Justia Education Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Doe v. Columbia-Brazoria Independent School District
Plaintiff, a former student of the school district, filed suit alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. 1983; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. 1681(a); Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794; and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. Plaintiff alleged that he was sexually assaulted when he was in the second or third grade by a male student in the bathroom. The district court granted the school district's motion to dismiss. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in considering the school district's second Rule 12(b)(6) motion; the district court did not abuse its discretion by not allowing further discovery or granting a continuance; the section 1983 claims were properly dismissed because plaintiff failed to prove a constitutional violation where the claims were not based on the private conduct of his assailant but on the school district's shortcomings in monitoring the students, training the teachers, and establishing a reporting system for sexual assault; the district court did not err in dismissing the Title IX claim because plaintiff failed to show the school district's actual knowledge required to establish liability under Title IX; and the district court also did not err in dismissing the Section 504 and ADA claims. View "Doe v. Columbia-Brazoria Independent School District" on Justia Law
American Humanist Assoc. v. Birdville I.S.D.
AHA and Isaiah Smith filed suit against the school district, alleging that the school district's policy of inviting students to deliver statements, which can include invocations, before school-board meetings violated the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. The district court granted summary judgment for the school district. The court agreed with the district court that a school board was more like a legislature than a school classroom or event where the board is a deliberative body, charged with overseeing the district's public schools and other tasks. In Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Supreme Court stated unequivocally that the legislative-prayer exception in Marsh v. Chambers extends to prayers delivered at town-board meetings. In this case, the court concluded that the school board was no less a deliberative legislative body than was the town board in Galloway. Accordingly, the court affirmed the summary judgment in No. 16-11220, and reversed the order denying summary judgment in No. 15-11067. View "American Humanist Assoc. v. Birdville I.S.D." on Justia Law
Reyes v. Manor Independent School District
Plaintiff, the mother of E.M., filed suit alleging a number of procedural and substantive causes of action under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq., and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794. The court agreed with the district court's holding that the majority of E.M.'s IDEA claims were barred by the one-year statute of limitations period and that E.M. failed to administratively exhaust his Rehabilitation Act claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Reyes v. Manor Independent School District" on Justia Law
Mabry v. Lee County
Plaintiff, T.M.'s mother, filed suit against the County and others after T.M., a middle school student, was arrested for a fight on school property, taken to a juvenile detention center, and subjected to a strip and cavity search. Plaintiff alleged, inter alia, that the strip and cavity search violated T.M.'s Fourth Amendment rights. The district court granted partial summary judgment for the County on the Fourth Amendment claim. The court applied the deferential test in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders because the deference given to correctional officials in the adult context applies to correctional officials in the juvenile context as well. Applying Florence, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to make a substantial showing that the Center's search policy is an exaggerated or otherwise irrational response to the problem of Center security. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Mabry v. Lee County" on Justia Law
Moore v. Tangipahoa Parish School Board
The Board appeals the district court's order doubling the compensation of Donald Massey, the part-time Court Compliance Officer (CCO). Massey monitors the integration efforts of the Tangipahoa Parish School System. The court concluded that it has jurisdiction to hear this appeal under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1). On the merits, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in relying on the information that Massey provided in calculating his salary, and the district court did not abuse its discretion by crediting Massey with time spent working as a CCO when many of the tasks that Massey reported to have performed were outside the scope of his duties and responsibilities as a CCO. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Moore v. Tangipahoa Parish School Board" on Justia Law
Brinsdon v. McAllen I.S.D.
Plaintiff filed suit alleging that defendants violated her constitutional rights when she was required to participate in a mock performance of the Mexican Pledge of Allegiance. The district court entered summary judgment on some of plaintiff's claims and, after trial, entered judgment as a matter of law for defendants. The court concluded that, because plaintiff has graduated from high school, her only surviving claim is for nominal damages arising from the alleged violation of her rights; plaintiff failed to demonstrate the existence of an official policy or that the District had knowledge of the assignment, and thus judgment as a matter of law was proper for the District on municipal liability for any constitutional violation that may have arisen from the assignment or subsequent actions; the court's ruling also applies to the claims against the District for retaliation and violation of Equal Protection; qualified immunity was properly granted to Defendants Santos and Cavazos on the claim they violated plaintiff's First Amendment rights when they removed plaintiff from class; and, likewise, plaintiff's equal protection claim fails. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Brinsdon v. McAllen I.S.D." on Justia Law
Rideau v. Keller Indep. Sch. Dist.
Parents of a severely disabled child (T.R.) prevailed in a suit against the school district where the child was abused by his special education teacher. A jury awarded a substantial verdict and the school district challenged the verdict, alleging that the parents are not the proper parties to file suit. In this case, the victim was a minor when the challenged conduct occurred but turned 18 by the time of trial; his disability rendered him incompetent even after he reached majority; a bank had been appointed to serve as his guardian; and that same bank oversaw a trust that paid for the minor’s medical bills. The court concluded that the parents have Article III standing to directly seek past medical expenses and to seek future home care expenses on behalf of T.R.; the Bank, as guardian, should have filed suit to recover the claims T.R. would otherwise possess - those for future home care expenses, physical pain and anguish, and impairment - by suing in their name on his behalf; the Bank owed a fiduciary duty to T.R., and absent a showing of conflict, the parents could not circumvent the Bank by filing suit on T.R.'s behalf; the court found that the district court's refusal to allow ratification of the parents' actions was an abuse of discretion because nothing in the text of Federal Rule 17(a)(3) or the court's decisions applying it supports the district court's decision; and federal statutes at issue do not authorize recovery for the parents' mental anguish based on the mistreatment of their son. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Rideau v. Keller Indep. Sch. Dist." on Justia Law
Rockwall Indep. Sch. Dist. v. M. C.
Parents of M.C. appealed the district court's denial of reimbursement for tuition in a private school under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. In this case, the parents adopted an all-or-nothing approach to the development of M.C.'s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) and they adamantly refused to consider any of the school district's alternative proposals. The court affirmed the district court's denial of reimbursement because the district court’s findings and the underlying record support the conclusion that M.C.’s parents acted unreasonably in unilaterally terminating the process of developing M.C.’s IEP. View "Rockwall Indep. Sch. Dist. v. M. C." on Justia Law
Tina M. v. St. Tammany Parish Sch. Bd.
Plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of their minor son seeking attorneys' fees under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act's (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1415(i)(3)(B), fee-shifting provision. The district court held that plaintiffs were the prevailing party by virtue of having obtained a “stay-put” order under the IDEA and awarded plaintiffs attorneys’ fees. The court held that plaintiffs are not the prevailing party by virtue of having invoked the IDEA's stay-put provision and the court concluded that its holding is consistent with several other circuit courts that have addressed the issue. Contrary to the district court’s conclusion, the ALJ’s stay-put order was not a ruling on the merits; nor is the stay-put order a “similar form of judicially sanctioned relief” sufficient to confer prevailing party status; the court disagreed with the district court’s reasoning that the stay-put order was essentially a preliminary injunction and that pursuant to the court's case law in this context, plaintiffs were entitled to attorneys’ fees; and, in Davis v. Abbott, the court recently reiterated the importance of a party having achieved relief on the merits for the purposes of determining prevailing party status in the context of interlocutory injunctive relief. Accordingly, the court reversed and rendered judgment for defendants. View "Tina M. v. St. Tammany Parish Sch. Bd." on Justia Law
Seth B. v. Orleans Parish Sch. Bd.
Parents of Seth B., a child diagnosed with autism, obtained an independent educational evaluation (IEE) and sought reimbursement. The district court subsequently ruled that the reimbursement was not warranted. The court concluded that the school board did not waive its right to refuse reimbursement and the proceedings before the district court were procedurally sound; the application of Bulletin 1508 did not violate the right to an IEE in this case; the court remanded for analysis under a substantial compliance standard where Seth’s IEE will “meet agency criteria” and merit reimbursement if it substantially complies with Bulletin 1508; but Parents will not be entitled to the full cost of the evaluation they obtained because they knew of the school board's cost cap of $3,000 and yet spent over $8,000. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "Seth B. v. Orleans Parish Sch. Bd." on Justia Law