Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff filed suit on behalf of herself and her son under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), alleging that the Board denied her son a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and violated the stay-put provision of the Act by refusing to pay for services mandated by the child's individualized education plan (IEP). After the district court's judgment on remand, the Second Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying reimbursement for several of the expenses plaintiff requested. However, the district court did err in determining that the funds administrator could unilaterally reduce these services covered by the fund and that plaintiff must pay for half of the compensatory fund's fees. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "Doe v. East Lyme Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court upholding the transfer of a tenured teacher (Plaintiff), working as a school administrator, to a teaching position because Plaintiff did not have an administrator license, holding that Plaintiff failed to prove that the transfer decision was not made in good faith and was arbitrary, capricious, or improperly motivated. In reversing the trial court, the court of appeals held that a regulation required the director of the school system to review the administrative duties Plaintiff had performed in the past in order to determine whether an administrator license was required, and the director's failure to do so rendered his transfer decision arbitrary and capricious. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff pointed to no provision in the Teacher Tenure Act that prevents a school system from establishing instructional leadership by school administrators as a priority; (2) consistent with the school system's priorities, Plaintiff was precluded from having administrative duties in the upcoming school year that involved more than fifty percent instructional leadership absent an administrator license; and (3) consequently, the director's failure to consider Plaintiff's past work did not render the transfer decision either arbitrary or capricious. View "Geller v. Henry County Board of Education" on Justia Law

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Upon panel rehearing, the Fifth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion and substituted the following opinion. After an administrative hearing officer found that the School District violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and awarded O.W. two years of private school tuition, the district court affirmed the award. The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the IDEA's text and structure, including its implementing regulations, compel a conclusion that the child find and expedited evaluation requirements are separate and independent such that a violation of the latter does not mean a violation of the former. To the extent the district court held otherwise, the court held that this was error. The court also held that the continued use of behavioral interventions was not a proactive step toward compliance with the school district's child find duties and thus a child find violation occurred. The court further held that the district court erred in finding the May 6, 2015, modification represented an actionable failure to implement O.W.'s individualized education program (IEP), but correctly concluded the May 18, 2015, modification rose to the level of an actionable violation. The court remanded the remedy question to the district court for reconsideration. View "Spring Branch Independent School District v. O.W." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court denying a request for declaratory and injunctive relief to bar enforcement of the Franklin County School Board's policy requiring parents to provide a birth certificate and proof of residence in the county for any child who is homeschooled, holding that the policy was contrary to the Homeschool Statute, Va. Code 22.1-254.1. In denying declaratory and injunctive relief the circuit court found that the board's policy was not contrary to the Code, was not ultra vires, and addressed the "valid public policy of ensuring the children monitored by [the Board] are between the ages of five (5) and eighteen (18) and are residents of Franklin County." The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Board did not have authority to adopt the policy pursuant to section 22.1-78 because that statute only allows school boards to adopt regulations for the supervision of public schools, not home instruction. View "Sosebee v. Franklin County School Board" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff raised a First Amendment challenge to part of California's Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009, which prohibit plaintiff, Esteban Narez, from enrolling in plaintiff Bob Smith's horseshoeing class unless he first passes an examination prescribed by the U.S. Department of Education. However, if Smith were running a flight school or teaching golf, dancing, or contract bridge, Narez could enroll without restriction. The district court held that the Act does not burden plaintiffs' free speech and dismissed the complaint based on failure to state a claim. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that plaintiffs have stated a claim that the Act burdens their rights under the First Amendment. The panel held that the statutory scheme here not only implicates speech, but also engages in content discrimination; because content discrimination is apparent, the district court should have applied some form of heightened scrutiny; and thus the panel remanded for the district court to determine whether this case involves commercial or non-commercial speech, whether California must satisfy strict or intermediate scrutiny, and whether it could carry its burden under either standard. View "Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School, Inc. v. Kirchmeyer" on Justia Law

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A student and her parents filed suit against the Minnesota Department of Education, alleging that the school district's failure to classify the student as disabled denied her the right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The ALJ concluded that the school district's treatment of the student violated the IDEA and related state special-education laws. The district court then denied the school district's motion for judgment on the administrative record and granted, in part, the student's motion for judgment on the record, modifying the award of compensatory education. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the school district's request for supplementation of the record; the school district's evaluation of the student was insufficiently informed and legally deficient; the student is eligible for special education and a state-funded FAPE like every other child with a disability; the ALJ and the district court did not err in concluding the school district had breached its obligation to identify the student by the spring of her eighth-grade year as a child eligible for special education; and the district court did not err in finding plaintiffs were entitled to recover the costs associated with comprehensive psychological evaluation, educational evaluation and private educational services. However, the court reinstated the ALJ's award of compensatory education costs. View "Independent School District No. 283 v. E.M.D.H." on Justia Law

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Doe, a student at USciences, a private Philadelphia college, had completed nearly all the coursework required to earn a degree in biomedical science when two female students accused him of violating USciences’s Sexual Misconduct Policy. After investigating, USciences concluded that Doe violated the Policy and expelled him. Doe filed suit, alleging that USciences was improperly motivated by sex when it investigated and enforced the Policy against him. Doe also asserted that USciences breached its contract with him by failing to provide him the fairness promised to students under the Policy. The district court dismissed Doe’s complaint. The Third Circuit reversed. Doe’s complaint contains plausible allegations that USciences, in its implementation and enforcement of the Policy, succumbed to pressure from the U.S. Department of Education and has “instituted solutions to sexual violence against women that abrogate the civil rights of men and treat men differently than women.” Doe claimed the school investigated him but chose not to investigate three female students who allegedly violated the Policy with respect to alcohol consumption and sex. The court analyzed the Policy’s promise of “fairness,” an undefined term, by examining federal guarantees and state case law. View "Doe v. University of the Sciences" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the validity of District of Columbia regulations that impose minimum education requirements for certain childcare providers. The district court held that the case was non-justiciable on grounds of standing, ripeness, and mootness. The DC Circuit held that the case is justiciable and remanded for the district court to consider the merits of the complaint. The court held that Plaintiff Sorcher's due process and equal protection claims are ripe for review, because she has demonstrated cognizable hardship where, in the absence of a decision in her favor, she will have to begin expending time and money in order to obtain the necessary credentials. The court also held that Plaintiff Sanchez's claims are not moot where there is no dispute that the regulations' education requirements continue to apply to her and her experience waiver is not permanent. Therefore, Sanchez retains a concrete interest in the outcome of the litigation and her case is also ripe. Likewise, Plaintiff Homan's claims are similar to Sorcher and Sanchez. View "Sanchez v. Office of the State Superintendent of Education" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was expelled from USC for committing intimate partner violence against Jane Roe, he petitioned for writ of administrative mandate to set aside the expulsion. The Court of Appeal reversed the superior court's denial of plaintiff's petition, holding that USC's disciplinary procedures at the time were unfair because they denied plaintiff a meaningful opportunity to cross-examine critical witnesses at an in-person hearing. The court explained that, at bottom, this case rests on witness credibility. Given the conflicting statements, the court could not say that the record contains such overwhelming evidence as to render harmless the errors identified in this case. Therefore, the court remanded with directions to the superior court to grant the petition for writ of administrative mandate. View "Boermeester v. Carry" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that open-enrollment charter schools and their charter-holders have governmental immunity from suit and liability to the same extent as public schools and that, in this case, the open-enrollment charter school district had immunity from suit. The Burnham Wood Charter School District, which operates open-enrollment charter schools in El Paso, repudiated a lease with Amex Properties, LLC to lease certain property. Amex sued the district for anticipatory breach of the lease. The district filed a plea to the jurisdiction contending that it was immune from suit to the same extent as public school districts and that no waiver of immunity existed for Amex's claim. The trial court denied the district's jurisdictional plea, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the suit for want of jurisdiction, holding (1) open-enrollment charter schools have governmental immunity to the same extent as public schools; (2) Tex. Local Gov't Code 271 waives governmental immunity for breach of contract claims brought under the chapter; and (3) the lease in this case was not properly executed under section 271.151, and therefore, Amex's breach of contract claim was not waived under section 271.152. View "El Paso Education Initiative, Inc. v. Amex Properties, LLC" on Justia Law