Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
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Two Mississippi school districts disputed whether the disbursement of past revenues generated from sixteenth section land located in townships shared by the two school districts and received by one, should have been shared by the other. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that the applicable governing statutes placed the burden on the noncustodial school district to provide student lists to the custodial school district, and made it unlawful for the custodial school district to pay over “until the lists . . . have been made.” Because the one-year period delineated in Section 29-3-119(4) did not place a time limit on litigation but rather a time limit on when a noncustodial district could make a claim with a custodial district, it was not a statute of limitations. Commensurate with its duty to presume the validity of legislative enactments, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court and render judgment in favor of the custodial district, Wayne County School District, because Quitman School District’s claims were outside the prescribed time limit in the statute. View "Wayne County School District v. Quitman School District" on Justia Law

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In September 2016, Christopher Strickland, Jr., a sophomore at Northwest Rankin High School, was at Choctaw Trails in Clinton, Mississippi, preparing to run a cross- country meet. Before the race, a wasp stung Christopher on the top of his head. According to Christopher, a lump began to form and his head felt tight, like it was swelling. Christopher told one of his coaches. According to affidavits submitted by the Rankin County School District (RCSD), two coaches and a registered nurse, who was there to watch her son race, examined Christopher’s head and found no evidence of a sting or adverse reaction. And Christopher assured them he was fine and wanted to run the race. But Christopher recalled only one coach examining him. And this coach told him to “man up” and run the race. Christopher ran the race. According to one of his coaches, she checked in on him at the mile marker. He responded that he was “okay, just hot.” According to Christopher, after the mile marker he began to feel dizzy. Then he fell, hitting his head. The same nurse attended to him. So did her husband, who was a neurologist. Christopher appeared to recover and rejoined his team after the race. But he later went to a doctor, who discovered injuries to his brain and spine. In January 2017, Christopher’s father, Christopher Strickland, Sr. (Strickland), sued RCSD on Christopher’s behalf. He alleged various breaches of duties in how RCSD employees acted both (1) after the wasp sting but before the race and (2) after Christopher’s fall. Specifically, Strickland alleged that, after the fall, RCSD employees failed to follow the district’s concussion protocol. The Mississippi Supreme Court surmised "much legal analysis has been aimed at whether the actions of two cross-country coaches were discretionary policy decisions entitled to immunity from suit under Mississippi Code Section 11-46-9(1)(d) (Rev. 2019)." But on certiorari review, the Court found this question to be moot: the alleged actions of the coaches do not establish any triable claim for negligence. For that reason, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the Rankin County School District. View "Strickland v. Rankin County School District" on Justia Law

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Dr. Sandra Leal appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment to the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL). Leal brought suit against USM and the IHL for breach of contract and disability discrimination. Dr. Sandra Leal was a junior faculty member at USM. After spending several years at USM, Leal applied for tenure and promotion in 2012, but, at the recommendation of faculty members, she deferred her application for one year. In September of 2013, she resubmitted her application and materials. On October 4, 2013, her department voted not to recommend her application. Leal was notified of this on October 7, 2013. Each review of her application cited an insufficient number of publications as the primary reason for not recommending Leal’s application. Following these reviews, in March of 2014, Leal wrote to USM’s then-provost. Leal had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis throughout her time at USM, but, for the first time, she claimed it as a disability. She requested an additional year to remedy her insufficient number of publications. Both the provost and USM’s president recommended that Leal’s application be denied. Leal was notified of these determinations on March 24, 2014, and April 30, 2014, respectively. Leal sought review of her application by the IHL, and the IHL considered her request and ultimately rejected her application too. Because Leal has failed to demonstrate any genuine issue of material fact and failed to demonstrate that USM and the IHL were not entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment. View "Leal v. University of So. Miss." on Justia Law

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Poplarville School District and Pearl River County sought to undo the July 1, 2018 consolidation of the Lumberton Public School District and the Lamar County School District. In 2016, the Mississippi Legislature adopted Senate Bill 2500, which, after being signed into law, was codified as Mississippi Code Section 37-7-104.5, the purpose of which was to administratively dissolve, consolidate, and split the Lumberton Public School District at the Lamar and Pearl River County line. The statute created the Commission on the Administrative Consolidation of the Lumberton Public Schools to work in conjunction with the Mississippi State Board of Education to accomplish the consolidation goal. However, Poplarville School District contended that instead of following the directive of Section 37-7-104.5, the Commission dissolved the Lumberton School District and consolidated all of it, to include the students who reside in Pearl River County, into the Lamar County School District. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors was a “person aggrieved” for purposes of Section 37-7-115, publication was not necessary pursuant to Section 37-7-115, and Section 37-7-115 was an exclusive remedy. Furthermore, the Court held the chancery court did not err by finding that the appeal was untimely filed pursuant to Section 37-7-115, and affirmed the chancery court's decision. View "Pearl River County Board of Supervisors v. Mississippi State Board of Education" on Justia Law

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Walter Jones appeals the order of the Circuit Court of Madison County affirming his removal as trustee of the Canton Public School District (CPSD) by the Board of Aldermen (the Board) of the City of Canton (the City). Jones argued the Board lacked the authority to remove him as a public official. Finding that the Board’s actions were prohibited by the Mississippi Constitution, the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed: because the Board’s authority was based on a city ordinance inconsistent with the Mississippi Constitution and because the Board’s action violated Jones’s right to due process, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s decision to affirm the Board’s removal of Jones as school-board trustee. View "Jones v. City of Canton, Mississippi" on Justia Law

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In chancery court, Plaintiffs challenged the two sources of funding for charter schools provided for under the Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2013. Plaintiffs contended the Act was unconstitutional under Article 8, Sections 206 and 208, of the Mississippi Constitution. Also, one of the charter-school intervenors maintained that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the suit. The chancellor held that the Plaintiffs did have standing to sue and that they did not prove that either source of funding was unconstitutional. Before the Mississippi Supreme Court, Plaintiffs concentrated their argument under Article 8, Section 206, of the Mississippi Constitution, alleging that a charter school’s ad valorem funding was unconstitutional. They did not appeal the chancellor’s ruling concerning per-pupil funds. The Jackson Public School District (JPS) maintained that the chancellor erred in denying its motion to be dismissed from the suit. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court, agreeing Plaintiffs had standing to sue, and that they did not meet their burden to demonstrate that Section 37-28-55 was unconstitutional. The Court found JPS’s arguments concerning its motion to dismiss were waived on appeal for failure to raise the issue in a cross-appeal. View "Araujo v. Bryant" on Justia Law

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Following a disciplinary proceeding, Meloney Harbour’s minor son, T.D.H., was suspended from school and placed in an alternative school. The chancery court initially reversed and rendered the decision of the Tupelo Public School District Board of Trustees after finding that the deprivation of an attorney at the initial disciplinary hearing, as well as the failure to state the applicable standard of proof, violated T.D.H.’s due process rights. After a Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a) motion, the chancery court amended its judgment to remand the case instead of rendering it. Harbour then filed a Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) motion and, for the first time, challenged the constitutionality of Mississippi Code Section 37-9-71. Harbour contended the statute contained an unconstitutional standard of proof: substantial evidence rather than clear and convincing evidence. Harbour did not notice the attorney general of the constitutional challenge to the statute. Finding that Harbour failed to meet her burden under Rule 60(b), the chancery court denied the motion. Harbour then appealed that ruling. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court’s denial of the Rule 60(b) motion. View "Harbour v. Tupelo Public School District" on Justia Law

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Twenty-one public school districts claimed the Mississippi Legislature’s appropriations for public education during fiscal years 2010-2015 were statutorily inadequate. The districts contended Mississippi Code Section 37-151-6 mandated the Legislature fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), but the Legislature failed to follow this mandate. They sought judicial enforcement of this statute in Hinds County Chancery Court, requesting more than $235 million in State funds - the difference between what they received and what they claim they should have received had the Legislature fully funded MAEP. The chancellor found the school districts were not entitled to relief because he determined that Section 37-151-6 was not a binding mandate. The chancellor, therefore, ​dismissed the school districts’ claim. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court found that Section 37-151-6 was not mandatory, it affirmed. View "Clarksdale Municipal School District et al. v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Supreme Court found that Tunica County failed to meet its burden of proof that Chapter Number 920, Local and Private Laws of 2004 (“House Bill 1002”) unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful. Tunica County sought review of a Circuit Court’s summary-judgment ruling that the law, which required the County to distribute portions of a revenue based gaming fee to the Town of Tunica and the Tunica County School District, was constitutional. Specifically, the County argued: House Bill 1002 deprived it of its property interest in the casino fees without due process of law; the distributions required by House Bill 1002 constituted an unlawful donation of public funds; House Bill 1002 impermissibly suspended certain general statutes and provided improper support for a common school; alternatively, the County alleged that House Bill 1002 violated Mississippi common law and that the current Board of Supervisors could not be bound by the decisions of prior Boards to comply with the law. The County asked the circuit court to declare House Bill 1002 unconstitutional and issue an injunction against the continued enforcement of the statute. The Supreme Court concluded the County lacked standing to challenge House Bill 1002 on due process grounds; notwithstanding, the County’s argument was without merit because its authority to impose the 3.2 percent gaming fee came from the Legislature, not the constitution. The Court concluded the arguments made with respect to the other issues the County raised on appeal were without merit. The Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment, but vacated on the award of attorney’s fees. The case was remanded for a determination of whether there was a legal basis for the award of fees, and if so, whether the requested amounts were reasonable. View "Tunica County v. Town of Tunica" on Justia Law

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After a year of bullying and intimidation by a small group of students, Yahenacy Smith was beaten and severely injured while riding the school bus home. Smith sued the Leake County School District, alleging negligence and negligence per se. The circuit court found that the school district was entitled to discretionary-function immunity and granted the school district’s motion for summary judgment. Smith appealed. Finding that the broad governmental function of the school district here was ministerial, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment and remanded the case to the circuit court for Smith to proceed with her claims. View "Smith v. Leake County School District" on Justia Law