Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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The Secretary of Homeland Security promulgated the challenged OPT Rule pursuant to the Executive’s longstanding authority under the INA to set the “time” and “conditions” of nonimmigrants’ stay in the United States. Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (Washtech) argues that the statutory definition of the F-1 visa class precludes the Secretary from exercising the time-and-conditions authority to allow F-1 students to remain for school-recommended practical training after they complete their coursework. The district court sustained the OPT Rule’s authorization of a limited period of post-coursework Optional Practical Training if recommended and overseen by the school and approved by DHS, for qualifying students on F-1 visas.   The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment. The court explained that Washtech is right that section 1324a(h)(3) is not the source of the relevant regulatory authority; it just defines what it means for an alien to be “unauthorized” for employment. But that was never the government’s point. What matters is that section 1324a(h)(3) expressly acknowledges that employment authorization need not be specifically conferred by statute; it can also be granted by regulation, as it has been in rules promulgated pursuant to DHS’s statutory authority to set the “conditions” of nonimmigrants’ admission to the United States. The OPT Rule’s authorization for F-1 students to work in jobs that provide practical training related to their course of study is just such a rule. Washtech’s claim that the OPT Rule conflicts with the congressional prohibition against unauthorized aliens’ employment therefore fails. View "WA Alliance of Tech. Workers v. DHS" on Justia Law

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The Universities responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by transitioning from in-person to online learning and largely shutting down campus activities. Students and parents sued, claiming that the Universities violated contractual commitments when they transitioned to online educational activities and declined to refund any portion of their students’ tuition and fees or, in the alternative, that the transitions unjustly enriched the Universities.The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of conversion claims and claims that the Universities breached express contracts promising in-person educational instruction, activities, and services. They did not plausibly allege a possessory interest in a specific, identifiable fund of money. The cited materials cited do not support the express contract claims. Reversing in part, the court held that the complaints plausibly allege that the Universities breached implied-in-fact contracts for in-person education, on-campus activities, and services. The plaintiffs should be allowed to raise their alternative theory of unjust enrichment. The court also reinstated a claim under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act. The court acknowledged that the Universities will likely have compelling arguments to offer that the pandemic and resulting government shutdown orders discharged their duties to perform these alleged promises, which must be addressed by the district court. View "Shaffer v. George Washington University" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that DCPS failed to provide her son with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) based on his 2017 individualized education program (IEP). The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the claim as moot, holding that the case presents a fact-specific challenge to particular provisions in an inoperative IEP. Furthermore, the parties agreed to a subsequent IEP and plaintiff does not seek retrospective relief. The court also held that an exception to mootness does not apply where the voluntary cessation doctrine is inapplicable and plaintiff's claim fails to meet the capable of repetition prong because the challenge focuses on a fact-specific inquiry rather than a recurring legal question. View "J. T. v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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The union represents teachers and other professional employees at schools on U.S. military bases in Puerto Rico. In 2015, the federal agency and the union began negotiating a successor to an expired collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The union sought to continue workday provisions from the 2011 agreement. The agency sought to eliminate the dedicated hour for preparatory and professional tasks and to require teachers to be at school for that hour. The agency argued that these terms implicated its right to assign work (5 U.S.C. 7106(a)(2)(B) and were nonnegotiable. The Federal Service Impasses Panel factfinder concluded that the workday provisions were negotiable and recommended that the successor agreement maintain them; recommended terms to resolve other disputes, including new compensation terms; and recommended that the successor agreement incorporate all provisions on which the parties had already tentatively agreed. The Panel ordered the parties to adopt an entire CBA according to those recommendations.The Federal Labor Relations Authority held that the Panel lacked authority to impose the workday and agreed-to provisions. The Panel is authorized to resolve bargaining impasses but not to resolve antecedent legal questions about whether disputed provisions are negotiable. Those questions turn on the scope of the duty to bargain in good faith, which the Authority must determine. The D.C. Circuit affirmed those rulings but set aside a ruling that the workday provision imposed by the Panel infringed the agency’s statutory right to assign work. View "Antilles Consolidated Education Association v. Federal Labor Relations Authority" on Justia Law

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Congress enacted an appropriations rider in 2009 prohibiting the District of Columbia from paying more than $4,000 in attorneys' fees for any past proceeding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). At issue in these 11 consolidated cases was whether the District must pay interest on amounts that exceed the payment cap.After determining that the District did not forfeit the interest issue, the court held that the District cannot be compelled to pay interest on the portion of fee awards that it has been legally prohibited from paying off. The court explained that this case implicates a well-established common-law principle: If the law makes a debt unpayable, then interest on the debt is also unpayable. Furthermore, the court had no basis to conclude that 28 U.S.C. 1961(a) abrogated this background rule. The court reversed the district court's judgment requiring payment of interest on above-cap fees, affirmed the district court's judgment in all other respects, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Allen v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the validity of District of Columbia regulations that impose minimum education requirements for certain childcare providers. The district court held that the case was non-justiciable on grounds of standing, ripeness, and mootness.The DC Circuit held that the case is justiciable and remanded for the district court to consider the merits of the complaint. The court held that Plaintiff Sorcher's due process and equal protection claims are ripe for review, because she has demonstrated cognizable hardship where, in the absence of a decision in her favor, she will have to begin expending time and money in order to obtain the necessary credentials. The court also held that Plaintiff Sanchez's claims are not moot where there is no dispute that the regulations' education requirements continue to apply to her and her experience waiver is not permanent. Therefore, Sanchez retains a concrete interest in the outcome of the litigation and her case is also ripe. Likewise, Plaintiff Homan's claims are similar to Sorcher and Sanchez. View "Sanchez v. Office of the State Superintendent of Education" on Justia Law

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Duquesne petitioned for review of the Board's decision and order requiring the school to bargain with a union representing the school's adjunct facility. Duquesne argued that its religious mission places it beyond the Board's jurisdiction.The DC Circuit granted the petition for review, agreeing with the Supreme Court and the courts of appeals which have held that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)—read in light of the Religion Clauses—does not allow the Board to exercise jurisdiction over religious schools and their teachers in a series of cases over the past several decades. The court held that Pacific Lutheran University, 361 N.L.R.B. 1404 (2014), runs afoul of the court's decisions in University of Great Falls v. NLRB, 278 F.3d 1335 (D.C. Cir. 2002), and Carroll Coll. v. NLRB, 558 F.3d 568, 574 (D.C. Cir. 2009), which continue to govern the reach of the Board's jurisdiction under the NLRA in cases involving religious schools and their faculty members or teachers. Therefore, the court held that the Board has no jurisdiction in this case and the court need not address the remaining arguments. View "Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit held that the district court wrongly denied a stay-put injunction because it placed the burden of proof on the student rather than the local educational agency. Furthermore, the error had continuing adverse consequences for the student's claim for compensatory education. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings.In this case, by holding that M.K. was not entitled to a stay-put injunction, the court held that the district court's order had the dual effect of both (i) empowering the school to continue excluding M.K. from its educational services, and (ii) limiting M.K.'s claim to compensatory educational relief for the time of that extended exclusion. The court reasoned that M.K.'s compensatory education request was not merely a "collateral consequence" of the underlying stay-put dispute, but it was part and parcel of it. View "Olu-Cole v. E.L. Haynes Public Charter School" on Justia Law

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After the Association filed suit alleging that the District's school funding practices inadequately fund charter schools, the district court rejected the Association's claims. The DC Circuit did not reach the merits of the Association's claims, holding that the district court lacked jurisdiction over the claims. In this case, none of the Association's claims under the School Reform Act, Home Rule Act, and Constitution arose under federal law within the meaning of the federal question statute. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for dismissal of the complaint for want of jurisdiction. View "D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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USC petitioned for review of the Board's ruling that the full- and part-time non-tenure-track faculty of USC's Roski School of Art and Design exercised no effective control over university policies and, as non-managerial employees, were therefore eligible to join a union. The DC Circuit granted the petition for review in part, holding that the Board's decision, extending the majority status rule in Pacific Lutheran University, 361 N.L.R.B. 1404 (2014), to faculty subgroups, conflicted with N.L.R.B. v. Yeshiva University, 444 U.S. 672 (1980). Because the Board's subgroup majority status rule ran afoul of Yeshiva, and because the court was uncertain whether the Board would have reached the same conclusion absent that rule, the court remanded to the Board for further consideration. View "University of Southern California v. NLRB" on Justia Law