Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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Yu, a Chinese international student, enrolled in ISU's Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology in 2008. He completed the requisite four years of instruction and successfully defended his dissertation but failed to complete a mandatory professional internship consisting of 2,000 clinical hours. Several of Yu’s supervisors commented on his limited English language fluency and that Yu had trouble “form[ing] alliances” with clients and patients, and possessed limited “ability to adjust treatment.” Dr. Landers, Yu's supervisor, dismissed Yu, later testifying that Yu was never able “to grasp the communication nuances that are required” and noting the vulnerability of the patients, who were particularly high risk. After Yu was dismissed from the internship, ISU dismissed Yu from the Program.Yu filed suit, alleging that ISU violated Title VI because it intentionally discriminated against him based on his race or national origin. Yu presented the expert testimony of Dr. Zorwick that Yu was a victim of “aversive racism,” comparable to “unconscious” or “implicit” bias. The district court ruled in favor of ISU. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. Evidence of unconscious bias against a protected class in an appropriate case may be probative of whether an entity has intentionally discriminated in a Title VI case but the question is factual, and here the court permissibly found that ISU did not intentionally discriminate. View "Yu v. Idaho State University" on Justia Law

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After the school districts sought modification of existing desegregation consent decrees to allow their exemption from Arkansas's Public School Choice Act, Ark. Code. Ann. 6–18–1906, the district court granted the motions and modified the consent decrees to explicitly limit the transfer of students between school districts. The Department appealed, alleging that the modification imposed an impermissible interdistrict remedy.After a panel of the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's modifications, the Department moved for rehearing, at which point the United States—for the first time—involved itself in the case and asked the court to reconsider its opinion. The court accepted the invitation, received supplemental briefing from the parties, and reversed the judgment of the district court.The court agreed with the Department that the district court abused its discretion by modifying the consent decrees because the 2017 amendments were not a significant change in circumstances supporting modification of the decrees and—even if they were—the district court did not impose a suitably tailored modification. Because no vestige of discrimination traces to interdistrict school transfers, the district court abused its discretion in expanding the consent decrees to prohibit such transfers. View "United States v. Arkansas Department of Education" on Justia Law

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FASORP brought suit against the NYU Defendants, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. In an Amended Complaint, FASORP pleads that its members have standing to challenge the Law Review's article-selection and editor-selection processes, as well as the Law School's faculty-hiring processes, all of which FASORP alleges violated Title VI and Title IX by impermissibly considering sex and race in its selection and hiring decisions.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint without prejudice and held that FASORP does not have standing to sue NYU because it has failed to demonstrate injuries to its members. In this case, even if FASORP's pleadings were found to sufficiently identify members who have suffered the requisite harm, FASORP fails to demonstrate that those members have experienced an invasion of a legally protected interest that is certainly impending or that there is a substantial risk that the harm will occur. The court explained that, without any "description of concrete plans" to apply for employment, submit an article, or of having submitted an article, that will or has been accepted for publication, FASORP's allegations exhibit the kind of "some day intentions" that cannot "support a finding of [] actual or imminent injury." View "Faculty, Alumni, and Students Opposed to Racial Preferences v. New York University" on Justia Law

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Blind students, Payan and Mason, took classes at LACC, a Southern California community college. Upon their enrollment, each registered for disability accommodations through the college’s Office of Special Services (OSS). Their approved accommodations included tape-recorded lectures, preferential seating, receiving materials in electronic text, and test-taking accommodations. Mason also received weekly tutoring. Each uses a screen reading software to read electronic text. Despite these accommodations, each encountered accessibility problems at LACC, relating to in-class materials, textbooks, educational technology, websites and computer applications, and research databases in the LACC library.Plaintiffs filed suit, alleging that individual and systemic failures to remedy accessibility barriers violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The district court granted partial summary judgment for Plaintiffs, after instructing them to reframe their disability discrimination arguments through a disparate impact framework only. A jury found the discrimination against Payan was deliberately indifferent and awarded Payan $40,000 in compensatory damages but no damages to Mason.The Ninth Circuit vacated. Despite acknowledging the individual accommodations to which OSS determined the Plaintiffs were entitled, the district court erroneously rejected these claims as failure to accommodate claims because it found that the Plaintiffs did not adequately put LACC on notice that they required specific accommodations. On remand, the court must reconsider Plaintiffs’ individual claims under either the disparate impact framework or the individual failure to accommodate framework, depending on the nature of the claim. View "Payan v. Los Angeles Community College District" on Justia Law

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To control the spread of COVID-19, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) required that all persons five years of age and older wear a mask in indoor public settings, including while attending public and private K–12 schools. A Lansing Catholic elementary school and parents with children enrolled at the school, challenged the mask requirement as a violation of their free exercise of religion, equal protection, and substantive due process rights. Since they filed suit, MDHHS has rescinded almost all COVID-19 pandemic emergency orders, including the challenged mask requirement.The Sixth Circuit held that the challenge to the mask requirement is not moot, and affirmed the denial of the Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction on the merits. Given the very real possibility that MDHHS may be faced again with escalating COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, Defendants have not met their “heavy burden” of showing that it is “absolutely clear” that they will not reimpose impose a mask requirement, including for children in grades K–5 receiving in-person instruction. Because the requirement to wear a facial covering applied to students in grades K–5 at both religious and non-religious schools, it was neutral and of general applicability. The MDHHS Orders satisfy rational-basis review. View "Resurrection School v. Hertel" on Justia Law

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Doe, a student at a public school in Virginia, had recently undergone a gender transition. Vlaming, Doe’s French teacher, refused to use male pronouns to refer to Doe. Vlaming argued that using male pronouns to refer to someone who was born a female violated his religious beliefs. Eventually, the superintendent placed Vlaming on administrative leave and recommended his dismissal. After a hearing, the School Board dismissed Vlaming for failure to comply with his superiors’ directives and violations of policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment. Vlaming sued, alleging statutory and constitutional violations and breach of contract. The Board removed the case to federal court, arguing the district court had removal jurisdiction because it had federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. 1441(c), over whether Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The Board also argued that because Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681, was a “law providing for equal rights,” section 1443(2), the civil rights removal statute, authorized removal.The district court granted Vlaming’s motion for remand. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. Because none of Vlaming’s state law claims necessarily raises a federal issue, federal question jurisdiction is lacking, and section 1441(c) does not provide a basis for removal. The Supreme Court has limited the meaning of a “law providing for equal rights” in section 1443 to only those concerning racial equality. View "Vlaming v. West Point School Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the direct funding provision of Proposition 208 did not fall within the constitutional definition of grants in Ariz. Const. art. IX, 21 (the Education Expenditure Clause) and was therefore unconstitutional to the extent it mandated expanding tax revenues in violation of the Education Expenditure Clause.Proposition 208 was a citizens' initiative passed in 2020 imposing an income tax purchase on high-income Arizona taxpayers to provide direct funding to schools. Petitioners brought this action challenging the constitutionality of the tax and the initiative's characterization of the direct funding as "grants" exempt from the Education Expenditure Clause and seeking to enjoin the collection of that tax pending the resolution of their challenge. The Supreme Court held (1) because Ariz. Rev. Stat. 15-1285 incorrectly characterizes the allocated monies in order to exempt Proposition 208 from the Education Expenditure Clause, it is facially unconstitutional; (2) the remaining non-revenue related provisions of Proposition 208 are not severable; (3) this Court declines to enjoin the imposition of the tax pending further proceedings; and (4) Proposition 208 does not violate the Tax Enactment Clause of the Arizona Constitution, and therefore, the bicameralism, presentment, and supermajority requirements found therein are inapplicable. View "Fann v. State" on Justia Law

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H.K., a fifth-grader who has been diagnosed with ADHD, oppositional tendencies, and developmental delays, lives within the East Brunswick school district. H.K. was previously enrolled at Hatikvah, a local educational agency. Both East Brunswick and Hatikvah are funded by taxpayers, East Brunswick’s annual budget is approximately 25 times greater than Hatikvah’s budget. Hatikvah proposed an individualized education program (IEP) under which H.K. would attend Bridge, a private school. H.K.’s parents instead unilaterally enrolled H.K. in a different private school, Laurel, then filed a due process petition under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), seeking reimbursement for H.K.’s costs of attendance at Laurel. In administrative proceedings, Hatikvah agreed to implement a new IEP that kept H.K. at Laurel. East Brunswick did not participate in that proceeding but subsequently filed a separate petition with the New Jersey Department of Education, challenging H.K.’s placement at Laurel and arguing that East Brunswick could provide H.K. with a free, appropriate public education in a less restrictive environment. H.K.’s parents sought to compel East Brunswick to pay for H.K.’s costs of attending Laurel while that petition was litigated. Laurel is H.K.’s IDEA "pendent placement."The Third Circuit ruled in favor of Hatikvah. Financial responsibility for all pendent placement costs rests entirely with the resident school district under the stay-put rule, 20 U.S.C. 1415(j)m noting that East Brunswick was challenging H.K.’s placement at Laurel. View "Hatikvah International Academy Charter School v. East Brunswick Township Board of Education" on Justia Law

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In October 2018, the University of Louisville notified Dr. Kaplan, a tenured professor and the Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (DOVS), that it was reviewing some of his actions as Chair and considering removing him from that position. These included his signing an unauthorized lease on behalf of DOVS and meeting with private equity firms interested in buying or financing DOVS. One month into the investigation, with no more warning, the University placed him on paid administrative leave and prohibited him from coming to university grounds and communicating with his colleagues. The university also advised Kaplan that he could lose his tenured position.When the investigation ended, Kaplan lost his Chair, and the dean of the medical school recommended termination of his tenure, identifying six grounds for dismissal. On appeal, a faculty committee gave Kaplan a two-day hearing, at which he introduced documents and witnesses supporting his defense. The committee upheld four grounds for dismissal, including Kaplan’s unauthorized lease and his perceived attempt to sell DOVS’s clinical practice to private investors. The University’s Board of Trustees terminated Kaplan’s tenure. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit in which Kaplan claimed that the University terminated him from both positions without due process, violated his Fourteenth Amendment liberty interests in his reputation, and violated his First Amendment right to academic freedom. View "Kaplan v. University of Louisville" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on failure to exhaust administrative remedies of plaintiffs' action under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Plaintiffs claim that the district court is failing its responsibilities to students under the IDEA by not timely identifying and evaluating students with disabilities, and, after identifying them, by providing them with insufficiently individualized, "cookie-cutter" accommodations and services. Although plaintiffs argue that exhaustion was not required because they are challenging district-wide policies that only a court can remedy, plaintiffs are unable to identify such policies. The panel agreed with the district court that plaintiffs have not satisfied any of the limited exceptions recognized by caselaw to the exhaustion requirement contained in 20 U.S.C. 1415(l). In this case, plaintiffs challenged what amounted to failures in practice by the school district, rather than policies or practices of general applicability. View "Student A v. San Francisco Unified School District" on Justia Law