Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Iowa Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying relief in this declaratory judgment action to force a public referendum on the financing of a school district's proposed athletic stadium, holding that Plaintiffs failed to show prejudice to obtain judicial relief for a technical violation in their petition.Plaintiff-citizens collected signatures to force the public referendum at issue, but the school board determined that the number of signatures were insufficient to force a referendum. The school district, therefore, declined to accept the petition or proceed with the referendum. Plaintiff then brought this declaratory judgment action to force the referendum. The trial court granted summary judgment denying relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs' petition was facially invalid as lacking the requisite number of signatures; (2) the district court breached a directory duty under Iowa Code 277.7 to return the rejected petition, but Plaintiffs failed to show prejudice; and (3) therefore, Plaintiffs' due process claims failed, and summary judgment was proper. View "Save Our Stadiums v. Des Moines Independent Community School District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court affirming the decision of the Sibley-Ocheyedan Community School District to terminate Plaintiff's teaching contract, holding that the school district violated the law when it terminated Plaintiff's contract.Administrators at the school district required Plaintiff, a high school teacher, to participate in an "intensive assistance program" described in Iowa Code chapter 284. The school district's policy implementing chapter 284 required teachers to participate in the program at minimum six months and at most twelve months. The school district, however, fired Plaintiff before she'd been given six months to carry out her responsibilities in the program. The district court affirmed the school board's decision, but the court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the school district unlawfully terminated Plaintiff's contract before giving her the requisite period to participate in the intensive assistance program. View "Braaksma v. Bd. of Directors of Sibley-Ocheyedan Community School District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court affirming the declaratory order of the Iowa Department of Education interpreting a number of statutes and answering five questions posed by the Keystone Area Education Agency, holding that there was no error or abuse its discretion.The questions at issue concerned whether public agencies are required to release or excuse students to receive behavioral analysis therapy (ABA therapy) and, if so, under what circumstances. The Department's declaratory order determined, among other things, that the decision whether to excuse an absence for ABA therapy is generally up to the school district and that a public agency that does excuse attendance for therapy may violate federal law under some circumstances. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Department had the authority to issue the declaratory order; and (2) the Department's declaratory order was supported by substantial evidence. View "Hills & Dales Child Development Center v. Iowa Department of Education" 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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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the district court entering an injunction directing Defendants to place on the ballot a measure asking voters whether they approved the demolition of Hoover Elementary School and the use of the proceeds for school district purposes, holding that the district court erred in granting Plaintiffs injunctive relief.The Iowa City Community School District refused to authorize the placement of the ballot issue at an election after a petition bearing more than 2000 signatures had been timely filed with the Board. When the Board refused to direct the county auditor to place the matter on the ballot for the upcoming election, Plaintiffs sought injunctive relief and damages against the school district court individual board members. The district court entered an injunction and directed the district court to place the matter on the next general election ballot. The district court then granted Defendants summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims for damages. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that Defendants were entitled to summary judgment on all claims because the school district was under no legal obligation to require the county auditor to place the matter on the ballot. View "Young v. Iowa City Community School District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the evidentiary ruling of the district court and grant of summary judgment in favor of Medical School on Student's complaint that Medical School failed to accommodate her mental disability under the Iowa Civil Rights Act, Iowa Code chapter 216, holding that the district court properly declined to impute a staff psychotherapist's knowledge of Student's depression to Medical School's academic decision-makers and that the failure-to-accommodate claim failed as a matter of law.Student was treated for depression by the psychotherapist during the school year but did not consent to allow the psychotherpiast to discuss her depression with the faculty. Medical School eventually expelled Student based on her failing grades and lack of academic promise. In this complaint, Student filed an evidentiary motion to impute her psychotherapist's knowledge of her depression to the school's academic decision-makers. The district court denied the motion after applying statutory confidentiality requirements for mental health information. The court then granted Medical School summary judgment on Student's failure-to-accommodate claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly ruled that confidential information the psychotherapist learned while treating Student was not imputed to Medical School; and (2) Medical School adequately engaged in the interactive process. View "Slaughter v. Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine" on Justia Law

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa Foundation submitted an open records request to the Atlantic Community School District records custodian requesting information pursuant to Iowa's Open Records Act concerning the discipline of two school district employees after the school district disciplined them for performing a strip search of five students. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of the school district. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that the disciplinary information sought was exempt from disclosure under Iowa Code 22.7(11), which exempts from disclosure "personal information in confidential personnel records of public bodies including...cities, boards of supervisors, and school districts." View "ACLU of Iowa vs. Atlantic Cmty. Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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In 2007, two University of Iowa football players were accused of sexually assaulting another student in a campus dorm room. The incident led to criminal charges, internal actions by the University, an external criticism of the University. The incident also led to the present lawsuit, which concerned Open Records Act requests that the Iowa City Press-Citizen served on the University. Dissatisfied with the University's initial response to those requests, the Press-Citizen filed suit. The lawsuit resulted in more documents being produced and others being submitted for in camera review by the district court. The court then ordered additional documents produced, in some instances with redactions. The University appealed that order in part. The Supreme Court reversed the district court's judgment in part, holding that the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act prohibited the disclosure of the remaining documents, including even redacted versions of "education records" where the identity of the student was known to the recipient. View "Press-Citizen Co. v. Univ. of Iowa" on Justia Law

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In this case the Supreme Court considered whether an area education agency (AEA) acted lawfully when it approved for submission to the voters a petition that proposed a consolidation of two community school districts, Preston and East Central. East Central sought to block the measure from being placed before the voters, asserting (1) the AEA approval of the petition for submission to the voters was legally flawed because the AEA failed to comply with a statutory requirement that it develop a plan for the AEA district, and (2) the AEA failed to make a required statutory finding that the consolidation proposed in the petition was in conformity with the plan. The district court rejected the claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that the AEA acted lawfully in approving submission of the petition to the voters, as (1) the AEA was not required to develop a specific plan of merger between the two school districts prior to approval of submission of a citizen petition to the voters of the districts; and (2) by approving the submission of the issue to the voters, the AEA made an implied finding that all the statutory requisites were met. View "E. Central Cmty. Sch. Dist. v. Miss. Bend Area Educ. Agency" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, students or parents of students who attended Iowa public schools, filed a petition contending that Iowa's educational system was inadequate and urging the courts to impose additional public school standards, stating that such action was both constitutionally and statutorily required. Plaintiffs named as defendants the State, Governor, Department of Education, and Director of the Department. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs' petition, concluding (1) Plaintiffs had stated claims for relief under the equal protection and due process clauses, but their constitutional claims presented a nonjusticiable political question; and (2) their statutory claim under Iowa Code 256.37 failed because that provision did not afford a private right of action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs' challenges were properly directed to Plaintiffs' elected representatives, rather than the courts; but (2) Plaintiffs did not state claims for relief under the Iowa Constitution or section 256.37. View "King v. State" on Justia Law