Justia Education Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
MacDonald v. Thomas M. Cooley Law School
The Thomas M. Cooley Law School, accredited by the ABA, enrolls more students than any other U.S. law school and plans to expand. Cooley charges full-time students tuition of $36,750 per year, exclusive of other costs, and, according to U.S. News & World Report, has the lowest admission standards of any accredited law school. The school has a very low retention rate. In a 66-page complaint, 12 graduates claimed that the school disseminated false employment statistics, upon which they relied as assurances that they would obtain full-time attorney jobs after graduating. The graduates did not obtain the kind of employment the statistics advertised; some found employment at all. They claimed that, had they known the truth, they would not have attended Cooley or would have paid less tuition, and sought, among other relief, partial tuition reimbursement, which they estimated for the class would be $300,000,000. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the Michigan Consumer Protection Act does not apply to the facts. The complaint shows that one of the statistics on which they relied was objectively true and reliance on the statistics, without further inquiry, was unreasonable. View "MacDonald v. Thomas M. Cooley Law School" on Justia Law
United States v. Washington
Hill, Director of Risk Management for Detroit Public Schools invited Washington to submit a proposal for a wellness program for DPS employees. Washington and others joined Associates for Learning (A4L) and submitted a proposal quoting $150,000 for a pilot study. Contrary to DPS policy, Hill did not open competitive bidding or execute a written contract, and made payments by wire transfer, rather than by check. Hill, who later left DPS testified that he met with Washington to discuss larger amounts. Washington paid Hill five percent of the invoice amount for assistance in getting the invoices paid. Invoices totaling more than a million dollars for “future work” were paid. The partners met in public places to distribute cash. Washington was convicted of conspiracy to commit program fraud, 18 U.S.C. 371 and 666, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, 18 U.S.C. 1956. The district court enhanced Washington’s base offense level by 22 levels, finding that Washington was an “organizer or leader” and that the amount of loss to DPS was more than $2.5 million, and sentenced her to 84 months. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding that Washington was not prejudiced by errors made by counsel and that the evidence was sufficient. View "United States v. Washington" on Justia Law
Romeike v. Holder
German law requires all children to attend public or state-approved private schools. The Romeikes, parents of five young children, feared that the public school curriculum would influence their children against Christian values” and chose to home-school. The government imposed fines for each unexcused absence. Once, police went to the Romeikes’ house and escorted the children to school. The next time, four adults and seven children from the Romeikes’ home-schooling support group intervened, and the police, reluctant to use force, left the premises without the children. The family traveled to the U.S. to seek asylum under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(42)(A), which applies to those who have a “well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” The Board of Immigration Appeals found that German authorities have not singled out the Romeikes in particular or home-schoolers in general for persecution and denied their petition. The district court and Seventh Circuit upheld the decision. The German law does not on its face single out any protected group, and the Romeikes did not provide sufficient evidence to show that the law’s application turns on prohibited classifications or animus based on any prohibited ground. View "Romeike v. Holder" on Justia Law
Spurlock v. Fox
The parents and the grandmother of two black children sued the Nashville Board of Public Education on behalf of their children and all black students in the District whose school assignments were adversely affected by the elimination of the mandatory noncontiguous transfer zones. They allege that the Rezoning Plan eliminated the desirable practice of being bused to a good, racially diverse school and replaced it with two inferior choices: staying in a bad, racially isolated neighborhood school or being bused to a bad, racially diverse school. They claim that has led to resegregation in violation of the students’ rights under the Equal Protection Clause. The district court ruled in favor of the Board. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding that the change serves legitimate state interests in school under-utilization. The Plan actually solved the problem that many schools were operating at levels below what their resources and infrastructure would permit, while other schools were overflowing. The court stopped short of endorsing the Plan, noting that certain students in poor neighborhoods had to share textbooks; that the racial achievement gap apparently exists much as before; and that Nashville public-school students as a whole continue to do poorly after the Plan. View "Spurlock v. Fox" on Justia Law
Bailey v. Callaghan
Michigan’s 2012 Public Act 53 provides: “A public school employer’s use of public school resources to assist a labor organization in collecting dues or service fees from wages of public school employees is a prohibited contribution to the administration of a labor organization,” so that unions must collect their own membership dues from public-school employees, rather than have the schools collect those dues via payroll deductions. The Act does not bar public employers other than schools from collecting membership dues for unions who represent their employees. Unions and union members challenged the Act under the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause. The district court entered a preliminary injunction barring enforcement. The Sixth Circuit reversed, quoting the Supreme Court: “The First Amendment prohibits government from ‘abridging the freedom of speech’; it does not confer an affirmative right to use government payroll mechanisms for the purpose of obtaining funds for expression.” The court further reasoned that there is a legitimate interest in support of the Act’s classification; the legislature could have concluded that it is more important for the public schools to conserve their limited resources for their core mission than it is for other state and local employers. View "Bailey v. Callaghan" on Justia Law
A.C.v. Shelby Cnty. Bd. of Educ.
During her second grade year and after three years of disagreement between school officials and her parents over requests for certain disability accommodations for A.C., a minor with Type 1 diabetes,the principal made reports to Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services alleging that the parents were medically abusing A.C. The parents filed suit, claiming that the principal’s reports were made in retaliation to their disability accommodation requests and violated the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 2 U.S.C. 12203 and 29 U.S.C. 794(a). The district court found that the parents did not prove a prima facie element of their case and could not prove that the reasons given for making the child-abuse reports were a pretext for retaliation. The Sixth Circuit reversed, stating that the district court prematurely placed on the parents the burden of rebutting the school’s stated reasons for its actions. Evidence of falsity in the reports of abuse coupled with the temporal proximity of those reports to requests for accommodations is sufficient to permit an inference of causation. View "A.C.v. Shelby Cnty. Bd. of Educ." on Justia Law
Cain v. Owensboro Pub. Schs.
G.C. began attending school in the Owensboro Public School District as an out-of-district student in 2005. In 2009, G.C. was caught sending text messages in class. School officials confiscated his cell phone and read the text messages. Because this was the last in a series of disciplinary infractions, Superintendent Vick revoked G.C.’s out-of-district status, barring him from attending Owensboro High School. G.C. filed suit, raising federal and state-law claims. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The Sixth Circuit reversed, based on a due process claim that G.C. was denied a hearing prior to expulsion as required by Kentucky statute and a Fourth Amendment claim based on the 2009 search, in which G.C. contends that school officials violated his constitutional rights when they read text messages on his phone without the requisite reasonable suspicion. The court affirmed rejection of a Rehabilitation Act claim that the defendants failed to identify G.C. as disabled under section 504. View "Cain v. Owensboro Pub. Schs." on Justia Law
Hearring v. Sliwowski
After the child complained of burning during urination, school nurse Sliwowski conducted a visual examination of the six-year-old female student’s genital area for medical purposes. The student’s mother alleges that this medical examination violated the child’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches. The district court denied summary judgment and denied Sliwowski qualified immunity, finding that the visual examination, conducted without consent and in the absence of a medical emergency, was an unreasonable search. The Sixth Circuit reversed, stating that the law was not clearly established regarding whether a medically motivated examination by a school nurse exposing a student’s body constitutes a search subject to the protections of the Fourth Amendment and that Sliwowski is entitled to qualified immunity. View "Hearring v. Sliwowski" on Justia Law
Fuhr v. Hazel Park Sch. Dist.
In 1999, Geraldine Fuhr successfully sued to be instated as varsity boys basketball coach at Hazel Park High School, where she had been employed as varsity girls basketball coach. For five years she coached both teams. In 2006, she was removed from her position coaching varsity girls basketball. She claims that her dismissal as the varsity girls basketball coach and other acts of harassment were a result of her 1999 suit. The district court granted the district summary judgment, rejecting claims of retaliation (42 U.S.C. 2000e-3(a)), gender discrimination, and hostile work environment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting a substantial time gap between the suit and the complained-of actions and the district’s complained-of actions were not discriminatory. View "Fuhr v. Hazel Park Sch. Dist." on Justia Law
Alfes v. Educ. Credit Mgmt. Corp.
Between 1982 and 1997, Alfes took out student loans funded by FFELP. Alfes consolidated his student-loan debt; SunTrust was the lender and obligee on the consolidated note and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency was the guarantor. Alfes sought relief under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code. The bankruptcy court entered a general discharge in 2005. Subsequently, Alfes sought a declaration that the debt under the consolidated note had been discharged, arguing that the consolidated note no longer constituted an “educational loan” under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(8)(A) and had been discharged with his ordinary debt. The bankruptcy court initially entered a default judgment against the defendants. Following a series of transfers, reopening, and various motions, the bankruptcy court ultimately held that a holder of consolidated student loans is an educational lender and that the consolidated loan was, therefore, not dischargeable absent a showing of undue hardship. The district court and Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "Alfes v. Educ. Credit Mgmt. Corp." on Justia Law