Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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This case is about a dispute between Richard Roe and St. John’s University (SJU) and Jane Doe. Roe, a male student at SJU, was accused of sexually assaulting two female students, Doe and Mary Smith, on separate occasions. SJU's disciplinary board found Roe guilty of non-consensual sexual contact with both Doe and Smith and imposed sanctions, including a suspension and eventual expulsion. Roe then sued SJU, alleging that his rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and state contract law had been violated. He also sued Doe for allegedly defaming him in an anonymous tweet accusing him of sexual assault. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed Roe's Title IX and state law claims, and declined to exercise jurisdiction over his defamation claim. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision, holding that Roe's complaint failed to state a plausible claim of sex discrimination under Title IX. The court found that, while Roe had identified some procedural irregularities in SJU's disciplinary proceedings, these were not sufficient to support a minimal plausible inference of sex discrimination. Furthermore, the court ruled that Roe's hostile environment claim was fatally deficient, as the single anonymous tweet at the center of his claim was not, standing alone, sufficiently severe to support a claim of a hostile educational environment under Title IX. View "Roe v. St. John's University" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that a group of non-transgender female athletes have legal standing to challenge a policy that allows transgender girls to compete in girls' high school sports. The athletes had sued the Connecticut Association of Schools and several school districts, claiming that the policy violated Title IX by depriving them of equal athletic opportunity. The court held that the athletes had established Article III standing because they had plausibly stated a concrete, particularized, and actual injury in fact - the alleged denial of equal athletic opportunity and concomitant loss of publicly recognized titles and placements during track and field competitions in which they competed against and finished behind transgender athletes. The court also held that the injury was plausibly redressable by monetary damages and an injunction ordering defendants to alter certain athletic records. The court did not rule on the merits of the athletes' Title IX claim, instead remanding the case to the district court for consideration of whether the athletes have plausibly stated a claim under Title IX. View "Soule ex rel. Stanescu v. Connecticut Association of Schools, Inc." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in the case of a student, Brett Goldberg, against Pace University. Goldberg, a graduate student in performing arts, sued Pace for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, promissory estoppel, and violation of New York General Business Law § 349, following the university's decision to move classes online and postpone the performance of his play and a class due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court granted Pace's motion for judgment on the pleadings, holding that Goldberg failed to sufficiently allege a breach given the university's published Emergency Closings provision and failed to identify a sufficiently specific promise under New York law of in-person instruction. The court also found that Goldberg's unjust enrichment, promissory estoppel, and § 349 claims were either duplicative or failed for similar reasons. On appeal, the Second Circuit agreed with the lower court, holding that the university's postponement and move to an online format were permitted by the Emergency Closings provision, thus affirming the district court's judgment. View "Goldberg v. Pace University" on Justia Law

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Appellants in these tandem appeals are each a parent of a disabled child. Arguing that his or her child was entitled to benefits under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. Section 1415(i), each parent brought an administrative action against his or her local education agency and prevailed. Subsequently, each parent brought a federal action for attorneys’ fees pursuant to 20 U.S.C. Section 1415(i)(3)(B). In each case, the district court awarded less attorneys’ fees than the parent requested, and the parents appealed.   The Second Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of travel-related fees in No. 21-1961 and remanded for further proceedings. The court otherwise affirmed the judgments of the district courts. The court found that it was persuaded that there was no abuse of discretion in the district court’s calculation of reasonable attorneys’ fees in each case. Further, the court wrote that the district courts that declined to award prejudgment interest did not abuse their discretion because “delays in payment” may be remedied by “application of current rather than historic hourly rates.” However, the court held that the district court abused its discretion when it denied any travel-related fees to M.D.’s counsel. A district court may permissibly adjust excessive travel costs. But the district court could not “eliminate all of the hours submitted by [CLF] as travel time” by denying travel-related fees altogether. View "H.C. v. NYC DOE, et al." on Justia Law

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Parents and guardians of students with disabilities brought an enforcement action under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, alleging that the New York City Department of Education must immediately fund their children’s educational placements during the pendency of ongoing state administrative proceedings. Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction, which the district court denied. Plaintiffs appealed from that denial.   The Second Circuit affirmed. As a threshold jurisdictional matter, the court held that although the Plaintiffs are not yet entitled to tuition payments for the portion of the school year that has yet to occur, their claims are nevertheless ripe because they also seek payments for past transportation costs. On the merits, the court held that the IDEA’s stay-put provision does not entitle parties to automatic injunctive relief when the injunctive relief concerns only educational funding, not placement. Applying the traditional preliminary injunction standard, the court concluded that Plaintiffs are not entitled to the relief they seek because they have not shown a likelihood of irreparable injury. View "Mendez v. Banks" on Justia Law

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Defendants, Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (the "CIAC") and its member high schools (together, "Defendants"), have followed the "Transgender Participation" Policy (the "Policy"), which permits high school students to compete on gender specific athletic teams consistent with their gender identity if that is different from "the gender listed on their official birth certificates."   Plaintiffs are four cisgender female students who allege that the policy disproportionally disadvantages cisgender girls as compared to boys. Plaintiffs allege that the Policy violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. Section 1681 et seq. ("Title IX"), because the participation of transgender females in girls' high school athletic events results in "students who are born female" having materially fewer opportunities for victory, public recognition, athletic scholarships, and future employment "than students who are born male."   The district court dismissed the claims on grounds that (1) Plaintiffs' request to enjoin future enforcement of the Policy was moot; (2) Plaintiffs lacked standing to assert their claim for an injunction to change the record books; and (3) Plaintiffs' claims for monetary damages were barred under Pennhurst State School & Hospital v. Halderman.   The Second Circuit affirmed writing that it was unpersuaded, with respect to the claim for an injunction to alter the records, that Plaintiffs have established the injury in fact and redressability requirements for standing; both fail for reasons of speculation. And because the court concluded that the CIAC and its member schools did not have adequate notice that the Policy violates Title IX Plaintiffs' claims for damages must be dismissed. View "Selina Soule et al. v. Connecticut Association of Schools et al." on Justia Law

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In 2014, Plaintiff, then a women’s soccer player at the University of Connecticut (“UConn”) and recipient of a one-year athletic scholarship, raised her middle finger to a television camera during her team’s post-game celebration after winning a tournament championship. Although she initially was suspended from further tournament games for that gesture, Plaintiff was ultimately also punished by UConn with a mid-year termination of her athletic scholarship. She brought this lawsuit against UConn (through its Board of Trustees) and several university officials alleging, inter alia, violations of her First Amendment and procedural due process rights under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, as well as a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 (“Title IX”), in connection with the termination of her scholarship. On appeal, Plaintiff challenges the decision of the district court granting Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on those claims.   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment as to Plaintiff's procedural due process and First Amendment claims and vacated the district court’s judgment to the extent it granted summary judgment to UConn on the Title IX claim. The court explained Plaintiff has put forth sufficient evidence, including a detailed comparison of her punishment to those issued by UConn for male student-athletes found to have engaged in misconduct, to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether she was subjected to a more serious disciplinary sanction, i.e., termination of her athletic scholarship, because of her gender. View "Radwan v. Manuel" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, formerly a tenured theology teacher at a Roman Catholic high school in Staten Island, appealed from the dismissal of his complaint against his labor union, the Federation of Catholic Teachers (the “FCT”), for allegedly breaching its duty of fair representation under the National Labor Relations Act (the “NLRA”) as amended by the Labor Management Relations Act (the “LMRA”), and for assorted violations under the New York State and New York City human rights laws. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s duty-of-fair representation claim with prejudice for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), reasoning that the NLRA and LMRA are inapplicable to disputes between parochial-school teachers and their labor unions under NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 440 U.S. 490 (1979).   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court concluded, as a matter of first impression, that Catholic Bishop does preclude Plaintiff’s duty-of-fair-representation claim, but that dismissal was warranted under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted, rather than for lack of federal subject-matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1). The court also concluded that Plaintiff has abandoned any challenge to the dismissal of his state and municipal-law claims. View "Jusino v. Fed'n of Cath. Tchrs., Inc." on Justia Law

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FASORP brought suit against the NYU Defendants, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. In an Amended Complaint, FASORP pleads that its members have standing to challenge the Law Review's article-selection and editor-selection processes, as well as the Law School's faculty-hiring processes, all of which FASORP alleges violated Title VI and Title IX by impermissibly considering sex and race in its selection and hiring decisions.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint without prejudice and held that FASORP does not have standing to sue NYU because it has failed to demonstrate injuries to its members. In this case, even if FASORP's pleadings were found to sufficiently identify members who have suffered the requisite harm, FASORP fails to demonstrate that those members have experienced an invasion of a legally protected interest that is certainly impending or that there is a substantial risk that the harm will occur. The court explained that, without any "description of concrete plans" to apply for employment, submit an article, or of having submitted an article, that will or has been accepted for publication, FASORP's allegations exhibit the kind of "some day intentions" that cannot "support a finding of [] actual or imminent injury." View "Faculty, Alumni, and Students Opposed to Racial Preferences v. New York University" on Justia Law

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An organization that is not directly regulated or affected by a challenged law or regulation cannot establish injury-in-fact for purposes of organizational standing absent a showing that it suffered an involuntary and material burden on its established core activities.CTPU filed suit alleging that Connecticut's standards regarding the racial composition of its interdistrict magnet schools violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, concluding that CTPU has not established an injury-in-fact for purposes of demonstrating organizational standing. In this case, CTPU is an organization that is not directly regulated or affected by the challenged standards and CTPU has failed to show that it suffered an involuntary, material burden on its core activities. View "Connecticut Parents Union v. Russell-Tucker" on Justia Law