Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
by
Compensatory education is not an automatic remedy for a child-find violation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Compensatory educational services are designed to counteract whatever educational setbacks a child encounters because of IDEA violations—to bring her back where she would have been but for those violations. At minimum, a parent must offer evidence that a procedural violation—like the child-find violation asserted here—caused a substantive educational harm, and that compensatory educational services can remedy that past harm.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the district court was well within its "broad discretion and equitable authority" when it concluded that plaintiff had not shown that the school board's child-find violation resulted in educational deficits for the child that could be remediated with prospective compensatory relief. Furthermore, because the school began its special education referral process before plaintiff filed suit, she cannot show that she is entitled to attorney's fees. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "J.N. v. Jefferson County Board of Education" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, a cheerleader at Kennesaw State University, filed suit alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1985(3) after she and her teammates kneeled during the pre-game national anthem at one of the university's football games to protest police brutality against African Americans and to advance the cause of racial justice. Plaintiff claimed that there was a public and private conspiracy to deprive her and her teammates of their First Amendment rights. At issue on appeal is whether the district court erred by dismissing plaintiff's section 1985(3) claim against the sheriff.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order dismissing plaintiff's claim against the sheriff, agreeing with the district court that plaintiff failed to surmount section 1985(3)'s class-based animus bar under the standard established by Supreme Court precedent. The court concluded that plaintiff's direct race-based theory cannot succeed because she failed to plead sufficient facts supporting it; plaintiff's indirect race-based claim failed to allege animus under Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic, 506 U.S. 263 (1993); and plaintiff's political class-based theory is also precluded by Bray. View "Dean v. Warren" on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit vacated its previous opinion and substituted it with this opinion. This revised opinion does not reach the Title IX question and reaches only one ground under the Equal Protection Clause instead of the three Equal Protection rulings the court made in the August 7 opinion.Plaintiff, a recent high school graduate and a transgender young man, filed suit against the school board through his next friend and mother, alleging violations of his rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.The court affirmed the district court's entry of judgment in favor of plaintiff on the equal protection claim under the heightened intermediate scrutiny standard, concluding that the school district's policy barring plaintiff from the boys' restroom violates the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection, because the school district assigns students to sex-specific bathrooms in an arbitrary manner. In this case, the school board has not met its "demanding" constitutional burden by showing a substantial relationship between its policy for excluding transgender students from certain restrooms and student privacy. The court affirmed the district court's award of damages because plaintiff undoubtedly suffered harm as a result of this violation. Because plaintiff prevails on his equal protection claim, which fully entitles him to the relief granted by the district court, the court declined to reach his Title IX claim. View "Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County, Florida" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, a recent high school graduate and a transgender young man, filed suit against the school board through his next friend and mother, alleging violations of his rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment granting plaintiff relief on both claims and held that the school district's policy barring plaintiff from the boys' restroom does not square with the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection and Title IX's prohibition of sex discrimination. Applying heightened scrutiny, the court held that the record does not demonstrate that the school board has met its "demanding" constitutional burden by showing a substantial relationship between excluding transgender students from communal restrooms and student privacy. In this case, the policy is administered arbitrarily; the school board's privacy concerns about plaintiff's use of the boys' bathroom are merely hypothesized, with no support in the factual record; and the bathroom policy subjects plaintiff to unfavorable treatment simply because he defies gender stereotypes as a transgender person. Therefore, because the record reveals no substantial relationship between privacy in the school district restrooms and excluding plaintiff from the boys' restroom, the bathroom policy violates the Equal Protection Clause.Applying the Supreme Court's recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, 590 U.S. ___, 140 S. Ct. 1731 (2020), the court held that excluding plaintiff from the boys' bathroom amounts to sex discrimination in violation of Title IX. The court explained that Title IX protects students from discrimination based on their transgender status; the school district treated plaintiff differently because of his transgender status and this different treatment caused him harm; and nothing in Title IX's regulations or any administrative guidance on Title IX excuses the discriminatory policy. Furthermore, plaintiff's discrimination claim does not contradict Title IX's implementing regulation. View "Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County" on Justia Law

by
The question of whether all speech over the microphone was government speech is a heavily fact-intensive one that looks at the history of the government's use of the medium for communicative purposes, the implication of government endorsement of messages carried over that medium, and the degree of government control over those messages. After FHSAA denied access to a loudspeaker for a proposed religious speech before a high school football game, Cambridge Christian filed suit alleging claims arising under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the United States and Florida Constitutions. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim.The Eleventh Circuit held that Cambridge Christian's claims for relief under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses have been adequately and plausibly pled. In this case, the history factor weighed against finding government speech and the control factor was indeterminate. Therefore, based on the limited record, the court found that it was plausible that the multitude of messages delivered over the loudspeaker should be viewed as private, not government, speech. While the court agreed with the district court that the loudspeaker was a nonpublic forum, the court held that Cambridge Christian has plausibly alleged that it was arbitrarily and haphazardly denied access to the forum in violation of the First Amendment. The court also could not say that in denying communal prayer over the loudspeaker, the FHSAA did not infringe on Cambridge Christian's free exercise of religion. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's decision in part.The court affirmed the district court's decision holding that Cambridge Christian failed to plead a substantial burden under the Florida Religious Free Restoration Act (FRFRA) because it has not alleged that the FHSAA forbade it from engaging in conduct that its religion mandates. The court also affirmed the district court's decision insofar as it rejected Cambridge Christian's request for declaratory relief under the Establishment Clauses. View "Cambridge Christian School, Inc. v. Florida High School Athletic Assoc., Inc." on Justia Law

by
The materiality standard—asking whether a school has failed to implement substantial or significant provisions of the child's individualized education plan (IEP)—is the appropriate test in a failure-to-implement case. L.J. and his mother filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), challenging the implementation of his IEP.The Eleventh Circuit held that the content outlined in a properly designed IEP is a proxy for the IDEA's educational guarantee, and thus a material deviation from that plan violates the statute. In this case, the court held that there was no material deviation from L.J.'s IEP and affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the school. View "L.J. v. School Board of Broward County" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff and his wife filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. 1983, on behalf of themselves and their daughter, alleging that the assistant principal violated the daughter's rights under the Fourth Amendment when he searched her cellphone, the superintendent violated plaintiff's rights under the First Amendment by restricting his communication with school personnel and access to school property and by prohibiting him from addressing the school board, and other officials violated plaintiff's rights under the Fourth Amendment when they removed him from school premises.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the school officials based on qualified immunity. The court held that the search of the cellphone did not violate clearly established law; the superintendent did not violate clearly established law when he prohibited plaintiff from appearing on school premises and from addressing the school board; and the school officials did not violate clearly established law by removing plaintiff from the volleyball game. View "Jackson v. McCurry" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit challenging a policy that the Georgia Board of Regents set requiring Georgia's three most selective colleges and universities to verify the "lawful presence" of all the students they admit. Plaintiffs, students who are otherwise qualified to attend these schools, are lawfully present in the country based on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) memorandum.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action, holding that the policy did not regulate immigration, was not field preempted, and was not conflict preempted. As to plaintiffs’ equal protection claim, the court declined to extend strict scrutiny and heightened scrutiny, holding that the policy was rationally related to the state's legitimate interest in responsibly investing state resources. In this case, the Regents could have decided to prioritize those students who are more likely to stay in Georgia after graduation, and the Regents might have decided that DACA recipients were less likely to do so because they are removable at any time. The court reasoned that it would be rational for the Regents to conclude that refugees, parolees, and asylees were more likely to stay in Georgia after graduation because they have more permanent ties to the United States than DACA recipients. Therefore, refugees, parolees, and asylees were not similarly situated to DACA recipients. View "Estrada v. Becker" on Justia Law

by
A county school board may require all applicants for substitute teacher positions to submit to and pass a drug test as a condition of employment. The Eleventh Circuit held that the school board may, without any suspicion of wrongdoing, collect and search -- by testing -- the urine of all prospective substitute teachers. Because the school board has a sufficiently compelling interest in screening its prospective teachers to justify this invasion of the privacy rights of job applicants, the court held that the school board did not violate the constitutional mandate barring unreasonable searches and seizures. The court recognized that ensuring the safety of millions of schoolchildren in the mandatory supervision and care of the state, and ensuring and impressing a drug-free environment in our classrooms, were compelling concerns. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction because plaintiff failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits. View "Friedenberg v. School Board of Palm Beach County" on Justia Law

by
High school students sprayed with or exposed to Freeze +P filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the board of education, the chief of police, and the Student Resource Officers (SROs) who used the spray against them or in their vicinity. On appeal, the police chief challenged the district court's judgment.The Eleventh Circuit reversed and held that the September 30 order was final and appealable under 28 U.S.C. 1291 pursuant to the court's decision in United States v. Alabama; assuming the SROs in question violated the Fourth Amendment by failing to adequately decontaminate the students exposed to Freeze +P, they were entitled to qualified immunity because the relevant law was not clearly established at the time of their conduct in 2009, 2010, and 2011; the class-based claim for declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to the use of Freeze +P failed for lack of standing; and the class-based claim for declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to the decontamination policy also failed for lack of standing. View "J W v. Roper" on Justia Law