Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs, ten former University of Minnesota football players, appealed the dismissal of their Amended Complaint against the University and two University officials, asserting a variety of claims arising out of the University’s investigation of a complaint of sexual assault and harassment by another student, Jane Doe. Plaintiffs are African-American males who alleged that the University targeted them on the basis of their sex and race and unfairly punished them in response to Jane's accusations. The district court dismissed all claims.The Eighth Circuit concluded that plaintiffs' complaint alleged a number of circumstances which, taken together, are sufficient to support a plausible claim that the University discriminated against plaintiffs on the basis of sex. In this case, plaintiffs alleged that the University was biased against them because of external pressures from the campus community and the federal government, and plaintiffs alleged historical facts that reinforce the inference of bias in this specific proceeding. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' Title IX discrimination claims.The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Title IX claims for retaliation where plaintiffs did not plausibly allege that their request for a Student Sexual Misconduct Subcommittee hearing was tantamount to a complaint of sex discrimination, and even if a request for a hearing made by a person accused of sexual misconduct could amount to protected activity, the Amended Complaint did not plausibly plead prima facie retaliation claims. The court also affirmed the dismissal of the race discrimination claims where the Amended Complaint did not plausibly allege a comparator similarly situated to plaintiffs in all relevant aspects; affirmed the dismissal of plaintiffs' due process claims where plaintiffs failed to exhaust the existing procedures for appealing the University's disciplinary decision and failed to allege prehearing deprivations or deprivation of protected property or liberty interests in violation of due process; and affirmed the dismissal of the contract and negligence claims on Eleventh Amendment grounds. View "John Does 1-2 v. Regents of the University of Minnesota" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals concluding that the Commissioner of Education had jurisdiction over a group of teachers' grievances and that some of the grievances were untimely and others were timely, holding that the grievances were timely filed.Teachers at Dallas Independent School District (DISD) objected to the district's method of evaluating teacher performance and filed grievances. DISD denied the grievances as untimely. The Teachers appealed to the Commissioner, who concluded that the untimely presentation of the grievances to the school board deprived him of jurisdiction. The district court affirmed. The court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the Commissioner had jurisdiction to hear the appeal of the Teachers' grievance; (2) the Teachers' grievance was timely filed with DISD, and therefore, the portion of the court of appeals' judgment upholding the dismissal of portions of the grievance as untimely was erroneous; and (3) the portion of the court of appeals' opinion reversing the dismissal of part of the grievance is affirmed. View "Davis v. Morath" on Justia Law

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Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1 authorizes an award of “up to treble damages” in a tort action for childhood sexual assault where the assault occurred “as the result of a cover-up.” Government Code section 818 exempts a public entity from an award of damages “imposed primarily for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.”Plaintiff sued the school district (LAUSD) alleging an LAUSD employee sexually assaulted her when she was 14 years old and the assault resulted from LAUSD’s cover-up of the employee’s sexual assault of another student. She requested treble damages under section 340.1. The trial court denied LAUSD’s motion to strike the damages request. The court of appeal reversed. While the harm caused by childhood sexual assault is undoubtedly amplified if a victim learns the assault resulted from a deliberate cover-up by those charged with the victim’s care, noneconomic damages under general tort principles already provide compensation for this added psychological trauma. The treble damages provision has no compensatory function. Section 340.1 generally serves to ensure perpetrators of sexual assault are held accountable for the harm they inflict but its text unambiguously demonstrates the treble damages provision’s purpose is to deter future cover-ups by punishing past cover-ups. Because treble damages under section 340.1 are primarily exemplary and punitive, a public entity like LAUSD maintains sovereign immunity from liability for such damages. View "Los Angeles Unified School District v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of mandamus ordering the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to approve Relators' applications for Quality Community School Support (QCSS) grants and to pay them the amounts due under 2019 Am.Sub.H.B. No. 166 (H.B. 166), holding that Relators were entitled to the writ.Under the QCSS program, a community school that has met certain criteria would receive grant funding for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2011 fiscal years. Relators, twelve Horizon Science Academy community schools, had applied for QCSS grants, but ODE denied the applications, concluding that ODE was not "in good standing" as required by section 265.335 of H.B. 166. The ODE's determination was made on the grounds that the schools' operator was a foreign corporation not licensed with the Ohio secretary of state. The Supreme Court granted Relators' requested writ of mandamus, holding that ODE's interpretation of "in good standing" was incorrect. View "State ex rel. Horizon Science Academy of Lorain, Inc. v. Ohio Department of Education" on Justia Law

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Doe became a TCNJ tenure-track Assistant Professor in 2016, after giving birth to her third child. She alleges that the Dean and the Department Chair suggested that they were relieved that she would not need pregnancy-related accommodations in the future. Doe received positive reviews for 2017. Doe claims that after she became pregnant again, she was reassigned to a less desirable class. After Doe had her fourth child, the Dean, the Chair, and others, repeatedly asked whether she was done having children. She notified TCNJ that she was pregnant again. In 2018, a TCNJ professor attended the same class that the professor had positively reviewed in 2017 but entered a negative review; Doe claims there were no material changes. The Chair reported “non-material deficiencies” after having given her a positive review in 2017. Doe complained to the Provost, who allegedly “placed a record of discipline” in Doe’s personnel file for the Reappointment Committee. She claims she “suffered emotional trauma, became depressed, and had a miscarriage,” and that she was falsely accused of canceling classes, supported by “doctored” student comments. Doe was not reappointed.She filed suit, alleging gender, national origin, and pregnancy discrimination, and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of her motion to proceed anonymously. Doe’s case does not merit appellate review under the collateral order doctrine. Nothing indicated that Doe’s interest in anonymity outweighs the public’s interest in open judicial proceedings. View "Doe v. The College of New Jersey" on Justia Law

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Defendant James Bourgeois, an elected member of the Lafourche Parish Council, was found guilty by a unanimous jury of filing or maintaining false public records. The charge arose from the allegation that defendant had falsely asserted in his Parish Council election qualifying form that he was domiciled in Lafourche Parish. The trial court sentenced him to a suspended sentence of three years imprisonment at hard labor with two years of probation. The court of appeal reversed the conviction and vacated the sentence because it found the evidence insufficient to prove that defendant falsely represented his domicile on his qualifying form. There was no dispute that the election qualifying form was a public record and that defendant filed it. The sole question for the Louisiana Supreme Court was whether the evidence, when viewed under the due process standard of Jackson v. Virginia, was sufficient to prove the form contained a false statement with regard to defendant’s domicile. The Supreme Court determined the State’s case “was not so lacking that it should not have even been submitted to the jury. The State introduced evidence from which the jury could rationally find that defendant had abandoned his domicile in Lafourche Parish and established a new domicile in Jefferson Parish by the time he filed his election qualifying form. The jury was not forced to speculate to reach this conclusion, as the court of appeal found.” Accordingly, judgment was reversed and defendant’s conviction and sentence were reinstated. View "Louisiana v. Bourgeois" 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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The First Circuit denied Plaintiff's motion for an injunction preventing the implementation of a plan promulgated by the Boston Public Schools for admitting students to Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy, and John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science for the 2021-2022 school year, holding that Plaintiff did not show it was not entitled to the injunction.Plaintiff, a corporation acting on behalf of fourteen parents and children residing in Boston, asserted that the 2021-2022 admissions plan violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 76, 5. The district court entered judgment in Defendants' favor. Plaintiff appealed and moved for an order under Fed. R. Civ. P. 62(d) enjoining Defendants from implementing the plan during the pendency of this appeal. The First Circuit denied the motion, holding that Plaintiff failed to show a strong likelihood that it would prevail on the merits. View "Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence Corp. v. School Committee of City of Boston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals with respect to Plaintiff's constitutional claims, holding that a state university's dismissal of a student for poor academic performance does not implicate a liberty or property interest protected by the Texas Constitution's guarantee of due course of law.Plaintiff was dismissed from Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law after one year due to his failure to maintain the required grade point average. Plaintiff brought this suit against the School, alleging breach of contract and deprivation of his property and liberty without due course of law. The trial court granted the School's plea to the jurisdiction invoking sovereign immunity. The court of appeals reversed in part, concluding that Plaintiff's procedural and substantive due course of law claims were viable. The Supreme Court reversed in part and rendered judgment dismissing the case, holding that an academic dismissal from higher education does not implicate a protected liberty interest. View "Texas Southern University v. Villarreal" on Justia Law

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Shulick, an attorney, owned and operated DVHS, a for-profit business that provided alternative education to at-risk students. The School District of Philadelphia contracted with DVHS to operate Southwest School for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years. DVHS was to provide six teachers at a cost of $45,000 each; benefits for the staff at a total cost of $170,000 annually; four security workers totaling $130,000 annually; and a trained counselor and two psychology externs totaling $110,000 annually. The agreement was not flexible as to budgeted items. Shulick failed to employ the required dedicated security personnel, hired fewer teachers, provided fewer benefits, and paid his educators far less than required. Shulick had represented to the District that he would spend $850,000 on salary and benefits annually but spent about $396,000 in 2010-11 and $356,000 in 2011-12. Shulick directed the unspent funds to co-conspirator Fattah, the son of a former U.S. Representative, to pay off liabilities incurred across Shulick’s business ventures, keeping a cut for himself.Shulick was convicted of conspiring with Fattah to embezzle from a program receiving federal funds (18 U.S.C. 371), embezzling funds from a federally funded program (18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(A)), bank fraud (18 U.S.C. 1344), making a false statement to a bank (18 U.S.C. 1014), and three counts of filing false tax returns (26 U.S.C. 7206(1)). The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments ranging from speedy trial violations to errors in evidentiary rulings, faulty jury instructions, and sentencing miscalculations. View "United States v. Shulick" on Justia Law