Articles Posted in Education Law

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High school students sprayed with or exposed to Freeze +P filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the board of education, the chief of police, and the Student Resource Officers (SROs) who used the spray against them or in their vicinity. On appeal, the police chief challenged the district court's judgment. The Eleventh Circuit reversed and held that the September 30 order was final and appealable under 28 U.S.C. 1291 pursuant to the court's decision in United States v. Alabama; assuming the SROs in question violated the Fourth Amendment by failing to adequately decontaminate the students exposed to Freeze +P, they were entitled to qualified immunity because the relevant law was not clearly established at the time of their conduct in 2009, 2010, and 2011; the class-based claim for declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to the use of Freeze +P failed for lack of standing; and the class-based claim for declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to the decontamination policy also failed for lack of standing. View "J W v. Roper" on Justia Law

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School administrators filed suit alleging that the school board's investigation and discipline of their efforts to convert their school into a charter school violated their freedom of speech and association in violation of the First Amendment. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the school board under D'Angelo v. School Board of Polk County, 497 F.3d 1203 (11th Cir. 2007). The panel held that the Supreme Court's most recent opinion in Lane v. Franks, 134 S. Ct. 2369 (2014), did not undermine, let alone abrogate D'Angelo's precedential effect. In this case, the administrators spoke not as private citizens but as the principal and assistant principal of a public school, pursuant to their official duties, when they undertook to convert their public school into a charter school. Therefore, their speech was not protected by the First Amendment. View "Fernandez v. The School Board of Miami-Dade County" on Justia Law

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Despite his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnosis and difficulties with organization, Connor excelled in academic programs and on standardized tests. He was admitted into a selective Magnet Program. Beginning in freshman year, the School District accommodated Connor’s ADHD with extended test time, early morning math classes, and small class sizes. Connor’s counselor offered to help Connor stay organized, but his parents declined. Connor succeeded under his section 504 Plan (Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794) through junior year. On the SAT, he scored in the 95th percentile for Reading and 98th percentile for Math. Connor’s junior-year teachers unanimously agreed that he did not need special education. Senior year, Connor amassed late and incomplete work, culminating in five failing grades, removal from the Magnet Program, and inability to graduate. His Plan had been expanded to include recording classes, access to online class notes, and reduced homework. Although the District found Connor IDEA-eligible (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400), Connor and his teachers attributed his failing grades not to his disability, but to procrastination. The family filed a Due Process Hearing Request. An ALJ ruled in favor of the District. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of section 504 and Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12131, claims for noncompliance with the IDEA’s exhaustion requirement. Connor was entitled to neither an IDEA evaluation nor special education because he was not a “child with a disability.” View "Durbrow v. Cobb County School District" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition for review of the Secretary's order requiring Georgia to repay approximately $2.1 million of federal grant funds to the United States Department of Education. The court held that the Secretary properly considered the circumstances of the underlying fraud in petitioner's case in denying the equitable offset remedy, which he noted was to be determined based on agency precedent on a case by case basis at the discretion of the trier of fact. In this case, the nature and scope of the violation was too serious to warrant an equitable offset given petitioner's employees participated in a complex fraud scheme which led to the state improperly awarding $5.7 million to seventeen subgrantees who did not qualify to receive those funds. View "Georgia Department of Education v. United States Department of Education" on Justia Law

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In this school desegregation case, black schoolchildren opposed a motion filed by the Gardendale City Board of Education to permit it to operate a municipal school system. The district court devised and permitted a partial secession that neither party requested. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not clearly err when it found that the Board moved to secede for a racially discriminatory purpose; the district court did not not clearly err when it found, in the alternative, that the secession would impede the desegregation efforts of the Jefferson County Board; but the district court abused its discretion when it sua sponte permitted the partial secession of the Board. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions to deny the motion to secede. View "Stout v. Gardendale City Board of Education" on Justia Law

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In this school desegregation case, black schoolchildren opposed a motion filed by the Gardendale City Board of Education to permit it to operate a municipal school system. The district court devised and permitted a partial secession that neither party requested. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not clearly err when it found that the Board moved to secede for a racially discriminatory purpose; the district court did not not clearly err when it found, in the alternative, that the secession would impede the desegregation efforts of the Jefferson County Board; but the district court abused its discretion when it sua sponte permitted the partial secession of the Board. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions to deny the motion to secede. View "Stout v. Gardendale City Board of Education" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400–1482, alleging that the School Board's refusal to include the desired therapy in their children's Individual Education Plan (IEP) reflected its predetermined policy of never including any Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)-based method or strategy in a child's IEP. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the policy because it was not applied to them. The court explained that, although plaintiffs could claim to suffer injury because the School Board did not adopt the specific ABA services they were requesting, such a claim was not a cognizable injury in fact under the procedural prong of Bd. of Educ. of Hendrick Hudson Cent. Sch. Dist. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 206–07 (1982), because the children's IEPs included an ABA-based service. View "L.M.P. v. School Board of Broward County" on Justia Law

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After a teacher at Carver Middle School submitted an application for the approval of the Carver Gay-Straight Alliance, the superintendent denied the application on the ground that the application failed to identify an allowed purpose for the club. Plaintiffs filed suit, alleging violations of their constitutional rights and the Equal Access Act, 20 U.S.C. 4071-72. On appeal, plaintiffs challenge the dismissal of their complaint alleging that the Board violated the Act. The court concluded that the complaint is ripe because the Board made a final decision when it rejected the application of the Alliance to form a club, and the complaint is not moot because the district court can still fashion relief for a violation of the Act. The court also concluded that the Act applies to Carver Middle School because it provides courses for high school credit and, under Florida law, these courses constitute “secondary education.” Accordingly, the court vacated the order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Carver Middle School Gay-Straight Alliance v. School Board of Lake County, Florida" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, on behalf of her minor son D.H., filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against school officials, including Assistant Principal Tyrus McDowell, and others, alleging that defendants deprived D.H. of his rights to privacy, to be secure in his person, and to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. On appeal, McDowell challenged the district court’s interlocutory order denying his motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The district court found that McDowell’s strip search of D.H., a minor student, violated clearly established constitutional law. The court concluded that McDowell violated D.H.'s constitutional rights. Furthermore, a reasonable official in McDowell’s position would not have believed that requiring D.H. to strip down to his fully naked body in front of several of his peers was lawful in light of the clearly established principle that a student strip search, even if justified in its inception, must be “reasonably related to the objectives of the search and not excessively intrusive in light of the age and sex of the student and the nature of the infraction.” Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s denial of McDowell’s motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. View "D. H. v. McDowell" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that defendants violated students' constitutional rights when they detained the students for breathalyzer tests prior to entering their Junior/Senior Prom. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants. The court concluded that plaintiffs have not established an actual or reasonable expectation of privacy in the party bus, which they had abandoned once they had exited for the Prom; the bus driver had apparent authority to consent to search the party bus; and therefore, the search of the party bus did not violate plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights. The court also concluded that the initial waiting period for the breathalyzer mouthpieces and a trained individual to administer the breathalyzer tests was reasonable, because it was necessary for the testing; detaining a student after he or she was found to be alcohol free was not “reasonably related” to the reason for the detention “in the first place” of determining if the student passengers on the party bus had been drinking; the individual school defendants are entitled to qualified immunity because there was no binding clearly established law at the time; and claims against the remaining defendants have been abandoned or have no merit. The court rejected plaintiffs' remaining claims. Because plaintiffs have not established that they should succeed on any of their allegations concerning their Fourth, First, and Fourteenth Amendment claims, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Ziegler v. Martin Cnty. Sch. Bd." on Justia Law