Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
by
A student and her parents filed suit against the Minnesota Department of Education, alleging that the school district's failure to classify the student as disabled denied her the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The ALJ concluded that the school district's treatment of the student violated the IDEA and related state special-education laws. The district court then denied the school district's motion for judgment on the administrative record and granted, in part, the student's motion for judgment on the record, modifying the award of compensatory education. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the school district's request for supplementation of the record; the school district's evaluation of the student was insufficiently informed and legally deficient; the student is eligible for special education and a state-funded FAPE like every other child with a disability; the ALJ and the district court did not err in concluding the school district had breached its obligation to identify the student by the spring of her eighth-grade year as a child eligible for special education; and the district court did not err in finding plaintiffs were entitled to recover the costs associated with comprehensive psychological evaluation, educational evaluation and private educational services. However, the court reinstated the ALJ's award of compensatory education costs. View "Independent School District No. 283 v. E.M.D.H." on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the school district's motion to dismiss in part and motion for summary judgment in an action brought under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The court held that the district court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs' request for attorneys' fees as time barred by the 90-day statute of limitations in Arkansas Code section 6-41-216(g), Arkansas's statutory framework for IDEA compliance. The court explained that the claim for attorneys' fees is ancillary to judicial review of the administrative decision. The court also held that the district court did not err by granting summary judgment to the school district where there is no genuine issue of material fact about whether the school district acted in bad faith or with gross misjudgment with respect to plaintiffs' claim that their son was the victim of peer and teacher bullying. View "Richardson v. Omaha School District" on Justia Law

by
Marion Carter sued the Pulaski County Special School District for race discrimination under Arkansas state and federal laws. Carter taught at the Joe T. Robinson High School in the School District. She also coached the cheer and dance teams. In 2017, the school's principal recommended to the District Superintendent that Carter's cheer and dance duties not be renewed for the 2017-2018 school year, and that she be offered a teaching contract only. The principal cited: (1) lack of student participation in cheer and dance in the previous two years; (2) inappropriate cheer routines at sporting events; and (2) inappropriate behavior of cheerleaders during out-of-town travel. After a hearing, the District's School Board accepted the recommendation not to renew Carter's cheer and dance contract. The District filled the cheer position with an African-American woman, and eliminated all dance teams district-wide. The Eighth Circuit concurred with the district court's grant of summary judgment to the District on all claims. The Court found Carter's allegations were insufficient to defeat summary judgment. View "Carter v. Pulaski CO Special School Dist" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), bringing a due process challenge to the school district's individualized education plan (IEP) and school placement before the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission. The Commission affirmed the plan and placement, denying reimbursement. The district court reversed the Commission but limited the reimbursement award based on equitable considerations. The Eighth Circuit held that the school district violated the IDEA and the district court erred in limiting the award. As a preliminary matter, the court held that the school district's jurisdictional challenge was without merit; the school district's mootness challenge also failed; and the district court properly placed the burden on plaintiffs in the proceeding before it and correctly stated the standard of review on appeal. On the merits, the court held that the school district denied plaintiffs' son a free and appropriate education as required by the IDEA when it placed him at a school without direct occupational therapy or a sensory diet plan in place to address his autism-related issues. The court also held that an award limitation based on improvements to the school was inappropriate and inconsistent with the purposes of the IDEA because the school district failed to give any notice to plaintiffs. Furthermore, limiting an award based on improvements not communicated to plaintiffs was inconsistent with the IDEA's purpose. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's limitation of tuition reimbursement and awarded full tuition reimbursement. View "D. L. v. St. Louis City School District" on Justia Law

by
Vianney appealed the district court's summary judgment rulings on their Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) claims, Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Missouri RFRA) claim; and inverse condemnation claim under Missouri's Constitution. The Eighth Circuit affirmed as to the RLUIPA claims, holding that the city's lighting and sound regulations did not substantially burden, rather than merely inconvenienced, Vianney's religious exercise. In this case, Vianney has not demonstrated that a requirement that it avail itself of alternatives would substantially burden its religious exercise, and the record demonstrated that Vianney was not treated less favorably than other schools. The court also affirmed as to the inverse condemnation claim, holding that Missouri courts have held that the reasonable exercise of a city's police power does not constitute a taking and the regulations here did not impose unusually restrictive limitations. However, the court vacated as to the Missouri RFRA claim, because the district court abused its discretion in deciding this state law claim on the merits after granting the city summary judgment on the RLUIPA claims. Accordingly, the court remanded to the district court with instructions to dismiss the claim without prejudice. View "Marianist Province of the U.S. v. City of Kirkwood" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit against the University under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and various state laws, alleging that the University failed to protect them against stalking and sexual harassment by a fellow student. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the University, holding that, because Plaintiff Kirkpatrick could not satisfy the actual knowledge element, her Title IX claim failed as a matter of law and the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the University on that claim; the district court properly granted summary judgment to the University on Pearson's Title IX claim because there was no genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the University was deliberately indifferent to any stalking or harassment that she experienced; and the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' state law premises liability and general negligence claims, because plaintiffs could not establish that the school owed them a duty of care under Missouri law. View "Pearson v. Logan University" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the school district and partial denial of plaintiff's motion for leave to amend her complaint. Plaintiff filed suit alleging that the school district was deliberately indifferent to her allegations that another student sexually assaulted her. The court could not say that the school district's response to the complaint effectively caused the first incident with plaintiff. Furthermore, the school district's response was not clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances and, even if the school district were deliberately indifferent, it was not deliberately indifferent to sexual harassment that was so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it could be said to have deprived plaintiff of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err by denying the motion to amend in order for plaintiff to add a negligence claim against the school district through a direct action against its insurance provider, because the claim was futile. View "Doe v. Dardanelle School District" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's Missouri state-law claims for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and fraudulent misrepresentation against St. Louis University. Plaintiff's claims stemmed from his unsuccessful attempts to receive a Ph.D from the university in mechanical and aerospace engineering in four years. The court held that the educational malpractice doctrine barred all of plaintiff's claims. In this case, all of the statements plaintiff relied on in the student catalog and handbook were aspirational in nature. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying plaintiff leave to amend his complaint when he did not submit a proposed amendment or include anything in his motion to indicate what an amended complaint would contain. View "Soueidan v. St. Louis University" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the school district in an action originally alleging that plaintiff's daughter, a young student with autism and significant intellectual deficits, was not provided a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Plaintiff also brought additional claims for constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983, disability discrimination and retaliation under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, disability discrimination under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and violations of Arkansas law. The court found no clear error in the district court's factual findings and gave due weight to the hearing officer's credibility determinations, concluding that the child was not denied a FAPE. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's motions for extensions of time and her motion to accept her summary judgment response out of time. The court also held that some of plaintiff's claims were barred for failure to exhaust and that her retaliation claim based on a violation of the IDEA also failed. View "Albright v. Mountain Home School District" on Justia Law

by
Two male students filed suit against Minnesota's high school athletic league and others, alleging that the league unlawfully discriminated against them on the basis of sex through its rule prohibiting boys from participating on high school competitive dance teams. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the students' motion for preliminary injunction and directed the district court to enter a preliminary injunction. The court held that the heightened, likely-to-prevail standard did not apply to the boys' preliminary injunction motion, but instead, whether the boys have a fair chance of prevailing. On the merits, the court held that the boys had more than a fair chance of prevailing on the merits of their equal protection claim where the league has not asserted an exceedingly persuasive justification for keeping them from participating on high school competitive dance teams. Furthermore, the remaining Dataphase factors favored a preliminary injunction. View "D.M. v. Minnesota State High School League" on Justia Law