Articles Posted in Education 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

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Plaintiffs, Florida public school teachers, filed suit challenging Florida’s Student Success Act, Fla. Stat. 1012.34, as well as the Florida State Board of Education’s and three school districts’ implementation of the Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants. Plaintiff alleged that the Act resulted in teacher evaluation policies that violated the teachers’ rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. Determining that plaintiffs have standing and the case is not moot, the court concluded that, under rational basis review, the school district's evaluation policies are rationally related to the purpose of improving student academic performance. Therefore, plaintiffs substantive due process and equal protection claims failed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Cook v. Chartrand" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, parents of a child with autism and speech and language disabilities, filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400–1482, seeking payment for an independent educational evaluation (IEE) of the child to determine his educational needs. The district court dismissed the parents' complaint, holding that the parents' request in the state administrative proceeding was time-barred. Because a reevaluation of the child is due, the relief the parents seek - an order directing the District to pay for an IEE - will no longer redress the procedural injury they allege. Because the parents lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome of the appeal, their appeal is moot. Accordingly, the court vacated for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and remanded. View "T.P. v. Bryan Cnty. Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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In a consolidated qui tam action, three relators brought claims under the False Claims Act against an educational institution for falsely certifying to the government that it was in compliance with various federal statutes and regulations to receive Title IV financial-aid funds. The district court ruled against the relators. After final judgment was entered, two of the relators appealed. Relator Carlos Urquilla-Diaz appealed from the district court’s dismissal with prejudice of his claims under the False Claims Act against Defendants Kaplan University, Kaplan Higher Education Corp., and Kaplan, Inc. (Kaplan). Relator Jude Gillespie appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Kaplan on his claims under the False Claims Act as well as several other orders. Diaz worked for Kaplan University from August 2004 through April 2005 as a professor of paralegal studies. In April 2007, he filed his qui tam action against Kaplan, alleging that Kaplan had violated several provisions of the Higher Education Act and its implementing regulations. These violations in turn rendered Kaplan ineligible to receive Title IV funds. And because these violations were committed with the requisite scienter, Kaplan was liable under the False Claims Act. Gillespie, began working for Kaplan University in 2004 as an associate professor of paralegal studies. He was promoted to department chair. Two months later, he informed Kaplan that he had a medical disorder and requested several accommodations. His requests were granted. Even so, in April 2005, Gillespie complained an associate general counsel for Kaplan, Inc., that Kaplan’s grievance policies violated section 504 the Rehabilitation Act and its implementing regulations. At that time, he indicated that he planned to file an administrative complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (the OCR). The following day, Kaplan fired him for job abandonment because he had refused to perform his job duties. After investigating Gillespie’s allegations against Kaplan, the OCR rejected his individual claims. The agency found that Kaplan did not discriminate or retaliate against him, but did take issue with some of Kaplan's policies and procedures regarding disabled employees in the Kaplan Higher Education Corporation Employee Handbook, Kaplan Field Employee Handbook, and Kaplan University Faculty Handbook. Kaplan voluntarily entered into a resolution agreement with the OCR to change its policies. In doing so, Kaplan did not admit to any violation of or noncompliance with section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or its implementing regulations. In April 2007, Gillespie filed his qui tam action against Kaplan, alleging that Kaplan violated the False Claims Act by making false statements in its 2004 and 2007 program participation agreements when it certified that it would “comply with . . . Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the implementing regulations 34 C.F.R. Part 104 (barring discrimination on the basis of physical handicap).” The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Diaz’s claims against Kaplan that were based on its alleged violations of the Department of Education’s satisfactory-progress regulation and the accreditation requirement. But the Court modified the judgment of dismissal to be without prejudice with respect to the government. The Court reversed the district court’s dismissal of Diaz’s claims against Kaplan to the extent that they were based on its alleged violation of the incentive-compensation ban, and remanded for further proceedings. The Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Kaplan on all of Gillespie’s claims. View "Urquilla-Diaz v. Kaplan University" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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In consolidated appeals, the Jefferson County Board of Education and the Madison City Board of Education ask the court to recede from its opinion in Stewart v. Baldwin Cnty. Bd. of Educ., which held that school boards in Alabama are not arms of the state and therefore not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. The court declined to read Versiglio II in a way which violates the court's prior panel precedent rule and creates interpretive problems for panels in the future; although the court recognized the principle of state sovereign immunity law in Stewart, the court did not find it determinative, and held that Alabama school boards could not assert Eleventh Amendment immunity; the court's precedent does not provide a basis for it to conclude that Stewart has been abrogated; the court noted that the Alabama courts do not view state sovereign immunity and Eleventh Amendment immunity as one and the same; and the Alabama Supreme Court's Ex Parte Madison Cnty. Bd. of Educ. decision agrees with Stewart. The court concluded that both cases before it concern employment-related decisions and under Stewart, local school boards in Alabama are not arms of the state with respect to such decisions. Consequently, the Jefferson County Board of Education and the Madison City Board of Education are not immune under the Eleventh Amendment from suits challenging those decisions under federal law; the district court's dismissal of the complaint in Walker (Case Nos. 13-14182 and 13-14927) is reversed; and the district court's denial of the motion of dismiss in Weaver (Case No. 13-14624) is affirmed. View "Walker, et al. v. Jefferson Cnty. Bd. of Educ., et al." on Justia Law

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The Board appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs, mother and son, requiring the Board to reimburse the mother for the cost of the placement of her son, who was diagnosed with autism, in a private school. A hearing officer later found that the Board failed to offer a free appropriate public education to the son before his third birthday, as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(1)(A), and that the Board instead consented to the son's placement at Mitchell's Place, a preschool that provided services and education to autistic children. The district court affirmed. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it weighed the equities and concluded that the County must reimburse plaintiffs. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.View "Blount Cty. Bd. of Educ., et al. v. Bowens, et al." on Justia Law

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The Board challenged the district court's decision to award O.L.'s parents reimbursement for one-on-one instruction outside the school setting as well as some of their attorney's fees. The parents cross-appealed the district court's decision not to award O.L. compensatory education. The court concluded that the parents were eligible for reimbursement; the district court was right to find that the alternative program was proper under the standard set forth in Bd. of Educ. of Hendrick Hudson Centr. Sch. Dist., Westchester Cnty. v. Rowley; even if the alternative program has its shortcomings, it was reasonably calculated to permit the child to obtain some educational benefit; the district court's reimbursement award was appropriate; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it took the quality of the chosen alternative into consideration; it was clear on the record that the district court properly weighed the evidence and did not abuse its considerable discretion when it denied the request for compensatory education; and there was no need to reverse the attorney's fee award since the court affirmed the district court's decision in all respects.View "R.L., et al. v. Miami-Dade Cty. Sch. Bd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the school district, claiming that he was retaliated against by the school district because he made public statements to the press regarding the accreditation investigation of the school district. Because plaintiff was not speaking pursuant to any official duties for the school district, bur rather was speaking in his capacity as president of the Georgia Association of Educators, the district court erred when it held that plaintiff's speech fell under the rule announced in Garcetti v. Ceballos. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's order granting summary judgment in favor of the school district and remanded for further proceedings.View "Hubbard v. Clayton Co. Sch. Dist., et al." on Justia Law