s anticipated testimony attributing all of her emotional distress to the teacher’s molestation was not substantially outweighed by the danger of undue prejudice.The court of appeal dissolved a stay of proceedings and directed the trial court to either assess any prejudice flowing from the empaneled jury’s exposure to the mentioning of the 2013 incident during opening statements or begin the trial with a new jury. The term “plaintiff’s sexual conduct” in sections 1106 and 783 (and Code of Civil Procedure section 2017.220) encompasses sexual abuse to which a plaintiff has been involuntarily subjected as well as the plaintiff’s voluntary sexual conduct. Section 783 requires a trial court, after following certain procedures, to engage in a section 352 analysis identical to the one the trial court undertook. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the probative value of the subsequent sexual abuse was not outweighed by the danger of undue prejudice. View "Doe v. Superior Court" on Justia Law