Articles Posted in Education Law

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An elementary school student with a disability, and her parents, filed suit challenging the district court's decision to affirm the ALJ's determination that CCPS provided the student with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that, although CCPS did violate certain procedural requirements of the IDEA, most notably by changing the student's placement without notifying her parents or modifying her individualized education program (IEP), any procedural violations did not deny the student a FAPE. In this case, the combination of reasonably ambitious goals that were focused on the student's particular circumstances, and that were pursued through the careful and attentive instruction of specialized professionals, provided the education that the student was entitled to under the statute. View "R.F. v. Cecil County Public Schools" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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Plaintiff, a student, filed suit alleging that school officials used statements about Islam to endorse that religion over Christianity and thus compelled plaintiff against her will to profess a belief in Islam. At issue in this appeal was whether two statements concerning Islamic beliefs, presented as part of a high school world history class, violated a student's First Amendment rights under either the Establishment Clause or the Free Speech Clause. The Fourth Circuit held that the challenged coursework materials, viewed in the context in which they were presented, did not violate the student's First Amendment rights, because they did not impermissibly endorse any religion and did not compel the student to profess any belief. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. View "Wood v. Arnold" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal of their civil rights actions under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and 42 U.S.C. 1983, seeking the reinstatement of three claims: a Title IX sex discrimination claim against the University of Mary Washington; a Title IX retaliation claim against UMW; and a section 1983 claim against UMW's former president, Dr. Richard Hurley, for violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the section 1983 claim and held that, at the time of President Hurley's challenged conduct, the equal protection right to be free from a university administrator's deliberate indifference to student-on-student sexual harassment was not clearly established by either controlling authority or by a robust consensus of persuasive authority. The court vacated the dismissal of the retaliation claim insofar as it is premised on UMW’s deliberate indifference to student-on-student retaliatory harassment. The court affirmed the dismissal of the aspect of the retaliation claim that relied exclusively on President Hurley's June 2015 letter. Finally, the panel vacated the dismissal of the Title IX sex discrimination claim against UMW where plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged a sex discrimination claim under Title IX, predicated on UMW's deliberate indifference to the specified student-on-student harassment. View "Feminist Majority Foundation v. Hurley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and her daughter filed suit against the county, challenging an in-school Bible lesson program for public elementary and middle school students as violating the Establishment Clause. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that plaintiffs have standing because they alleged two actual, ongoing injuries: (1) near-daily avoidance of contact with an alleged state-sponsored religious exercise, and (2) enduring feelings of marginalization and exclusion resulting therefrom. The court also held that plaintiffs' claims were redressable because an injunction would meaningfully redress their injuries. The court also held that the district court erred in treating the temporary suspension of the program as raising ripeness concerns, and plaintiffs' claims were not moot. View "Deal v. Mercer County Board of Education" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a student and two student groups behind a Free Speech Event at the University of South Carolina, filed suit alleging that University officials violated their First Amendment rights when they required one of the students to attend a meeting to discuss complaints about their event. Plaintiffs also alleged a facial challenge to the University's general policy on harassment, arguing that it was unconstitutionally vague and overly broad. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the University defendants, holding that the University neither prevented plaintiffs from holding their Free Speech Event nor sanctioned them after the fact. Plaintiffs failed to show a credible threat that the University would enforce its harassment policy against their speech in the future, and thus they lacked standing to pursue their facial attack on the policy. View "Abbott v. Pastides" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the school district in an action under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), alleging that the school district failed to provide plaintiff, a former student, with a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The court held that the school district committed a procedural violation of the IDEA by failing to respond to parents' requests and conduct a timely evaluation of whether the student was eligible for special education or related services. Nonetheless, plaintiff failed to show that this defect in the process had an adverse effect on his education. Therefore, plaintiff was not actually deprived of a FAPE. View "T.B. v. Prince George's County Board of Education" on Justia Law

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D.S. and S.P are high school students. D.S. (who is black and has learning disabilities) was charged with violating South Carolina’s Disturbing Schools Law, S.C. Code 16-17-420(A), “after becoming involved in a physical altercation which she did not initiate and in which she was the only person" injured. S.P. (who is white and suffers from disabilities) was charged with violating the Disorderly Conduct Law, S.C. Code 16-17-420(B), after she cursed at a student who had been teasing her and refused to leave as instructed. Other Plaintiffs include young black adults who were previously arrested and charged with violating the Disturbing Schools Law when they expressed concerns about police conduct and an afterschool program serving at-risk youth with two members (Latina and black girls) who were charged under the Disturbing Schools Law. The Fourth Circuit vacated the dismissal, for lack of standing, of a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging the laws as unconstitutionally vague. At least some of the plaintiffs do not rely on conjecture or speculation; they attend schools where they were previously arrested and charged under the statutes, and they do not know which of their actions at school will be interpreted to violate the statutes in the future. Plaintiffs also allege that the laws chill their exercise of free expression, forcing them to refrain from exercising their constitutional rights or risk arrest and prosecution. View "Kenny v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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D.S. and S.P are high school students. D.S. (who is black and has learning disabilities) was charged with violating South Carolina’s Disturbing Schools Law, S.C. Code 16-17-420(A), “after becoming involved in a physical altercation which she did not initiate and in which she was the only person" injured. S.P. (who is white and suffers from disabilities) was charged with violating the Disorderly Conduct Law, S.C. Code 16-17-420(B), after she cursed at a student who had been teasing her and refused to leave as instructed. Other Plaintiffs include young black adults who were previously arrested and charged with violating the Disturbing Schools Law when they expressed concerns about police conduct and an afterschool program serving at-risk youth with two members (Latina and black girls) who were charged under the Disturbing Schools Law. The Fourth Circuit vacated the dismissal, for lack of standing, of a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging the laws as unconstitutionally vague. At least some of the plaintiffs do not rely on conjecture or speculation; they attend schools where they were previously arrested and charged under the statutes, and they do not know which of their actions at school will be interpreted to violate the statutes in the future. Plaintiffs also allege that the laws chill their exercise of free expression, forcing them to refrain from exercising their constitutional rights or risk arrest and prosecution. View "Kenny v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of a school resource officer in an action brought by an elementary school student under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment and several state laws. The officer decided to handcuff the student for fighting with another student three days prior. The court held that, under the totality of the circumstances, the officer's actions were not objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances where the student was a ten year old girl who was sitting calmly and compliantly in a closed office surrounded by three adults and was answering questions about the incident at issue. Although the officer used excessive force, the student's right not to be handcuffed under the circumstances was not clearly established at the time of her seizure. Therefore, the officer was entitled to qualified immunity. The court also held that there was insufficient evidence in the record for a reasonable jury to conclude that the officer acted maliciously or with gross negligence when she handcuffed the student. View "E.W. v. Dolgos" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of a school resource officer in an action brought by an elementary school student under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment and several state laws. The officer decided to handcuff the student for fighting with another student three days prior. The court held that, under the totality of the circumstances, the officer's actions were not objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances where the student was a ten year old girl who was sitting calmly and compliantly in a closed office surrounded by three adults and was answering questions about the incident at issue. Although the officer used excessive force, the student's right not to be handcuffed under the circumstances was not clearly established at the time of her seizure. Therefore, the officer was entitled to qualified immunity. The court also held that there was insufficient evidence in the record for a reasonable jury to conclude that the officer acted maliciously or with gross negligence when she handcuffed the student. View "E.W. v. Dolgos" on Justia Law