Justia Education Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
Victor Valley Union High School Dist. v. Super. Ct.
John MM. Doe, by and through his guardian ad litem, C.M. (Doe’s mother), and B.S. (Doe’s father) (collectively real parties in interest), sued petitioner Victor Valley Union High School District (the district) for negligence and other causes of action arising from an alleged sexual assault on Doe while he was a high school student. During discovery, real parties in interest learned video that captured some of the events surrounding the alleged sexual assault had been erased. Real parties in interest moved the superior court for terminating sanctions or, in the alternative, evidentiary and issue sanctions against the district under Code of Civil Procedure section 2023.030. The trial court concluded the erasure of the video was the result of negligence and not intentional wrongdoing, and it denied the request for terminating sanctions. However, the court granted the request for evidentiary, issue, and monetary sanctions because it concluded that, even before the lawsuit was filed, the district should have reasonably anticipated the alleged sexual assault would result in litigation and, therefore, the district was under a duty to preserve all relevant evidence including the video. On appeal, the district argued the trial court applied the wrong legal standard when it ruled the district was under the duty to preserve the video when it was erased and, therefore, that the district was not shielded from sanctions by the safe-harbor provision of section 2023.030(f). The Court of Appeal concluded the safe-harbor provision of section 2023.030(f) did not shield a party from sanctions for the spoliation of electronic evidence if the evidence was altered or destroyed when the party was under a duty to preserve the evidence. The Court found the record supported the trial court’s ruling that the district was on notice that litigation about Doe’s alleged sexual assault was reasonably foreseeable, and therefore, the safe-harbor provision did not apply. The Court granted the real parties’ petition in part and directed the trial court to reconsider whether the form of sanctions imposed were warranted. View "Victor Valley Union High School Dist. v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law
Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods v. Regents of the University of California
In 2005, the Regents adopted a long-range development plan (LRDP) for UC Berkeley through the year 2020. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR, California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code, 21000) noted the LRDP “represents a maximum amount of net new growth.” which the University could substantially exceed only by amending the LRDP. In 2018, the Regents approved a new development for additional academic space and campus housing and certified a Supplemental EIR, which established an updated population baseline.SBN challenged decisions to increase enrollment beyond the level described in the 2005 EIR without further CEQA review. On remand, the trial court found that parts of the SEIR did not comply with CEQA and ordered the Regents to revise the SEIR and suspend enrollment increases. The Regents cited its certification of a 2021 LRDP and related EIR and Senate Bill 118, which modifies section 21080.09 to clarify that “Enrollment or changes in enrollment, by themselves, do not constitute a project” under CEQA and limit the remedies available if a court finds deficiencies in an environmental review based on enrollment.The court of appeal vacated, holding that certification of the 2021 EIR and S.B. 118 moot SBN’s challenge to the enrollment increases and make unenforceable the orders suspending enrollment increases. The SEIR’s project description complied with CEQA and there was no error in the discussion of mitigation measures for historic resources. View "Save Berkeley's Neighborhoods v. Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law
L.A. Unified School Dist. v. Office of Admin. Hearings
After years of what the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) viewed as unsatisfactory teaching performance by a certificated teacher, LAUSD served the teacher with a Notice of Intent to Dismiss and a Statement of Charges, which included notice that the employee was suspended without pay. The teacher brought and prevailed on a motion for immediate reversal of suspension (MIRS) and thus received pay during the pendency of the dismissal proceedings. LAUSD ultimately prevailed in those proceedings. LAUSD then sought a writ of administrative mandamus in the superior court seeking to set aside the order granting the MIRS and to recoup the salary payments it had made to the teacher during the pendency of the proceedings. The trial court denied the writ, holding that the MIRS order is not reviewable. The court also ruled (1) LAUSD cannot recover the payments to the teacher under its cause of action for money had and received and (2) LAUSD’s cause of action for declaratory judgment is derivative of its other claims. The trial court entered judgment against LAUSD in favor of the teacher. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that LAUSD has failed to show that in adding the MIRS procedure, the Legislature intended school districts to be able to recover payments to subsequently dismissed employees. The court wrote that if LAUSD believed such recovery should be permitted through judicial review of MIRS orders or otherwise, it should address the Legislature. View "L.A. Unified School Dist. v. Office of Admin. Hearings" on Justia Law
Gola v. University of San Francisco
The University's adjunct faculty taught individual classes on a semester-by-semester basis. Their appointment letters referred to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, specified a per-course salary, and estimated the number of work hours. Although the letters specified a work appointment from the first day of classes to the end of the semester, adjuncts were required to work outside of these time periods to prepare a syllabus and submit final grades. Adjuncts’ wage statements did not show the number of hours worked or an hourly pay rate.Gola brought claims for unpaid wages and failure to pay compensation at the time of discharge, citing work done outside of the assignment period and after the adjuncts’ “termination,” and alleged that the University failed to issue wage statements in compliance with Labor Code 226(a). Gola asserted a derivative claim under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) seeking civil penalties.The trial court held that two causes of action were preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act (29 U.S.C. 141) because they could not be resolved without interpreting the CBA. On the wage statement claim, the court concluded that adjuncts were not exempt employees and that the University was liable for penalties because it knew that facts existed bringing its actions within the provisions of section 226. The court calculated statutory damages and PAGA penalties and awarded Gola attorneys’ fees and costs. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that newly-enacted Labor Code 515.7—permitting employers to classify certain adjunct faculty as exempt from specified wage statement requirements—should be applied retroactively. View "Gola v. University of San Francisco" on Justia Law
Make UC a Good Neighbor v. Regents of University of California
Objectors challenged the adequacy of an environmental impact report (EIR) for the long-range development plan for the University of California, Berkeley through the 2036-2037 academic year and the university’s immediate plan to build student housing on the site of People’s Park, a historic landmark and the well-known locus of political activity and protest.The court of appeal remanded. The court rejected arguments that the EIR was required to analyze an alternative to the long-range development plan that would limit student enrollment; that the EIR improperly restricted the geographic scope of the plan to the campus and nearby properties, excluding several more distant properties; and that the EIR failed to adequately assess and mitigate environmental impacts related to population growth and displacement of existing residents. However, the EIR failed to justify the decision not to consider alternative locations to the People’s Park project and failed to assess potential noise impacts from student parties in residential neighborhoods near campus, a longstanding problem. The court noted that its decision does not require the abandonment of the People’s Park project and that the California Environmental Quality Act allows an agency to approve a project, even if the project will cause significant environmental harm if the agency discloses the harm and makes required findings. View "Make UC a Good Neighbor v. Regents of University of California" on Justia Law
Wu v. Public Employment Relations Bd.
The California Public Employment Relations Board (Board) refused to file an unfair labor practice complaint on behalf of plaintiff Rebecca Wu, a substitute teacher representing herself in propria persona, against real party in interest Twin Rivers United Educators (Union), a teachers’ union. In her unfair practice charge filed with the Board, Wu alleged the Union breached its duty to represent her in her claim against Twin Rivers Unified School District (School District), wherein she claimed to be misclassified as a substitute teacher. The Board declined to file a complaint against the Union based on Wu’s charge because Wu, as a substitute teacher, was not entitled to union representation given that substitute teachers were excluded from representation by virtue of the collective bargaining agreement between the Union and the School District. Wu argued she had a constitutional right to union representation as a misclassified teacher and as a substitute teacher. She further argued she had a statutory right to representation by the Union that could not be circumvented by a collective bargaining agreement. The Court of Appeal disagreed with Wu that she had a constitutional or statutory right to representation by the Union as an alleged misclassified employee or as a substitute teacher. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court’s order. View "Wu v. Public Employment Relations Bd." on Justia Law
Iloh v. The Regents of the U. of Cal.
An assistant professor at a California public university submitted four articles on topics in her field of study to various academic journals unaffiliated with her university. All four of those articles were later either retracted or corrected by the journals, at least in part due to inaccurate references or text overlap from uncited sources. Soon after that, the professor left her position at the university. A third party investigating the article retractions sent the university a request under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) seeking certain postpublication communications between the professor, the university, and the journals regarding the retracted articles. The university determined the requested documents were subject to disclosure; the professor disagreed, filed a petition for writ of mandate, and sought a preliminary injunction to prevent disclosure. The trial court denied the professor’s motion for preliminary injunction, concluding she had not met her burden of establishing a likelihood of prevailing on the merits. Finding no abuse of discretion, the Court of Appeal affirmed: the requested communications qualified as public records under the CPRA, and the professor did not establish the records are otherwise exempt from disclosure. View "Iloh v. The Regents of the U. of Cal." on Justia Law
Natomas Unified School etc. v. Sacramento County Bd. etc.
Natomas Unified School District (the District) expelled a student, I.O., under its discretionary authority. At an expulsion hearing, the District heard evidence that I.O. brought two unloaded BB guns and a sealed bag of plastic BBs to his middle school, showed the guns to two friends, and fired one of the unloaded guns at the ground. The District also heard evidence that one of the friends who saw the guns feared testifying at the expulsion hearing because I.O. and his mother had asked the student’s family to speak about I.O.’s character. Based on this evidence, the District found I.O. unlawfully intimidated a witness. It further found he should be expelled. It reasoned that he committed an expellable offense in possessing the BB guns and posed a continuing danger to himself or others—a conclusion it reached after preventing I.O. from presenting character witnesses and excluding his evidence tending to show his classmates did not believe he posed a danger. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s judgment in the District’s favor, finding (1) the District’s “continuing danger” finding was flawed; and (2) the District’s witness intimidation finding was flawed. View "Natomas Unified School etc. v. Sacramento County Bd. etc." on Justia Law
Victor Valley Union High School Dist. v. Super. Ct.
John MM. Doe, by and through his guardian ad litem, C.M. (Doe’s mother), and B.S. (Doe’s father) (collectively real parties in interest), sued petitioner Victor Valley Union High School District (the district) for negligence and other causes of action arising from an alleged sexual assault on Doe while he was a high school student. During discovery, real parties in interest learned video that captured some of the events surrounding the alleged sexual assault had been erased. Real parties in interest moved the superior court for terminating sanctions or, in the alternative, evidentiary and issue sanctions against the district under Code of Civil Procedure section 2023.030. The trial court concluded the erasure of the video was the result of negligence, and not intentional wrongdoing, and denied the request for terminating sanctions. However, the court granted the request for evidentiary, issue, and monetary sanctions because it concluded that, even before the lawsuit was filed, the district should have reasonably anticipated the alleged sexual assault would result in litigation and, therefore, the district was under a duty to preserve all relevant evidence including the video. On appeal in the Court of Appeal's original jurisdiction, the district argued the trial court applied the wrong legal standard when it ruled the district had the duty to preserve the video before it was erased and, therefore, that the district was not shielded from sanctions by the safe-harbor provision of section 2023.030(f). After considering real parties in interest's opposition to the petition and the district's reply, the Court of Appeal found the extant record did not support the trial court’s ruling that, at the time the video was erased, the district was on notice that litigation about Doe’s alleged sexual assault was reasonably foreseeable. The Court granted the district's petition and directed the trial court to vacate its sanctions order and reconsider its ruling. View "Victor Valley Union High School Dist. v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law
Let Them Choose v. San Diego Unified School Dist.
The California Legislature has required school children to be vaccinated for 10 diseases; COVID-19 was not yet among them. The issue here was whether a school district could require students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition for both: (1) attending in-person class; and (2) participating in extracurricular activities. The superior court determined there was a “statewide standard for school vaccination,” leaving “no room for each of the over 1,000 individual school districts to impose a patchwork of additional vaccine mandates.” On independent review, the Court of Appeal reached the same conclusion and affirmed the judgment. View "Let Them Choose v. San Diego Unified School Dist." on Justia Law