Justia Education Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Indiana
Mellowitz v. Ball State University
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court directing that while Plaintiff may pursue his claims against Ball State University based on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic on his on behalf, he may not pursue a class action on behalf of other students, holding that there was no error.Plaintiff, a university student, sued the University for breach of contract and unjust enrichment after the university switched to providing only online instruction for the 2020 spring semester, seeking to recover tuition and fees for in-person instruction and services allegedly promised by the university. Plaintiff sought to litigate his claims as a class action, but after he filed his action, Public Law No. 166-2021 was signed into law, prohibiting class action lawsuits against postsecondary educational institutions for contract and unjust enrichment claims arising from COVID-19. The trial court denied class certification based on this new law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court correctly concluded that the law was constitutional and precluded a class action in this case. View "Mellowitz v. Ball State University" on Justia Law
WTHR-TV v. Hamilton Southeastern Schools
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the trial court in favor of Hamilton Southeastern Schools (HSE) and dismissing WTHR-TV's complaint seeking documents in a HSE employee's personnel file, holding that HSE's factual basis for the employee's discipline was insufficient.Rick Wimmer, a teacher at an HSE high school, was disciplined for an unknown reason. WTHR requested access to and copies of the portions of Wimmer's personnel file that contained disclosable information under Ind. Code 5-14-3-4(b)(8), which requires public agencies to disclose certain information in public employee personnel files, including the "factual basis" for the disciplinary actions. HSE responded by providing a compilation of the requested information but did not provide copies of the underlying documents in the personnel file. WTHR sued, and the trial court ruled for HSE. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) WTHR was not entitled to the underlying documents because an agency may compiled the required information into a new document; and (2) a "factual basis" must be a fact-based account of what caused the discipline instead of a bald conclusion, which is what HSE provided in this case. View "WTHR-TV v. Hamilton Southeastern Schools" on Justia Law
Horner v. Curry
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court ruling that Indiana's Civil Forfeiture Statute was constitutional, holding that the General Assembly may decide how and when forfeiture proceeds accrue to the "Common School Fund," which consists of, among other sources of revenue, "all forfeitures which may accrue."Indiana's Civil Forfeiture Statute, Ind. Code 34-24-1-4(d), directs the transfer of proceeds from seized property "to the treasurer of state for deposit in the common school fund." At issue in this case is whether the portion of the statute permitting the allocation of forfeiture revenue to reimburse law enforcement costs before these proceeds accrue to the Fund is constitutional under article 8, section 2 of the Indiana Constitution. The trial court concluded that the statute is constitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that article 8, section 2 permits the legislature to determine how and when forfeiture proceeds accrue to the Common School Fund. View "Horner v. Curry" on Justia Law
Jay Classroom Teachers Ass’n v. Jay School Corp.
Pursuant to 2011 amendments to statutes addressing collective bargaining for teachers and their employees, when parties failed to reach a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) regarding salaries and wages, the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board (IEERB) appoints a mediator. If the mediation fails, the parties must exchange their last best offers (LBOs). A factfinder appointed by the IEERB then selects which side’s LBO to adopt as the CBA. In this case, a teachers association appealed a factfinder’s decision to adopt a school’s LBO. The IEERB affirmed the factfinder’s decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the adopted LBO was collectively bargained and lawful. View "Jay Classroom Teachers Ass’n v. Jay School Corp." on Justia Law
Hewitt v. Westfield Washington Sch. Corp.
Plaintiff, an elementary school principal, was terminated after the school board learned that he had been involved in a sexual relationship with a teacher. Plaintiff filed a complaint against school defendants, alleging breach of contract and that the notice and procedure utilized by the school board in terminating his administrator’s contract denied him due process. The superior court granted summary judgment for the School. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the hearing process described in the teacher’s termination statute does not apply to termination of an administrator when his underlying teaching contract is not being terminated; (2) the language in Plaintiff’s form teacher’s contract referring to a hearing with the benefit of counsel and a just cause determination applies only to Plaintiff’s underlying teacher’s contract and not his administrator’s contract; and (3) under the circumstances of this case, Plaintiff received constitutional due process. View "Hewitt v. Westfield Washington Sch. Corp." on Justia Law