Justia Education Law Opinion Summaries

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Ali, a non-practicing Muslim of Egyptian descent, was a non-tenured high school teacher. His supervisor received complaints about Ali’s instruction on the Holocaust. One English teacher reported that her students were questioning historical accounts of the Holocaust, opining that Hitler didn’t hate the Jews and that the death counts were exaggerated. Students’ written assignments confirmed those accounts. Ali also presented a lesson on the September 11 terrorist attacks, requiring students to read online articles translated by the Middle Eastern Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Ali posted links to the articles on a school-sponsored website: “U.S. Planned, Carried Out 9/11 Attacks—But Blames Others” and “U.S. Planning 9/11 Style Attack Using ISIS in Early 2015.” The MEMRI articles also contained links to other articles, such as “The Jews are Like a Cancer, Woe to the World if they Become Strong.” A reporter questioned Principal Lottman and Superintendent Zega. Lottman directed Ali to remove the MEMRI links from the school’s website. The following morning, Ali met with Zega and Lottman; his employment was terminated. Ali sued under New Jersey law and 42 U.S.C. 1981, claiming that Lottman referred to him as “Mufasa,” asked Ali if “they had computers in Egypt,” and remarked on his ethnicity during the meetings that resulted in Ali’s termination. He alleged discrimination, hostile work environment, free speech and academic freedom violations, and defamation. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Ali cannot show that his termination for teaching anti-Semitic views was a pretext for discrimination. View "Ali v. Woodbridge Township School District" on Justia Law

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In this complaint alleging ultra vires claims against Mike Morath, in his official capacity as the Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, the Supreme Court granted Respondents' motion to dismiss this appeal as moot, dismissed the case as moot, and vacated both the judgment and opinion of the court of appeals without respect to the merits, holding that the case must be dismissed as moot. Morath filed a plea to the jurisdiction, alleging that Respondents' claims could not proceed for several reasons. The trial court denied the plea to the jurisdiction, and the court of appeals affirmed. Morath petitioned for review. After Morath filed his merits brief, Respondents decided to stop pursuing their claims and filed a "notice of nonsuit without prejudice." Respondents then moved to dismiss the appeal as moot. Morath opposed the motion to dismiss, arguing that a non-suit was ineffective and, alternatively, that this appeal involved a matter of public concern. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that that this case is now moot, and in the absence of jurisdiction this case must be dismissed. View "Morath v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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Restore was asked to mitigate and repair significant fire damage at Proviso East High School, having provided similar service to the District in the past. The District’s customary practice when contracting for repair and payment of losses covered by insurance was to proceed without a recorded vote of its Board. The fire loss was covered by insurance. The District’s superintendent executed contracts with Restore. The District was subject to the School District Financial Oversight Panel (FOP) and Emergency Financial Assistance Law (105 ILCS 5/1B-1) and the Financial Oversight Panel Law (105 ILCS 5/1H-1). The FOP’s chief fiscal officer attended construction meetings and approved numerous subcontracts, quotations, bids, sales orders, change orders, and invoices. Although there was no recorded vote, “a majority of the Proviso Board knew and informally approved" the work. Restore was paid by the insurers for all but $1,428,000. Restore sued, seeking recovery from the District based on quantum meruit. The District argued that it had no obligation to pay because the contracts had not been let out for bid and approved by a majority vote as required by the School Code (105 ILCS 5/1-1). The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the reinstatement of the case following dismissal. The failure of a governmental unit to comply with required contracting methods is not fatal to a plaintiff’s right to recover based on quasi-contract or implied contract principles. The Board was subject to the FOP; the FOP was fully apprised of and approved the work. Any misconduct was on the part of the Board; allowing Restore to recover presents no “risk of a raid on the public treasury.” View "Restore Construction Co., Inc. v. Board of Education of Proviso Township High Schools District 209" on Justia Law

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The School Code provides that school districts must grant full-time teachers paid sick leave of at least 10 days in each school year. Unused sick days accumulate. Sick leave means "personal illness, quarantine at home, serious illness or death in the immediate family or household, or birth, adoption, or placement for adoption. The school board may require a certificate from a physician ... as a basis for pay during leave after an absence of 3 days for personal illness or 30 days for birth,” 105 ILCS 5/24-6. Dynak, a full-time teacher, gave birth by scheduled caesarian section on June 6, 2016. The District approved her use of accumulated paid sick leave on June 6 and 7, the last day of the school year. The District approved her request for 12 weeks of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, (FMLA) 29 U.S.C. 2601, beginning on August 18, the first day of the next school year. The District denied her request to use paid sick leave for the first 28.5 days of her FMLA leave. Dynak did not submit a physician’s certificate to substantiate a medical need for additional paid sick leave. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of Dynak’s suit; "there is no evidence ... that the legislature intended to create a vested right in an employee to take paid sick leave on any days the employee chooses.“ Sick leave for birth must be interpreted in the same manner as sick leave for other events listed in section 24-6. If a teacher gives birth during the school year, she must use her accumulated sick leave to take paid time off for the birth. If a teacher gives birth just before or during a summer break, however, the teacher has no need to use her accumulated sick days. View "Dynak v. Board of Education of Wood Dale School District 7" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court determining that the Town of Frye Island may not withdraw from Maine School Administrative District 6 (MSAD 6) in the absence of legislation expressly authorizing the Town to invoke the statutory withdrawal process set forth in Me. Rev. Stat. 20-A, 1466, holding that the superior court did not err. The residents of Frye Island voted unanimously to withdraw from MSAD 6. The Legislature responded by enacting L.D. 500, which stated that the Town could not withdraw from MSAD 6 unless withdrawal was first authorized. Frye Island later amended its charter and again sought to withdraw from MSAD 6. MSAD 6 sought a declaratory judgment that Frye Island's effort to withdraw from MSAD 6 was unlawful. The court granted summary judgment for MSAD 6. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the amendment to the Town's charter did not expressly or implicitly repeal L.D. 500 by operation of law; (2) L.D. 500 does not violate the Maine Constitution's special legislation clause; and (3) the court did not err in dismissing Frye Island's claims arising under the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the United States and Maine Constitutions. View "MSAD 6 Board of Directors v. Town of Frye Island" on Justia Law

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This case involved claims for subvention by community college districts pertaining to 27 Education Code sections and 141 regulations. The regulations includes “minimum conditions” that, if satisfied, entitles the community college districts to receive state financial support. As to the minimum conditions, the Commission on State Mandates generally determined that reimbursement from the state qA not required because, among other things, the state did not compel the community college districts to comply with the minimum conditions. Coast Community College District, North Orange County Community College District, San Mateo County Community College District, Santa Monica Community College District, and State Center Community College District (the Community Colleges) filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the Commission’s decision. The trial court denied the petition and entered judgment, and the Community Colleges appealed. The Court of Appeal concluded the minimum condition regulations imposed requirements on a community college district in connection with underlying programs legally compelled by the state. The Court surmised the Commission was. Suggesting the minimum conditions were not legally compelled because the Community Colleges were free to decline state aid, but the Court concluded that argument was inconsistent with the statutory scheme and the appellate record. Based on a detailed review of the statutes and regulations at issue, the Court reversed judgment with regard to Cal. Code Regs., tit. 5, regs. 51000, 51006, 51014, 51016, 51018, 51020, 51025, 54626, subdivision (a), 55825 through 55831, regulation 55760 in cases involving mistake, fraud, bad faith or incompetency, and the Handbook of Accreditation and Policy Manual. The Court affirmed as to Education code sections 66738, subdivision (b), 66741, 66743, 78210 through 78218, paragraphs 2, 4 and 5 of section 66740, the portion of regulation 51008 dealing with education master plans, regulations 51024, 54626, subdivisions (b) and (c), 55005, 55100, 51012, 55130, 55150, 55170, 55182, 55205 through 55219, 55300, 55316, 55316.5, 55320 through 55322, 55340, 55350, 55500 through 55534, 55600, 55602, 55602.5, 55603, 55605, 55607, 55620, 55630, 55752, 55753, 55753.5, 55758.5, 55761, 55764, 55800.5, 55805, 55806, 55807, 55808, 55809, 58102, 58107, 58108, 59404, the portion of regulation 55000 et seq. relating to community service classes, and pages A-1 to A-54 of the Chancellor’s Program and Course Approval Handbook. The matter was remanded for further further proceedings on additional challenges. View "Coast Community College Dist. v. Com. on State Mandates" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, low-income African-American women whose children attend public schools in Mississippi, filed suit against state officials, alleging that the current version of the Mississippi Constitution violates the "school rights and privileges" condition of the Mississippi Readmission Act. The district court held that the suit was barred by the Eleventh Amendment and dismissed. Although the Fifth Circuit agreed that a portion of the relief plaintiffs seek is prohibited by the Eleventh Amendment, the court held that the suit also partially sought relief that satisfied the Ex parte Young exception to sovereign immunity. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, and vacated and remanded in part. View "Williams v. Reeves" on Justia Law

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Dr. Sandra Leal appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment to the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL). Leal brought suit against USM and the IHL for breach of contract and disability discrimination. Dr. Sandra Leal was a junior faculty member at USM. After spending several years at USM, Leal applied for tenure and promotion in 2012, but, at the recommendation of faculty members, she deferred her application for one year. In September of 2013, she resubmitted her application and materials. On October 4, 2013, her department voted not to recommend her application. Leal was notified of this on October 7, 2013. Each review of her application cited an insufficient number of publications as the primary reason for not recommending Leal’s application. Following these reviews, in March of 2014, Leal wrote to USM’s then-provost. Leal had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis throughout her time at USM, but, for the first time, she claimed it as a disability. She requested an additional year to remedy her insufficient number of publications. Both the provost and USM’s president recommended that Leal’s application be denied. Leal was notified of these determinations on March 24, 2014, and April 30, 2014, respectively. Leal sought review of her application by the IHL, and the IHL considered her request and ultimately rejected her application too. Because Leal has failed to demonstrate any genuine issue of material fact and failed to demonstrate that USM and the IHL were not entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment. View "Leal v. University of So. Miss." on Justia Law

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A fifth-grade student, C.T., lit a match during the bus ride home from an Ohio elementary school. The students sat in assigned seats, with the youngest students at the front of the bus. School administrators moved C.T. to the front of the bus, where he sexually assaulted a kindergarten student, Doe, as they rode home from school over several weeks. The bus driver apparently was aware that C.T. had moved across the aisle to sit with Doe but police concluded that the driver was not aware of the assaults. C.T. was expelled. Doe’s parents brought a state-created-danger claim against the School District and five employees. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment, holding that no reasonable jury could find that they knowingly exposed Doe to the risk of sexual assault. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating “that the Constitution does not empower federal judges to remedy every situation” that is “heart-wrenching.” Nothing about C.T.’s school record could have put the school employees on notice that C.T. posed a risk of sexually assaulting Doe. The school employees’ responses to the risk also do not show the “callous disregard” or “conscience-shocking” behavior that state-created-danger cases require. Certain employees could have done more in implementing C.T.’s discipline, but their actions did not amount to “callous disregard for the safety” of Doe. View "Doe v. Jackson Local School District Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Education upholding the decision of the North East Independent School District board to end Respondent's continuing teaching contract, holding that the record supported the board's and Commissioner's decisions. At issue was whether state and federal laws requiring school districts to record grades and evaluate student progress provide standards of conduct for the teaching provision such that the teacher's failure to comply with district policies implementing those laws supports termination for "good cause." The Commissioner agreed that Respondent's conduct was "good cause per se" for termination. The trial court reversed. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that "good cause per se" has no basis in Tex. Educ. Code 21.156(a)'s good cause definition. The Supreme Court revered, holding (1) Respondent preserved her complaint for judicial review; (2) the Commissioner erred in employing the "good cause per se" test, which has no basis in the Education Code's plain text; and (3) evidence of a failure to meet a district policy that implements state law supports a good cause determination. View "North East Independent School District v. Riou" on Justia Law