Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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In the case at hand, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of claims brought by a group of students and Children’s Health Defense, Inc. against Rutgers University. The plaintiffs challenged the university's COVID-19 vaccination policy, which required in-person students to be vaccinated or else enroll in online programs or seek exemptions for medical or religious reasons. The court found that the university's policy did not violate the plaintiffs' constitutional or statutory rights.The court held that there is no fundamental right to refuse vaccination. It applied the rational basis review and concluded that Rutgers University had a rational basis for its policy given the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The court also rejected the plaintiffs' claim that the policy was ultra vires under New Jersey law, determining that Rutgers was authorized to require COVID-19 vaccinations under state law. Furthermore, the court dismissed the plaintiffs' equal protection claim, concluding that Rutgers had a rational basis for its differential treatment of students and staff, as well as vaccinated and unvaccinated students. View "Children's Health Defense Inc. v. Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey" on Justia Law

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This case was brought under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by the parents of A.O., a child with severe hearing loss who uses cochlear implants. The parents had rejected the Los Angeles Unified School District's proposed individualized education program (IEP) for their daughter, which they felt didn't specify the frequency and duration of proposed speech therapy and audiology services, offer a meaningful educational benefit, or place A.O. in the least restrictive environment appropriate for her. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision largely supporting the parents' objections. The court found that the school district's proposed IEP violated the IDEA by not clearly specifying the frequency and duration of proposed speech therapy and audiology services. The court also concluded that the proposed IEP wouldn't offer A.O. a meaningful educational benefit and failed to place her in the least restrictive environment appropriate for her. The court reversed the district court's conclusion that the school district's proposed IEP did not need to provide individual speech therapy. The court remanded the case to the district court to modify its judgment. View "LAUSD V. A. O." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of New Jersey examined whether N.J.S.A. 18A:6-16 limits an arbitrator’s authority to penalize conduct under the Tenure Employees Hearing Law (TEHL), N.J.S.A. 18A:6-10 to -18.1. The defendant, the Board of Education for the Town of West New York Public Schools, brought tenure charges against the plaintiff, Amada Sanjuan, for conduct unbecoming. The charges were based on alleged false claims made by Sanjuan about an accident at the school. An arbitrator concluded that Sanjuan's conduct warranted a penalty, but not dismissal. The arbitrator demoted Sanjuan from her tenured administrative position to a tenured teaching role, without backpay. Sanjuan sought to vacate the arbitration award, arguing that the arbitrator exceeded his authority by demoting her. The Appellate Division agreed, interpreting N.J.S.A. 18A:6-16 to allow sustained tenure charges to result only in termination or loss of salary, but not demotion. The Supreme Court of New Jersey reversed, holding that N.J.S.A. 18A:6-16 provides the basis to refer a case to arbitration but does not limit an arbitrator’s authority to impose penalties. Therefore, the Supreme Court reinstated the arbitrator's award demoting Sanjuan. View "Sanjuan v. School District of West New York" on Justia Law

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In this case, a doctor, Dr. Gabriel Fine, sued the University of Utah School of Medicine, alleging that the University deprived him of his clinical privileges without following the procedures required by its bylaws. The University moved for summary judgment, pointing to a provision in its bylaws where Dr. Fine had agreed not to sue "for any matter relating to appointment, reappointment, clinical privileges, or the individual’s qualifications for the same." The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the University, agreeing that Dr. Fine had released his claims against the University.Dr. Fine appealed the decision, arguing that the district court erred in interpreting the release to apply to his case. He asserted that the release only applied to actions taken during a formal review process and his claims arose from actions taken during an informal process.The Supreme Court of the State of Utah disagreed with Dr. Fine's argument. The court interpreted the release using its traditional tools of contract interpretation and found no textual justification for limiting the release's application only to actions taken during the formal review process. The court held that Dr. Fine’s claims against the University fell within the scope of the release and therefore affirmed the district court's decision. View "Fine v. University of Utah" on Justia Law

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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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In the case before the Supreme Court, State of Wyoming, the Petitioners, Kenneth Carson and Anna Leigh Anderson, parents of two children living in a remote family ranch in Wyoming, sought to compel the Albany County School District Board of Trustees, the Superintendent of Schools for Albany County, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Wyoming (collectively, Respondents) to establish a rural school, named "The Buckle School," on their ranch. The proposal for this school was initially approved by the Albany County School District Board of Trustees and the Director of the State Construction Department. However, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction later denied the approval, citing the cost-effectiveness of the proposed school and the availability of virtual education options for the children.The Petitioners then filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the district court, which was dismissed. Upon appeal, the Supreme Court, State of Wyoming, affirmed the lower court's decision. The court held that the Petitioners failed to demonstrate that the Respondents had a ministerial duty to form the school. A ministerial duty is a duty that is absolute, clear, and indisputable, involving merely execution of a specific duty arising from fixed and designated facts. The court found that the relevant statutes provided the Respondents with discretionary judgment, not a ministerial duty to approve or deny the formation of a rural school. The court further noted that the Petitioners had not shown that they had requested or were denied any transportation or maintenance payments, which the relevant statutes provide for in lieu of establishing a school. Therefore, the court concluded that the Petitioners had failed to state a claim upon which mandamus relief could be granted. View "Carson v. Albany County School District #1 Board of Trustees" on Justia Law

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In a dispute arising from a contract for refurbishing an elementary school, the Supreme Court of Louisiana ruled that no unfair trade practices claim could be stated against the State of Louisiana, Department of Education, Recovery School District (the “State”). The plaintiff, Advanced Environmental Consulting, Inc. (“AEC”), had subcontracted to perform asbestos abatement services for Law Industries, LLC, the general contractor. When the State terminated the contract due to unsatisfactory asbestos remediation progress, AEC amended its answer to Law Industries' breach of contract suit to include a claim of unfair trade practices under the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (“LUTPA”). The State had objected to this claim, arguing that AEC had no cause of action and that the claim was perempted (time-barred). The Supreme Court of Louisiana held that AEC had failed to state a valid LUTPA cause of action against the State. It concluded that the State's actions were in furtherance of its governmental function of providing safe educational facilities for schoolchildren. The State, in this case, was a consumer of construction services, not a participant in "trade or commerce" as defined in the LUTPA, and was therefore not subject to a LUTPA claim. The court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with its ruling. View "LAW INDUSTRIES, LLC VS. STATE" on Justia Law

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The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of the University of Maine System (UMS) in a case involving Robert Bocko, who claimed that UMS failed to pay him wages on time as mandated by Maine law. Bocko, who was employed by UMS to teach law courses, argued that UMS violated the state's wage payment laws by not paying him at intervals not exceeding 16 days. UMS countered that Bocko was exempt from these requirements as he was a salaried employee. The court agreed with UMS, ruling that Bocko was indeed exempt from the wage payment requirements as he was compensated on a fee basis for teaching each course, rather than on a regular salary basis. The court found that the payment Bocko received for teaching each course met the salary-basis requirement when converted to an annual rate. Therefore, the court affirmed the Superior Court's judgment in favor of UMS. View "Bocko v. University of Maine System" on Justia Law

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In the case before the Supreme Court of Alabama, Emma Louie, Garry Rice, and Toice Goodson, employees of the Greene County Board of Education, sought a writ of mandamus directing the Greene Circuit Court to enter a summary judgment in their favor, asserting that they are protected by State-agent immunity. The claims against them were brought by Ester Eaton and Anthony Eaton, who alleged negligence and loss of consortium after Ester Eaton, a substitute teacher, was attacked while supervising a classroom of students in the Alternative Program and in-school suspension (ISS). The defendants argued that their supposed violations of school policies were in fact based on discretionary decisions, not violations of specific, mandatory rules, thus entitling them to State-agent immunity.The Supreme Court of Alabama agreed with the defendants, ruling that the school guidelines in question were not specific, nondiscretionary rules, but rather allowed for administrative discretion. As such, the court found that the defendants' actions fell within the scope of their discretion as state agents, and they were therefore entitled to State-agent immunity. Consequently, the court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to enter a summary judgment in favor of the defendants. View "Ex parte Louie" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Mississippi examined whether a school district was entitled to funds recovered by a county from the bankruptcy proceedings of a delinquent taxpayer. The taxes, if collected normally, would have been used to fund the school district. However, the county board of supervisors had anticipated the delinquency and adjusted the levy of ad valorem taxes to compensate, ensuring the school district did not experience a shortfall. The school district argued it was entitled to its original portion of the recovered bankruptcy funds, but the county claimed that this would result in a double recovery outside the statutory scheme for public school funding. The Supreme Court of Mississippi found in favor of the county, ruling that the recovery of delinquent taxes through bankruptcy proceedings is outside the statutory funding scheme for public school districts in Mississippi. The court found that the school district was not entitled to receive delinquent taxes recovered years later in bankruptcy proceedings and reversed and remanded the lower court's award to the school district. View "Clarke County, Mississippi v. Quitman School District" on Justia Law