Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The panel held that plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), because their section 504 and ADA claims concerned whether the child was provided appropriate education services. In this case, plaintiffs settled their IDEA case without receiving an administrative decision on whether plaintiffs' son needed the placement they now assert was required for him to receive a free and appropriate public education. View "Paul G. v. Monterey Peninsula Unified School District" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an action brought by plaintiff, a Division 1 college football player, alleging that he was an employee of the NCAA and the PAC-12 Conference within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act and California labor law. The panel held that the district court properly concluded that Division I FBS Football Players are not employees of the NCAA or PAC-12 as a matter of federal law. In this case, the economic reality of the relationship between the NCAA/PAC-12 and student-athletes does not reflect an employment relationship. The panel held that, within the analytical framework established by the Supreme Court, the NCAA and PAC-12 are regulatory bodies, not employers of student-athletes under the FLSA. The panel also held that the district court correctly dismissed plaintiff's California law claims for failure to state a claim. Under California law, student-athletes are generally deemed not to be employees of their schools. Furthermore, there was no authority that supported an inference that, even though the student-athletes are not considered to be employees of their schools under California law, the NCAA and PAC-12 can nevertheless be held to be "joint employers" with the students' schools. View "Dawson v. National Collegiate Athletic Association" on Justia Law

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The Koala brought this action for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the University student government's passage of the Media Act, which eliminated registered student organization (RSO) funding for all print media, violated its First Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit held that the Eleventh Amendment did not bar The Koala's claims and the relief The Koala sought was consistent with the Ex parte Young doctrine. The panel saw no reason why the rule articulated in the Free Speech cases cited -- that the government may not withhold benefits for a censorious purpose -- should not apply when the state singles out and burdens the press by revoking a subsidy, particularly where, as here, the record includes unusually compelling allegations that the government acted with discriminatory intent. Therefore, the second amended complaint's (SAC) Free Press Clause claim was sufficient to survive defendants' motion to dismiss because it alleged that the Media Act was passed for the express purpose of silencing a newspaper, and that defendants singled out The Koala for a disparate financial burden. The panel also held that the allegations in the SAC, and in the documents incorporated by reference into the SAC, supported the conclusion that defendants created a limited public forum encompassing all student activity funding, not one constrained to only media funds. Furthermore, the complaint sufficiently alleged a claim for First Amendment retaliation where The Koala's article was clearly protected speech, the Media Act chilled The Koala's speech, and The Koala adequately alleged a nexus between its speech and the Associated Students' alleged retaliatory conduct. Accordingly, the panel reversed in part and vacated in part. View "The Koala v. Khosla" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a complaint brought by three male student athletes, alleging that the University discriminated against them on the basis of their sex in violation of Title IX and violated their due process rights in connection with the University's sexual misconduct proceedings. The panel held that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), not the evidentiary presumption set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973), provides the appropriate standard for reviewing, at the pleading stage, a motion to dismiss in a Title IX case. In this case, plaintiffs failed to provide sufficient, nonconclusory allegations plausibly linking the disciplinary action to discrimination on the basis of sex. The panel also held that plaintiffs' due process claims failed because they received constitutional due process through the University's disciplinary proceedings. The panel assumed, without deciding, that the student athletes have property and liberty interests in their education, scholarships, and reputation as alleged in the complaint. The panel nonetheless held that they received notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard. View "Austin v. University of Oregon" on Justia Law

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The summary arrest, handcuffing, and police transport to the station of middle school girls was a disproportionate response to the school's need, which was dissipation of what the school officials characterized as an "ongoing feud" and "continuous argument" between the students. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of summary judgment to defendants based on qualified immunity and grant of summary judgment for students in an action alleging that a sheriff's deputy arrested the students on campus without probable cause in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights and state law. In this case, the deputy was invited to speak to a group of girls in school about bullying and fighting. When the girls were unresponsive and disrespectful, the deputy arrested the girls. The panel applied the two-part reasonableness test set forth in New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 333 (1985), holding that the arrests were unreasonable because they were not justified at their inception nor reasonably related in scope to the circumstances; officers were not entitled to qualified immunity because no reasonable officer could have reasonably believed that the law authorized the arrest of a group of middle schoolers in order to teach them a lesson or to prove a point; and the evidence was insufficient to create probable cause to arrest the students for violating California Penal Code 415(1) or Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 601(a), and thus plaintiffs were entitled to summary judgment on their state false arrest claim. View "Scott v. County of San Bernardino" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying the school's motion for summary judgment in a qui tam action brought by relators under the False Claims Act (FCA). Relators alleged that the school violated an incentive compensation ban included in its program participation agreement with the Department of Education, through which it qualified for federal funding. The panel held that a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that the school's actions met the falsity requirements in Universal Health Servs., Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016). The panel held that Escobar did not overrule United States ex rel. Hendow v. Univ. of Phoenix, 461 F.3d 1166 (9th Cir. 2006), which held that, with regard to materiality, the question is whether the false certification was relevant to the government's decision to confer a benefit. The panel applied Esobar's standard of materiality and held that a reasonable trier of fact could find materiality because the DOE's payment was conditioned on compliance with the incentive compensation ban, past enforcement activities, and the substantial size of the incentive payments. Finally, the safe harbor provision was inapplicable in this case. View "US ex rel. Rose v. Stephens Institute" on Justia Law

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Washington public school teachers filed a class action to order the Director of DRS to return interest that was allegedly skimmed from their state-managed retirement accounts. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a stipulated motion to certify a class and dismissal of the action as prudentially unripe. The panel held that the district court erred in dismissing the teachers' takings claim as prudentially unripe because DRS's withholding of the interest accrued on the teachers' accounts constitutes a per se taking to which the prudential ripeness test in Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172 (1985), did not apply. In regard to the Director's alternative grounds for summary judgment, the panel held that plaintiffs stated a takings claim for daily interest withheld by the Director; the panel clarified that the core property right recognized in Schneider v. California Department of Corrections, 151 F.3d 1194 (9th Cir. 1988), covered interest earned daily, even if payable less frequently; plaintiffs' takings claim was not barred by issue preclusion or by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; and the takings claim was not foreclosed by the Eleventh Amendment. The panel also held that the district court erred in denying the motion for class certification. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Fowler v. Guerin" on Justia Law

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The Foundation filed suit challenging a religious exercise at a local school board's meetings, including a prayer in the portion of the meeting that was open to the public and that included student attendees and participants. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment and injunctive relief to the Foundation, holding that invocations to start the open portions of school board meetings were not within the legislative prayer tradition that allowed certain types of prayer to open legislative sessions, because these prayers typically take place before groups of schoolchildren whose attendance was not truly voluntary and whose relationship to school district officials, including the school board, was not one of full parity. Applying the test in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612–13 (1971), the panel held that the Board's prayer policy lacked a secular legislative purpose and thus violated the Establishment Clause. The panel also held that the district court's injunction was not overbroad because it was limited to restricting only speech that constituted a governmental establishment of religion. View "Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment and attorney's fees in favor of plaintiffs in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action challenging a public school's policies. The policies prohibited, among other things, picketing on school district property, and prohibited strikers from coming onto school grounds, even for reasons unrelated to an anticipated teachers' strike. Plaintiffs also filed state law claims. The panel held that the government speech doctrine did not authorize the government's suppression of contrary views. In this case, no reasonable observer would have misperceived the speech which the school district sought to suppress—speech favoring the teachers' side in the strike—as a position taken by the school district itself. The panel also held that, because the school district's policies were neither reasonable nor viewpoint neutral, they failed even the non-public forum test and thus violated the First Amendment rights of Union members. Furthermore, the policies violated rights of Union members under the Oregon Constitution, and the school district was properly held liable for the actions of its security officer in barring Plaintiff Boyer from the school parking lot because she had a sign on the back windshield of her car supporting the teachers. View "Eagle Point Education Association v. Jackson County School District No. 9" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants, challenging on First Amendment grounds, a school uniform policy that required their two minor children to wear shirts or sweatshirts with a logo consisting of the name of the school, a stylized picture of a gopher (the school mascot), and the motto "Tomorrow’s Leaders." Given the failure of the Ninth Circuit's en banc call, the panel held that the uniform policy—both the motto requirement and the exemption—violated the First Amendment. The panel reasoned that there can hardly be interests more compelling than fostering children's educational achievement and providing a safe and supportive educational environment. However, requiring students to display the motto "Tomorrow's Leaders" on their uniforms was not narrowly tailored to serve those interests. The panel held that the Individual Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because the applicable law was not sufficiently clear to put them on notice that the uniform policy would violate the First Amendment. However, because the Institutional Defendants were not individuals, they were not protected by qualified immunity. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Frudden v. Pilling" on Justia Law