Justia Education Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
Carvalho-Grevious v. Delaware State University
Delaware State University hired Dr. Grevious as an associate professor and as a department chairperson in August 2010, with a contract to end in June 2011. Grevious complained that her supervising administrators were impeding her work on reaccreditation based on her gender. In 2011, the University gave Grevious a renewable contract as an associate professor for the 2011- 2012 academic year. Grevious was unable to meet the reaccreditation deadline. The University terminated her term as chairperson. Grevious filed an EEOC charge of discrimination; the investigation was closed for lack of corroborating evidence. The University revoked Grevious’s renewable contract and issued her a terminal contract ending her employment effective May 2012. Grevious claims that the Provost admitted that this was based on the EEOC charge, unrelated to her teaching or professional performance. She filed a second EEOC charge. The Provost denied making such admissions, stating that the decision was based on Grevious’s documented interpersonal conflicts at the University. Grevious sued, alleging retaliation under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-3, and retaliation under 42 U.S.C. 1981. The district court rejected her claims on summary judgment. The Third Circuit reversed with respect to her contract revision claim, but otherwise affirmed, holding that at the prima facie stage, a plaintiff need only proffer evidence sufficient to raise the inference that her engagement in a protected activity was the likely reason for the adverse employment action, not the but-for reason. View "Carvalho-Grevious v. Delaware State University" on Justia Law
Edinboro College Park Apartments v. Edinboro University Foundation
Edinboro, a Pennsylvania public university, collaborated with Edinboro University Foundation, a nonprofit entity, to construct new dormitories. In 2008, the Foundation amended its Articles of Incorporation to authorize borrowing funds “to acquire, lease, construct, develop and/or manage real or personal property.” The University leased property to the Foundation in a favorable location; the Foundation issued bonds to raise the funds and completed construction. Since 1989, the University required non-commuting first-year and transfer students to reside on-campus for two consecutive semesters. Two and one-half years after the first phase of the new dormitories opened, the University amended its policy to require certain students to reside on-campus for four consecutive semesters. Businesses that provide off-campus housing sued, asserting that the University and the Foundation conspired to monopolize the student housing market in violation of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. 2. Plaintiffs did not sue the University, conceding that it is an arm of the state subject to Eleventh Amendment immunity. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal. The University’s actions are not categorically “sovereign” for purposes of “Parker” immunity, so the court employed heightened scrutiny, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Hallie v. City of Eau Claire, (1985), which requires anticompetitive conduct to conform to a clearly articulated state policy. The University’s conduct withstands Hallie scrutiny. The Foundation’s actions were directed by the University, so the Foundation is also immune. View "Edinboro College Park Apartments v. Edinboro University Foundation" on Justia Law
Doe v. Mercy Catholic Medical Center
Doe, a second-year student, joined the residency program at Mercy, a private teaching hospital in Philadelphia. Doe alleged the director of that program, Roe, sexually harassed her and retaliated against her for complaining about his behavior. Doe claims that Mercy’s human resources department repeatedly referred Doe to a psychiatrist and eventually told Doe that to remain in the program, she would have to agree to a corrective plan, while Roe’s conduct escalated. Doe received a termination letter. She and Roe appeared before an appeals committee, which upheld Doe’s dismissal. She declined another appeal and quit the program. No other residency program has accepted her, precluding her full licensure. Doe sued two years later, alleging retaliation, quid pro quo, and hostile environment under Title IX of the Education Amendments, 20 U.S.C. 1681. She never filed a charge with the EEOC under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e. The district court dismissed, holding that Title IX does not apply because Mercy is not an “education program or activity” and that Doe could not use Title IX to “circumvent” Title VII’s administrative requirements. The court also found Doe’s hostile environment claim untimely. The Third Circuit reversed in part, reinstating Doe’s Title IX retaliation and quid pro quo claims. Mercy’s program is subject to Title IX. Her hostile environment claim is time-barred. View "Doe v. Mercy Catholic Medical Center" on Justia Law
Issa v. Lancaster School District
Plaintiffs, immigrants, ages 18 to 21, fled war, violence, and persecution in their native countries to come to the U.S., arriving here since 2014. International refugee agencies resettled them in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. None are native English speakers. All fall within a subgroup of English language learners: “students with limited or interrupted formal education.” The School District administers numerous schools, including McCaskey High School, a traditional school that includes an International School program for English Language Learners, and Phoenix Academy, operated by Camelot Schools, a private, for-profit company under contract with the District. Phoenix is an accelerated program. Plaintiffs obtained a preliminary injunction, compelling the District to allow them to attend McCaskey rather than Phoenix, to which they had been assigned. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding likely violations of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA), 20 U.S.C. 1703(f), which prohibits denial of equal educational opportunity on account of race, color, sex, or national origin. Plaintiffs showed a reasonable probability that Phoenix’s accelerated, non-sheltered program is not informed by an educational theory recognized as sound by some experts in the field; plaintiffs’ language barriers and resulting lost educational opportunities stem from their national origins. View "Issa v. Lancaster School District" on Justia Law
Moeck v. Pleasant Valley School District
Pleasant Valley High School wrestling coach Getz allegedly assaulted team member C.M. and discriminated against C.M.’s sister, A.M. based on her gender. Plaintiffs alleged that during practice, C.M. was forced to wrestle a larger student, who threw him through the doors into the hallway and punched him. After Getz prodded C.M. to keep wrestling, an altercation ensued, in which Getz lifted C.M. up and “smash[ed] his head and back into the wall.” C.M., A.M., and their mother sued. The School Defendants asserted that discovery showed that Plaintiffs made numerous false statements in the complaint and amended complaint, and their claims lacked merit and that Plaintiffs’ Rule 56.1 statement contained false statements. The district court denied Defendants’ Rule 11 motions as “meritless,” noting that these Rule 11 motions tax judicial resources and emphasizing that the truth of the allegations in a case of this sort is revealed through discovery and addressed at summary judgment or trial, not via motions for sanctions. On interlocutory appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed. The district court appropriately exercised its wide discretion in concluding the motions lacked merit, and were counterproductive as they relied upon factual discrepancies that did not show the claims were patently frivolous. View "Moeck v. Pleasant Valley School District" on Justia Law
L.R. v. Philadelphia Sch. Dist.
On a January 2013 school day, Christina Regusters entered Bryant Elementary School in Philadelphia, where Jane was enrolled in kindergarten. Regusters went directly to Jane’s classroom, where she encountered Littlejohn, Jane’s teacher. Per School District policy, Littlejohn asked Regusters to produce identification and verification that Jane had permission to leave school. Regusters failed to do so. Littlejohn nonetheless allowed Jane to leave with Regusters. Regusters sexually assaulted Jane off school premises, causing her significant physical and emotional injuries. In the early hours of the next morning, a sanitation worker found the child in a playground after hearing her cries. The district court denied a motion to dismiss a "state-created danger" lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, rejecting an assertion of qualified immunity. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding that the allegations sufficiently stated a constitutional violation of the young child’s clearly established right to be free from exposure by her teacher to an obvious danger. It is “shocking to the conscience that a kindergarten teacher would allow a child in his care to leave his classroom with a complete stranger.” View "L.R. v. Philadelphia Sch. Dist." on Justia Law
S. D. v. Haddon Heights Bd. of Educ.
S.D. suffers from “multiple medical problems including chronic sinusitis with frequent acute exacerbations, allergic rhinitis, and intermittent asthma” that allegedly “substantially limit him in . . . the life activity of learning.”. S.D.’s doctor concluded that these medical problems “make it likely that he will have frequent school absence[s] due to acute [and] underlying chronic illness,” and suggested that S.D. “should qualify for [Section] 504 plan modifications for school” under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794(a). Dissatisfied with the school’s plan, which involved Saturday sessions and a summer course, his parents sued, citing the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101–12213, the First and Fourteenth Amendments (42 U.S.C. 1983), and New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. The district court dismissed for failure to exhaust the administrative process provided for by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400–1482. The Third Circuit affirmed. While the claims alleged discrimination and retaliation for enforcement of the child’s rights under a non-IDEA statute, the alleged injuries are educational in nature and implicate services within the purview of the IDEA, so administrative remedies must be exhausted. View "S. D. v. Haddon Heights Bd. of Educ." on Justia Law
Harnish v. Widener Univ. Sch. of Law
Named plaintiffs, 2008-2011 graduates of the Widener School of Law, claim that Widener violated the New Jersey and Delaware Consumer Fraud Acts by intentionally publishing misleading statistics, reporting that in 2005-2011, 90-97% of graduates were employed. In reality, only 50-70% of Widener graduates secured full-time legal positions. The school included non-legal and part-time positions without reporting the breakdown. In 2011, Widener improved its reporting, but allegedly continued to gather unreliable information by crediting secondhand accounts of employment and avoiding responses from unemployed graduates. The plaintiffs claim that publishing misleading statistics enabled Widener to inflate tuition. The plaintiffs moved to certify a class of “persons who enrolled in Widener University School of Law and were charged full or part-time tuition within the statutory period.” The district court denied class certification, finding that the plaintiffs could not meet FRCP 23(b)(3)’s requirement that common questions “predominate” over individual questions because they had not shown that they could prove damages by common evidence. The court noted differences in class members’ employment outcomes and that New Jersey has rejected a “fraud-on-the-market” theory outside the securities fraud context. Plaintiffs could not meet Rule 23(a)(3)’s requirement that the named plaintiffs’ claims be “typical” of the claims of the proposed class; students who enrolled in 2012 and later, after Widener improved its reporting, might prefer not to have Widener’s reputation tarnished by the lawsuit. The Third Circuit affirmed. The plaintiffs’ theory was insufficiently supported by class-wide evidence. View "Harnish v. Widener Univ. Sch. of Law" on Justia Law
Freedom From Religion Found. v. New Kensington Arnold Sch. Dist.
In 1956, the New Kensington Eagles donated to Valley High School a six-foot granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments, an eagle, an American flag, the Star of David, the Chi-Rho symbol, a Masonic eye, and Hebrew and Phoenician lettering. It is near the gymnasium entrance, which is accessible from the student parking area. In 2012, FFRF, an organization dedicated to promoting separation of church and state, unsuccessfully requested the monument's removal. Schaub saw a story on television and contacted FFRF. Schaub had visited Valley and seen the monument while taking her daughter to a karate event, picking the girl up from the swimming pool, and dropping off her sister, whose child attends Valley. Schaub’s daughter was to attend Valley beginning in August 2014. Schaub views the monument as “commanding” students and visitors to worship “thy God,” brands her as “an outsider because [she] do[es] not follow the particular religion or god that the monument endorses,” and makes her “stomach turn.” She wishes to raise her daughter without religion. While a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 was pending, Schaub’s daughter began attending a different high school. The district court granted the District summary judgment. The Third Circuit reversed. Schaub has standing to seek nominal damages and injunctive relief, and her request for injunctive relief was not moot. With respect to FFRF’s claims, the court remanded for consideration of whether Schaub was an FFRF member when the complaint was filed. View "Freedom From Religion Found. v. New Kensington Arnold Sch. Dist." on Justia Law