Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the Assessor and others, seeking a refund of property taxes and special assessments, and for declaratory relief. The Court of Appeal found no support in statutory or case law for plaintiffs' claim that a nonprofit charter school should be treated as a public school district for purposes of applying the implied exemption, which plaintiffs contend exempts public schools from having to pay both taxes and special assessments. The court explained that the Legislature has specified precisely how, and to what extent, and under which statutory provisions charter schools are deemed to be part of the system of public schools, or deemed to be a school district. Notably absent is any suggestion that charters schools are to be treated like school districts for taxation purposes. The court rejected plaintiffs' claims to the contrary. View "Los Angeles Leadership Academy, Inc. v. Prang" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a parent's motion for summary judgment against the school district for alleged procedural and substantive violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The court held that the district court did not err in finding that the parent failed to meet her burden of showing that the school district violated the procedural requirements of the IDEA. In this case, none of the incidents the parent claimed amounted to a procedural violation and the court was not convinced that the student was denied a free and appropriate public education. The court also held that there were no substantive IDEA violations. The court was satisfied that the school district took the necessary steps to ensure that the student was being properly serviced under this individualized education plan, despite his absences. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of the school district's motion for summary judgment. View "A. A. v. Northside Independent School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff John Doe asserted that the disciplinary proceeding brought against him by Defendants, the University of Denver (“DU”) along with several University employees, violated his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause and under Title IX. The court granted summary judgment to Defendants on the Fourteenth Amendment claim because Plaintiff had failed to show that DU, a private school, was a state actor. The court also granted Defendants summary judgment on the Title IX claim, concluding that Plaintiff had adduced insufficient evidence of gender bias. Plaintiff enrolled as a freshman at DU in 2014. In October 2014, Plaintiff had a sexual encounter with Jane Doe, a female freshman, in his dorm room. Six months later, Jane’s boyfriend reported the encounter as an alleged sexual assault to a DU resident director. The resident director then spoke with Jane, who repeated the allegations and later filed with DU’s Office of Equal Opportunity a complaint of non-consensual sexual contact. Under DU’s policies, a student’s non-consensual sexual contact with another was a policy violation. Prohibited sexual contact includes contact by “coercion,” which the policy defined as “unreasonable and persistent pressure to compel another individual to initiate or continue sexual activity against an individual’s will,” such as “continued pressure” after “someone makes clear that they do not want to engage in sexual contact.” Two of the named defendants investigated the claims; the outcome of the investigation ultimately led to Plaintiff’s expulsion. The district court concluded that Plaintiff had failed to adduce sufficient evidence to raise a genuine dispute that gender was a motivating factor in DU’s decision to expel him. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s judgment, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. View "Doe v. University of Denver" on Justia Law

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This proceeding stemmed from a minor’s collapse during football try-outs at Lincoln High School in Stockton in 2017. Respondent Shynelle Jones presented a timely claim on behalf of her son, Jayden, to the Lincoln Unified School District under the Government Claims Act. About four months later, Jones submitted an application to the school district for leave to present a late claim on her own behalf based on her allegedly newfound realization of the severity of her son’s injuries, their impact on her own life, and her right to file her own claim. She declared that up until that point she had been able to attend to her own interests. After the application was denied, Jones filed a petition for relief from the claim presentation requirement in the superior court based on the same facts. At the hearing on her petition, her counsel, Kenneth Meleyco, presented a new explanation for the delay in submitting Jones’s claim: the day after Jones presented a claim on her son’s behalf, she retained Meleyco on her own behalf, and an error in the handling of Meleyco’s dictated memo within his office prevented the earlier preparation of Jones’s claim. The superior court granted Jones’s petition, despite noting “legitimate concerns regarding [her] credibility” because it “determined based on the directives provided in case law, to provide relief from technical rules, that [Jones] has met her burden of proof to demonstrate that her neglect was excusable.” The Court of Appeal found this ruling was an abuse of the trial court’s discretion. "[T]he general policy favoring trial on the merits cannot justify the approval of a petition that is not credible and that does not demonstrate a right to relief by a preponderance of the evidence." The Court issued a writ of mandate compelling the superior court to vacate its order and enter a new order denying Jones relief from the claim presentation requirement. View "Lincoln Unified School Dist. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Mascow, a teacher who had tenure under Illinois law, was laid off in 2017. Because her latest rating was “unsatisfactory,” she was first in line for layoff when the school lost one position and lacked any recall rights if the school district began hiring again—as it did. She sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the Due Process Clause entitled her to a hearing before the layoff and that the “unsatisfactory” rating violated the First Amendment. Mascow became co-president of the Union in 2010. Her First Amendment claim rests on her actions in 2014 and 2015 in notifying administrators that planned activities would violate the collective bargaining agreement. The school canceled one event and revised the other. The district court rejected both claims, reasoning that a reasonable jury could not find that the 2014 and 2015 meetings caused a reduction in Mascow’s ratings, noting that Mascow’s co-president, who attended the 2015 meeting, retained an “excellent” rating. The Seventh Circuit affirmed with respect to the First Amendment but vacated with respect to the due process claim. Neither the district judge nor the parties’ briefs addressed how teachers can obtain review of their ratings and whether those opportunities satisfy the constitutional need for “some kind of hearing.” View "Mascow v. Board of Education of Franklin Park School District No. 84" on Justia Law

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Under the GI Bill, the VA provides monetary benefits to veterans enrolled in “approved” “course[s] of education,” 38 U.S.C. 3483. Approval must be provided by the state approving agency (SAA) for the state where the educational institution is located. For online courses, the educational institution must obtain approval from the SAA where the institution’s “main campus” is located. The VA may discontinue educational assistance, after following certain procedures, if this requirement is not met. Ashford is a for-profit educational institution that provides online courses to veterans and others. In November 2017, the VA sent a Cure Letter to Ashford stating that Ashford’s online courses were not approved by the correct SAA, expressing its “inten[t] to suspend payment of educational assistance and suspend approval of new enrollments and re-enrollments [for Ashford’s online programs] in 60 days unless corrective action is taken.” The Letter noted the availability of a hearing before the Committee on Educational Allowances. Ashford sought review, contending that the Cure Letter “announces” new “rules” and that 38 U.S.C. 502 provided the court with jurisdiction to review those alleged rules. The Federal Circuit dismissed the petition, finding that the Cure Letter is not rulemaking or any other reviewable action; it is also not a final agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act. View "Ashford University, LLC v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), bringing a due process challenge to the school district's individualized education plan (IEP) and school placement before the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission. The Commission affirmed the plan and placement, denying reimbursement. The district court reversed the Commission but limited the reimbursement award based on equitable considerations. The Eighth Circuit held that the school district violated the IDEA and the district court erred in limiting the award. As a preliminary matter, the court held that the school district's jurisdictional challenge was without merit; the school district's mootness challenge also failed; and the district court properly placed the burden on plaintiffs in the proceeding before it and correctly stated the standard of review on appeal. On the merits, the court held that the school district denied plaintiffs' son a free and appropriate education as required by the IDEA when it placed him at a school without direct occupational therapy or a sensory diet plan in place to address his autism-related issues. The court also held that an award limitation based on improvements to the school was inappropriate and inconsistent with the purposes of the IDEA because the school district failed to give any notice to plaintiffs. Furthermore, limiting an award based on improvements not communicated to plaintiffs was inconsistent with the IDEA's purpose. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's limitation of tuition reimbursement and awarded full tuition reimbursement. View "D. L. v. St. Louis City School District" on Justia Law

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In this appeal concerning whether a school board was liable for a judgment against its employee when the board was dismissed from the case prior to trial the Court of Appeals held that, under Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. 5-518, even if a board is entitled to substantive dismissal from a case the plaintiffs are required to maintain the board as a party or request that the board be brought back into the case to indemnify an employee. As a matter of trial strategy in a case against the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners, counsel for Plaintiffs decided to not appeal the dismissal, via summary judgment, of the Board from the case and to avoid joinder of the Board under after the conclusion of the trial. After the trial, Plaintiffs filed motions to enforce the judgments, arguing that the Board was obligated to satisfy the judgments pursuant to section 5-518. The circuit court granted Plaintiffs' motions. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, in order to force a county school board to indemnify a judgment against a county board employee, the mandatory joinder requirement under section 5-518 requires that a county board be joined as a party throughout the entire litigation. View "Neal v. Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that the school district violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by failing to develop and implement an Individual Education Plan (IEP) that was reasonably calculated to provide him with educational benefits appropriate to his circumstances. Assuming arguendo that plaintiff was able to challenge all of the IEPs that the school district designed and implemented, the Fifth Circuit ultimately held that there was no IDEA violation. The court held that the district court properly considered the four factor test articulated in Cypress-Fairbanks lndep. Sch. Dist. v. Michael ex rel. Barry F., 118 F.3d 245, 247 (5th Cir. 1997), and concluded that all factors weighed in favor of the school district. In this case, the school district expended a great amount of time and resources developing and implementing an IEP that was based on multiple in-depth evaluations of plaintiff's unique needs and abilities with significant input from plaintiff's parents and expert consultants, and plaintiff achieved at least some academic and nonacademic benefits as a result of his plan. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff on his IDEA claim and dismissal of his remaining claims. View "R. S. v. Highland Park Independent School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the school district and its superintendent, alleging free speech and retaliation claims in violation of their First Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983; Article 1, Section 8 of the Texas Constitution; and the Texas Whistleblower Act. Plaintiffs, the former principal and assistant principal of an elementary school, served on a 504 committee which convened for the purpose of implementing regulations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Plaintiffs were terminated after an investigation determined that they intentionally authorized inappropriate student testing accommodations based on a misapplication of Section 504 eligibility requirements. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the superintendent was entitled to qualified immunity because it was not clearly established at the time whether First Amendment liability can attach to a public official who did not make the final employment decision. The court also held that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on plaintiff's First Amendment claims, because plaintiffs' calls to TEA regarding Section 504 construction and application at the elementary school were clearly activities undertaken in the course of performing their jobs and these actions were therefore not protected by the First Amendment. Finally, the court held that plaintiffs were not entitled to recover lost wages because they failed to exercise reasonable diligence to mitigate their damages; the district court did not err in denying plaintiffs' motion for rescission or modification; the district court did not err in instructing the jury that the IHE's findings were preclusive; and the district court did not err in relying on the jury's verdict that plaintiffs did not report a violation of law in good faith. View "Powers v. Northside Independent School District" on Justia Law