Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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Doe sued the University for violating his due-process rights during a disciplinary hearing. The Sixth Circuit remanded Doe’s case in light of a related ruling requiring live hearings and cross-examination in such proceedings. Upon remand, the district judge, frustrated with the University’s apparent foot-dragging, scheduled a settlement conference and required the University’s president to attend. The University requested that the president be allowed to attend by telephone but the district judge refused. The University then requested permission to send someone with both more knowledge about the sexual assault policy at issue and full settlement authority. The judge again refused, stating he wanted the president to be there even if someone else with full settlement authority attended, and “even if the parties [we]re able to resolve" the issue. The University planned for the president to attend. Two days before the settlement conference, the district judge decided that the conference (which he had assured the University would be private) should be a public event, stating that “the University’s public filing of a Motion to Dismiss . . . . The filing incited confusion amongst the media.” The Sixth Circuit issued a writ of mandamus, finding that the district judge acted beyond his power and abused his discretion. Neither Congress nor the Constitution granted the judge the power to order a specific state official to attend a public settlement conference. View "In re: University of Michigan" on Justia Law

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According to its website, the University of Northern New Jersey, founded in 2012, was “nationally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges and the Commission on English Language Accreditation” and “certified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Student and Exchange Visitor Program to educate international students.” The site included a statement from UNNJ's President, Dr. Brunetti, and its social media accounts informed students of closings for inclement weather and of alumni marriages. The University never existed. The Department of Homeland Security created the “sham university” to catch brokers of fraudulent student visas. It ensnared many such brokers; hundreds of foreign students “enrolled.” The government initially conceded that those students were innocent victims, but later suggested that they were akin to participants in the fraudulent scheme. Each enrolled student (including the plaintiffs) received a letter informing them that their student status had been terminated due to fraudulent enrollment. The government charged 21 individuals with fraudulently procuring visas. The plaintiffs filed a class action. The district court dismissed the claims, finding that there was no final government action. The Third Circuit vacated. Reinstatement proceedings are not required and would not afford an opportunity for review of DHS’s decision to terminate their F1 visa status. The students need not wait until removal proceedings are instituted to challenge the termination of their student status; neither immigration judges nor the BIA have authority to overturn the denial of reinstatement. View "Fang v. Director United States Immigration & Customs Enforcement" on Justia Law

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Where a university takes an adverse employment action against an employee, in response to allegations of sexual misconduct, following a clearly irregular investigative or adjudicative process, amid criticism for reacting inadequately to allegations of sexual misconduct by members of one sex, these circumstances support a prima facie case of sex discrimination. When contesting an inference of bias based on procedural irregularity, an employer cannot justify its abandonment of promised procedural protections by recharacterizing specific accusations in more generic terms. Where a student files a complaint against a university employee, the student is motivated, at least in part, by invidious discrimination, the student intends that the employee suffer an adverse employment action as a result, and the university negligently or recklessly punishes the employee as a proximate result of that complaint, the university may be liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint against Hofstra under Title VII and the New York State Human Rights Law, alleging that Hofstra discriminated against him because of his sex when it fired him in response to allegedly malicious allegations of sexual harassment. The court held that the district court's decision conflicted with circuit precedent in Doe v. Columbia University, 831 F.3d 46 (2d Cir. 2016), and relied on improper factual findings. In this case, the complaint alleged circumstances that provide at least a minimal support for an inference of discriminatory intent. On remand, the court noted that the district court should consider Hofstra's potential liability under a cat's paw theory. View "Menaker v. Hofstra University" on Justia Law

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In this suit filed by a mother living on the island of Lana'i and her two school-age daughters, the Supreme Court held that the State was constitutionally required to make all reasonable efforts to provide access to Hawaiian immersion education. Article X, section 4 of the Hawai'i Constitution imposes on the State a duty to provide for a Hawaiian education program in public schools that is reasonably calculated to revive the Hawaiian language. Today, there are Hawaiian immersion schools on five of the major Hawaiian Islands, but no such program exists on the island of Lana'i. Plaintiffs argued that the provision of the Constitution obligating the State to provide for a Hawaiian education program in public schools requires the State to provide her daughters with access to a public Hawaiian immersion education. The Supreme Court agreed and vacated the circuit court's judgment insofar as it granted the State's motion for partial summary judgment, holding that providing reasonable access to Hawaiian immersion education is currently essential to reviving the Hawaiian language, and therefore, it is a necessary component of any program that is reasonably calculated to achieve that goal. View "Clarabal v. State" on Justia Law

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Columbia students Jane and John had a sexual encounter. Weeks later Jane alleged she had not consented to the encounter. Columbia investigated. John did not provide any exculpatory evidence. Columbia’s Title IX coordinator reviewed the investigative report and notified John that there was sufficient evidence for a hearing panel. John responded that the allegations were false and that he had been physically assaulted and verbally harassed by Jane and her friends. Campus safety identified the student who struck John and addressed the issue. Columbia addressed each of his concerns, reminded John that he could submit evidence, including evidence of bias by a Columbia employee, and identified an academic advisor who could approve any accommodations John might need. John responded with screenshots of text messages, his earlier letter, and a toxicology report. The hearing panel found by a preponderance of the evidence that John violated Columbia’s student sexual misconduct policy and suspended him for the academic year. Columbia's appeals officer upheld the findings and discipline. John filed suit, alleging violations of Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681, breach of contract, promissory estoppel, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence. The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. John failed to allege particularized facts that could lead to a reasonable inference that Columbia denied him an educational benefit because of his sex. Columbia responded quickly and diligently to his complaints and gave him multiple opportunities to present evidence. View "Doe v. Columbia College Chicago" on Justia Law

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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 First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying class certification in this suit alleging violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12131-12134, and the court's grant of judgment on the pleadings as to Parent/Professional Advocacy League (PPAL) and Disability Law Center (DLC), holding that PPAL and DLC lacked standing to pursue the claims in the complaint. S.S., a student at the Springfield Public Day School (SPDS), brought this suit on his own behalf and on behalf of a class of all student with a mental health disability who were or had been enrolled at SPDS, alleging that the City of Springfield, Massachusetts, and Springfield Public Schools violated Title II by segregating students with mental health disabilities in SPDS, a separate and inferior school. Associations PPAL and DLC joined S.S. as plaintiffs. The district court denied class certification. The court then ruled that the associations had standing but dismissed their claims for failure to exhaust. The First Circuit held (1) class certification was correctly denied; and (2) the associations lacked standing to bring this suit. View "Parent/Professional Advocacy League v. City of Springfield" on Justia Law

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Until 2013, Wozniak had tenure on the University of Illinois faculty. He waged an extended campaign against students who did not give him a teaching award. As he had done before when the University enforced school policies, Wozniak filed suit. Disagreeing with the University’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, the Board of Trustees terminated Wozniak. After the Committee had issued its report, Wozniak posted the entire document and evidence on his website, revealing the identities of the students involved. Wozniak also filed a state court civil suit seeking damages from the students, planning to get a judicial order requiring the students to sit for depositions. Wozniak sued the University alleging violations of the First Amendment. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Wozniak was fired for intentionally causing hurt to students, and refusing to follow the Dean’s instructions, not simply for publicizing the effects of his actions. Wozniak acted in his capacity as a teacher and used his position to inflict the injuries that precipitated his discharge. The First Amendment does not govern how employers respond to speech that is part of a public employee’s job. How faculty members relate to students is part of their jobs. Speech that concerns personal job-related matters is outside the scope of the First Amendment, even if that speech is not among the job’s duties. View "Wozniak v. Adesida" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint in part and otherwise vacated the judgment, holding that the University of Massachusetts at Amherst violated Plaintiff's federal constitutional right to due process in suspending him for five months without prior notice or a fair hearing but did not violate his rights in expelling him after providing a fair expulsion hearing. After the university suspended and then expelled Plaintiff, Plaintiff brought this action seeking compensatory damages, declaratory relief, and an injunction preventing the university from enforcing the expulsion. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The First Circuit (1) affirmed the district court's dismissal of Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims challenging the adequacy of his expulsion hearing, Plaintiff's section 1983 claims for money damages against the university officials acting in their official capacities, and Plaintiff's Title IX claim; but (2) vacated for the entry of nominal monetary damages the dismissal of Plaintiff's section 1983 claims challenging the constitutionality of the manner in which the university suspended Plaintiff without prior notice or an adequate hearing. The Court then remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Haidak v. University of Massachusetts-Amherst" on Justia Law