Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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Castelino enrolled at Rose-Hulman. Based on his ADHD and a learning disorder, Rose-Hulman granted him 100% extended time on tests and quizzes, which he was allowed to take in a distraction-free environment. Castelino was reprimanded for copying from another student’s homework and separately for submitting duplicate work. Castelino lied to his professor about the notes he used during an exam. Because this was Castelino’s third documented case of academic misconduct, it was forwarded to the Rules and Discipline Committee. Castelino was suspended for one quarter. Castelino unsuccessfully applied for readmission multiple times. The Dean did not recommend readmission, based on Castelino’s failure to accept responsibility for his actions and his history of behavioral issues, ranging from altercations and rude conduct on campus to complaints by female students that he was taking their photographs without permission. While suspended, Castelino was arrested for breach of peace, cultivation and sale of marijuana, operation of a drug factory, and possession of a hallucinogen.After being told that he would not be allowed to reapply, Castelino sued, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101, breach of contract, defamation, false advertising, invasion of privacy, and harassment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Rose-Hulman, noting Castelino’s “inscrutable” submissions and violations of court rules. Castelino fails to identify any facts establishing that Rose-Hulman or any professor failed to accommodate his learning disability. View "Castelino v. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology" on Justia Law

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Before the arrival of the pandemic in 2020 “Student A” was experiencing an exceedingly difficult eighth-grade year at Notre Dame of De Pere Catholic Middle School. Her classmate, “Student B,” repeatedly and inappropriately targeted Student A with sexually suggestive harassment beginning in 2019. Student A’s mother filed suit on behalf of herself and her daughter, alleging Title IX violations by the school's operator (GRACE), with breach of contract and negligence claims under Wisconsin state law.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the Title IX claim. GRACE is subject to Title IX and had actual knowledge of the harassment but GRACE was not deliberately indifferent to the harassment. GRACE responded promptly and the complaint did not allege that the bullying persisted beyond January 2020, Student B was suspended for several days in December 2019. School officials offered to change Student A’s seat in class and facilitated an apology from Student B; the response was not “clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances.” While it is possible that a school’s dress code, culture, and response to bullying could exclude a student from educational benefits on the basis of her sex, the Plaintiffs did not plead facts to support an inference that GRACE excluded Student A because of her sex. View "Jauquet v. Green Bay Area Catholic Education, Inc." on Justia Law

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More than two years after being denied tenure at Columbia College of Chicago, Monroe sued the College, citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d, for being subject to race discrimination in a federally-funded program or activity. The statute does not specify a limitations period.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of the suit as untimely. Monroe argued that the correct period is the Illinois five-year catch-all limitations period for civil claims, while the College cited the two-year period for personal injuries. The court noted that other Circuits have emphasized that a Title VI claim, although aimed at the discriminatory use of federal funds, is one that ultimately seeks to vindicate personal rights, “closely analogous to [42 U.S.C.] sections 1983 and 1981.” Title VI specifically refers to discrimination against a “person” and should be governed by the limitations period that a state has specified for personal injury claims. View "Monroe v. Columbia College Chicago" on Justia Law

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The School terminated Pack's employment as a teacher after less than a year and published a press release about Pack on its website, allegedly criticizing Pack, which remains available on the School’s website. Pack sued the School. The Elkhart Truth ran an article later that month under the headline: “Fired Northridge teacher, an atheist, sues Middlebury Community Schools for religious discrimination.” Pack and the School settled that case. The School agreed to maintain a level of confidentiality and agreed to tell Pack’s prospective employers only limited information about him. The parties agreed that neither would disparage the other party. The settlement agreement did not mention the 2014 press release. Pack sued Elkhart Truth in state court, alleging defamation. School Superintendent Allen gave an affidavit supporting Truth’s motion to dismiss. Pack later recruited two acquaintances to call the School and pose as prospective employers. During one call, Allen said that Pack’s termination was “a matter of public record.” During another, Allen said Pack was terminated “for cause.”Pack sued for breach of the settlement agreement. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the School on all claims. The School had no contractual obligation to remove the pre-existing press release from its website, enjoys absolute privilege for the affidavit submitted in the Truth litigation, and did not disclose contractually forbidden information to “prospective employers” because the callers were not “prospective employers.” View "Pack v. Middlebury Community Schools" on Justia Law

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On September 28, 2018, Cheli, a computer system administrative assistant for the District, since 2014, was taken into a meeting with about 25 minutes’ notice. The District’s superintendent and Director of Computer Services terminated Cheli because a female student had alleged that Cheli had sexually harassed her three weeks prior. Cheli denied the allegations. The Board retroactively memorialized Cheli’s termination on October 9, 2018. Cheli never received notice of the Board meeting and did not receive written notice of the charges or the evidence against him but received a notice of termination via certified mail stating that “[t]he basis or grounds for discharge include incompetence.” That notice informed Cheli that he could request the written report. The District did not provide the report upon Cheli’s request.A collective bargaining agreement governed Cheli’s employment and provides for discipline for reasonable cause. An employee is entitled to a conference, attended by a representative of his choice, and a written explanation for the discipline. The District’s Policy Manual, however, contains a provision titled “Employment At-Will.”Cheli sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging the defendants violated his procedural due process rights. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. The collective bargaining agreement established that Cheli could not be terminated except “for reasonable cause,” which created a protected property interest for which he was entitled to due process View "Cheli v. Taylorville Community School District" on Justia Law

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Kellogg testified that when the Indiana Academy hired her as a teacher in 2006, its director, Dr. Williams, told her that she “didn’t need any more [starting salary, $32,000], because he knew [her] husband worked.” In 2017, Kellogg complained to the Dean of Ball State’s Teacher’s College, which oversees the Academy, that she received less pay than her similarly-situated male colleagues. The Dean responded that “[t]he issue [wa]s salary compression, which means those who [we]re hired after [Kellogg] began at a higher salary.” The Dean also noted that Kellogg’s salary increased by 36.45% during her time at the Academy while her colleagues’ salaries increased by less. In Kellogg’s 2018 lawsuit, the district court granted the Academy summary judgment, reasoning that there were undisputed gender-neutral explanations for Kellogg’s pay.The Seventh Circuit reversed. Williams’s statement contradicts the Academy’s explanations for Kellogg’s pay and puts them in dispute. It does not matter that Williams uttered the statement long ago, outside the statute of limitations period. Under the paycheck accrual rule, Williams’s statement can establish liability because it affected paychecks that Kellogg received within the limitations window. Kellogg can rely on Williams’s statement to put the Academy’s explanations in dispute. View "Kellogg v. Ball State University" on Justia Law

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Williams, a Chicago school social worker, suffers from depression, anxiety, and chronic sinusitis. For the 2013–14 school year, Williams received an evaluation score that placed him in the “developing” category, and was given a Professional Development Plan. Social workers' hours depend on the school they are serving on a particular day. The Board denied Williams's first accommodation request, for consistent work hours. During the 2014–15 school year, Williams was cited for interrupting a teacher, failing to read a student’s individual educational plan before a meeting, speaking inappropriately about his personal life, making personal calls during school hours, and failing to report to work. Williams was twice denied titles that may be awarded to “proficient” social workers. Williams filed a discrimination charge and another accommodation request, seeking a consistent start time, a reduced caseload, and assignment to a single school. The Board denied these requests but assigned him to schools with 7:45 a.m. start times. Williams's third accommodation request sought a private office, dedicated equipment, and exemption from evaluations. The Board supplied Williams with HEPA filters, computer monitors, and access to a private meeting space; it denied his other requests. Williams was not selected for special assessment teams because he did not have the “proficient” rating and was not bilingual. He filed his second charge of discrimination.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 42 U.S.C. 12101, and Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, rejecting claims that the Board discriminated against Williams because of his disability and gender, failed to accommodate his disability, and retaliated against him for filing discrimination claims. View "Williams v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Johnson, a student at North Central, reported that she had been raped at an apartment complex by two classmates, Froschauer and Risley. North Central Principal Kirk was aware of a previous rape allegation against Froschauer, made by one of Johnson’s friends. Pending investigations by the Department of Child Services and the sheriff’s department, Principal Kirk issued a no‐contact order between Johnson and Froschauer. The school’s lawyers advised Principal Kirk not to “negatively impact [Froschauer’s] track to graduate on time based on unsubstantiated allegations.” Johnson’s physician and Hawker had requested that Johnson be placed in homebound schooling. Principal Kirk placed Johnson in homebound schooling so that she could avoid her morning classes with Froschauer. She still went to school in the afternoons. The prosecutor did not file criminal charges against Froschauer. The sheriff’s department would not release details of the investigation to the school. Her family refused to allow the school to interview Johnson for a Title IX investigation. Johnson subsequently alleged some bullying at school and obtained a protective order against Froschauer. Johnson alleged additional harassment and eventually withdrew from North Central.In her suit under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681(a), the district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Johnson waived any arguments regarding the district court’s evidentiary rulings. The school was not deliberately indifferent to Johnson’s claims of sexual harassment, View "Johnson v. Northeast School Corp." on Justia Law

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In 2013, Siddique applied for a temporary student-government position at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His application was said to have been rejected because he did not meet a minimum-enrollment requirement crafted for the position. Siddique argued that his application was rejected not because of the enrollment criteria but because of his critical stances against members of the University administration who worked with the student government and who were involved with the application process.Siddique sued University officials in their individual capacities, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violation of his First Amendment right to be free from governmental retaliation. The district court determined that qualified immunity prevented Siddique’s claim from proceeding. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Federal law does not clearly establish that enforcing an enrollment requirement for a student-government position violates the First Amendment. The right to public employment free from retaliation is not at issue and any violation of state law is irrelevant. View "Siddique v. Laliberte" on Justia Law

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In 2009 Allen-Noll, who is African-American, was hired by Madison Area Technical College as a nursing instructor. Beginning in 2010, Allen-Noll was criticized for her teaching methods. Students complained that she was “rude, condescending, and defensive” in class. In 2011 complaints about Allen-Noll resurfaced from students and the tutor assigned to her class, who criticized Allen-Noll for not timely posting grades and making study guides available and for failing too many students. Allen-Noll’s clinical class also complained that she failed to follow the rules on cell phone use and did not complete paperwork. Allen-Noll was assigned a faculty mentor. Allen-Noll filed a complaint with the College, alleging discrimination and harassment based on her skin color, Complaints about Allen-Noll’s teaching continued. Other faculty said she would not participate in team meetings or volunteer for the extra service expected of full-time faculty. When her teaching contract was not renewed, Allen-Noll sued, alleging racial discrimination and harassment. After discovery, the college moved for summary judgment, but Allen-Noll failed to follow the court’s procedures. The record was largely established by the defendants’ submissions, and the college prevailed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding the appeal frivolous and granting the college’s request to sanction Allen-Noll and her lawyer. View "Allen-Noll v. Madison Area Technical College" on Justia Law