Articles Posted in U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals

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Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), states that provide special education funds are eligible for federal funds to implement state-wide special education programs that guarantee a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to eligible disabled children, 20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(1)(A). Pennsylvania enacted 24 P.S. 25-2509.5, its special education funding formula, under which each school district receives a base supplement, calculated by apportioning the total amount of base supplement money available among all districts based on the average daily membership of the district from the prior year under the assumption that 16% of students in each district are disabled. Plaintiffs, disabled students who attend schools in districts with a 17% or greater enrollment of special needs students and with a market value/personal income ratio of .65 or greater, claimed that Pennsylvania’s method violates IDEA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act The district court found that the formula did not deprive the class of a FAPE as required by the IDEA and did not discriminate in violation of either the ADA or RA. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting that there was no evidence that any class member was deprived of a service available to nonclass members. View "CG v. PA Dep't of Educ." on Justia Law

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In first grade (2000-2001 school year), S.H., who is African-American, was placed in Title I classes with her mother’s consent. S.H. received Title I services through fifth grade, but continued to struggle. In fifth grade she was diagnosed with a learning disability. An Individualized Education Program team considered S.H.’s personal sentiment that she did not want to be in special education and obtained her mother’s approval for services. In 2009, at her mother’s request, S.H. was evaluated by an independent psychologist, who concluded that S.H.’s learning disabled designation was, and always had been, erroneous. S.H. was removed from special education and, as of 2012 had been accepted at several colleges. She and her mother sued under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming that the district misdiagnosed S.H. for several years, and was liable for compensatory education and compensatory damages. The district court rejected the claims. The Third Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the plaintiffs presented no evidence that would create a genuine dispute as to whether the district knew, prior to the 2009 evaluation, that S.H. had likely been misidentified as learning disabled and that The DIA only permits a child with a disability to bring a claim; S.H. is not disabled. View "S. H. v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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Ashurov, a Tajikistani citizen, entered the U.S. under a visitor’s visa in 2007 and later sought a student visa. The application required submission of Form I-20, the school’s petition to sponsor a student. Ashurov stated that he planned to study English as a Second Language at the CMG School. CMG certified the form and Ashurov signed it without an oath, as required. The application was granted. In 2009 and 2010, Ashurov presented identical forms. In 2010, federal authorities determined that CMG was not providing students the required 18 hours of weekly in-class instruction. The school was closed and its designated official indicted. A jury convicted Ashurov under 18 U.S.C. 1546(a), which punishes a person who “knowingly makes under oath, or ... under penalty of perjury ... knowingly subscribes as true, any false statement with respect to a material fact in any ... document required by the immigration laws ... or knowingly presents any such ... document which contains any such false statement or which fails to contain any reasonable basis.” The district court granted an acquittal, finding that the oath requirement applied to both the “knowingly makes” and “knowingly presents” clauses and, alternatively, applying the rule of lenity. The Third Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the statute is “grievously ambiguous.” View "United States v. Ashurov" on Justia Law

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Keep A Breast Foundation educates young women about breast cancer and believes that negative body image inhibits awareness. To “start a conversation about that taboo in a lighthearted way” and break down inhibitions keeping young women from performing self-examinations, the Foundation began its “I [heart] Boobies!” initiative, which included selling bracelets emblazoned with that motto, KEEP A BREAST” and “check yourself!” The School District banned the bracelets. The district court issued a preliminary injunction against the ban. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding that Supreme Court precedent does not sustain the ban. Under those decisions plainly lewd speech, which offends for the same reasons obscenity offends, may be categorically restricted regardless of whether it comments on political or social issues; speech that does not rise to the level of plainly lewd but that a reasonable observer could interpret as lewd may be categorically restricted if it cannot plausibly be interpreted as commenting on such issues; and speech that does not rise to the level of plainly lewd and that could plausibly be interpreted as commenting on such issues may not be categorically restricted. The bracelets are not plainly lewd and comment on a social issue. The District did not show that the bracelets threatened to substantially disrupt school. View "B.H. v. Easton Area Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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Munir sent his son, O.M., to a private residential facility and a private boarding school after multiple suicide attempts, and sought reimbursement for the cost of the placements from the school district under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires that states receiving federal education funding ensure that disabled children receive a free appropriate public education, 20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(1) or pay for their education elsewhere if a child require specialized services that the public institution cannot provide. The district court denied the request, reasoning that O.M. had emotional problems, but that those problems were not affecting his ability to learn. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding that O.M.’s placement was to meet his mental health needs; any educational benefit he received from the placement was incidental. O.M. was an above-average student, without serious attendance problems, and socialized well in the district school. An individualized education plan offered by the district satisfied its IDEA obligations. View "Munir v. Pottsville Area Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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Brittany and Emily Morrow were subjected to threats and physical assaults by Anderson, a fellow student at Blackhawk High School. After Anderson physically attacked Brittany in the lunch room, the school suspended both girls. Brittany’s mother reported Anderson to the police at the recommendation of administration. Anderson was charged with simple assault, terroristic threats, and harassment. Anderson continued to bully Brittany and Emily. A state court placed Anderson on probation and ordered her to have no contact with Brittany. Five months later, Anderson was adjudicated delinquent and was again given a “no contact” order, which was provided to the school. Anderson subsequently boarded Brittany’s school bus and threatened Brittany, even though that bus did not service Anderson’s home. School officials told the Morrows that they could not guarantee their daughters’ safety and advised the Morrows to consider another school. The Morrows filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violation of their substantive due process rights. The district court dismissed, reasoning that the school did not have a “special relationship” with students that would create a constitutional duty to protect them from other students and that the Morrows’ injury was not the result of any affirmative action by the defendants, under the “state-created danger” doctrine. The Third Circuit affirmed. View "Morrow v. Balaski" on Justia Law

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Covington, a basketball official in New Jersey and Pennsylvania for more than 10 years, filed suit, alleging gender employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. 1681, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J. STAT. 10:5-1, because she has been excluded from officiating at boys’ high school varsity basketball games. The district court dismissed all claims against all defendants: the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials, Board 193 (Board 193), which assigns officials to officiate at regular season high school basketball games; the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), which controls and supervises post-season tournament games and assigns officials to referee those games; the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials (IAABO), the Colonial Valley Conference (CVC), the Hamilton Township School District (“Hamilton”), a school at which Covington has officiated, and Dumont, the President of Board 193. The Third Circuit remanded to give Covington an opportunity to provide more facts as to her claim against Hamilton, Board 193, and NJSIAA, but affirmed dismissal of claims against the CVC and IAABO. View "Covington v. Int'l Assoc. of Approved Basketball Officials" on Justia Law

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K.A., a fifth-grade student, attempted to distribute, before the start of class, an invitation to a children’s Christmas party at her church. Students were normally allowed to distribute invitations to birthday parties, Halloween parties, and similar events during non-instructional time. The teacher told K.A. that the principal would have to approve the flyer. The principal later notified K.A.’s father that the superintendent had not approved the flyer, based on a policy concerning events not related to the school. Her father filed suit, alleging that the school district had violated K.A.’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court, applying the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), and finding no evidence that distribution of the invitations would threaten a “substantial disruption‖ of the school environment or interfere with the rights of others,” granted preliminary injunctive relief. The Third Circuit affirmed, stating that the original policy and subsequent revisions were broader than allowed under Tinker and its progeny, which state that student expression can be regulated only if it causes disruption or interferes with the rights of others, or if it falls into a narrow exception. View "K. A. v. Pocono Mountain Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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The school district hired Connelly as a teacher. Connelly had nine years of teaching experience, all in Maryland. Because Connelly acquired his teaching experience outside Pennsylvania, the district credited him with only one year. Other new teachers with like experience acquired within Pennsylvania (but not in the district) received at least partial credit for each year they had taught. Connelly’s initial annual salary was $38,023, which was substantially less than the $49,476 Connelly alleged he would have received with full credit for his experience. Connelly‘s initial salary determination continued to adversely affect his pay. In 2011 Connelly filed suit, asserting Fourteenth Amendment claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983: that failure to fully credit his out-of-state teaching experience violated his right to interstate travel under the Privileges and Immunities Clause and denied him equal protection of the law. The district court dismissed, holding that the classification alleged is based on location of teaching experience, not residency. The Third Circuit affirmed, applying rational basis review. A school district may rationally place a premium on teachers who have more experience working within the Pennsylvania school system in order to achieve the legitimate goal of an efficient and effective public education system. View "Connelly v. Steel Valley Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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In 2003, D.K. began kindergarten; he struggled in school and had behavioral issues. In 2007, at the urging of a private therapist, his parents requested a second evaluation. Two months later, the district determined that D.K. was eligible for special education services as a student with “other health impairment,” and he was offered an Individualized Education Program. In 2008, while finalizing D.K.’s IEP, his parents requested a due process hearing under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400–1419, and requested an award of compensatory education for September 2004 through March 12, 2008. The district court affirmed the denial, holding that the IDEA’s statute of limitations, passed in 2004, barred relief for conduct prior to January 8, 2006, and that plaintiffs were ineligible for two statutory exceptions to the IDEA statute of limitations. The school district did not violate its obligation to identify students in need of special education and did not fail to provide D.K. a free appropriate public education before November 2007. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting that the district consistently monitored, documented, and responded to D.K.’s individual educational needs, developed behavioral improvement systems with his parents’ cooperation, and offered him special attention and testing accommodations. View "D. K. v. Abington Sch. Dist." on Justia Law