Articles Posted in Education Law

by
M.L. was born in 2003 with Down Syndrome and is a “child with a disability” under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 20 U.S.C. 1401(3)(A). He and his family are members of the Orthodox Jewish faith and reside in an Orthodox Jewish community in Montgomery County, Maryland. In 2009, M.L. was enrolled, at his parents’ expense, in Sulam, “a special education program that serves the Orthodox Jewish community.” In 2012, his parents and school officials met to form an individualized education program (IEP) for M.L. so that he could attend classes in the public school district. After expert assessments of M.L.’s capabilities, the school determined that M.L. “is able to learn despite his severe intellectual disability, but he needs constant repetition and consistency.” M.L.’s parents rejected the school's proposed IEP “because it does not provide functional instruction to prepare [M.L.] for life in the Orthodox Jewish community.” The district responded that such instruction was “not part of the curriculum, too specific, religious, or not compatible with [M.L.’s] present levels.” The Fourth Circuit affirmed the rejection of the parents’ claims on summary judgment. The IDEA does not mandate that a school instruct a student in his preferred religious practices as part of a “free appropriate public education.” View "M.L. v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

by
The Free Speech Clause does not protect speech expressed in an admissions interview from admissions consequences in a competitive process. After he was denied admission in the Radiation Therapy Program (RTP) at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), plaintiff filed suit alleging that points were deducted from his application score and that he was denied admission because of the expression of his religious beliefs during his interview in violation of the Free Speech Clause, the Establishment Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's claim under the Free Speech Clause where plaintiff's speech was not protected. After applying the Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), test to plaintiff's Establishment Clause claim, the court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants because CCBC had a secular purpose in identifying the best qualified candidates; none of CCBC's actions inhibited religion; and there was no excessive government entanglement. View "Buxton v. Kurtinitis" on Justia Law

by
After G.G., a transgender boy, began to use the boys’ restrooms with the approval of the school administration, the local school board passed a policy banning G.G. from the boys’ restroom. G.G. filed suit alleging that the school board impermissibly discriminated against him in violation of Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681(a), and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. The district court dismissed G.G.’s Title IX claim and denied his request for a preliminary injunction. The court reversed the dismissal of G.G.’s Title IX claim, concluding that the district court did not accord appropriate deference to the relevant Department of Education regulations. In this case, the Department’s interpretation of its own regulation, 34 C.F.R. 106.33, as it relates to restroom access by transgender individuals, is entitled to Auer v. Robbins deference and is to be accorded controlling weight. The court also concluded that the district court used the wrong evidentiary standard in assessing G.G.’s motion for a preliminary injunction. The district court evaluated G.G.’s proffered evidence against a stricter evidentiary standard than is warranted by the nature and purpose of preliminary injunction proceedings to prevent irreparable harm before a full trial on the merits. Therefore, the district court abused its discretion when it denied the preliminary injunction without considering G.G.’s proffered evidence. The court vacated the district court's denial of the preliminary injunction and remanded for consideration under the correct standard. View "G. G. v. Gloucester Cnty. Sch. Bd." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff collapsed with exertional heatstroke while practicing as a member of the Towson University football team. Plaintiff was in a coma for nine days, almost died, and suffered multi-organ failure, requiring a liver a transplant and numerous additional surgeries. Plaintiff subsequently recovered and pursued his plan to return to playing football. However, the Team Physician, a board-certified sports medicine doctor, concluded that allowing plaintiff to participate in the football program at the University presented an unacceptable risk of serious reinjury or death. Plaintiff filed suit against the University, alleging that its decision to exclude him from the football program amounted to a violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 701 et seq. The district court entered judgment against the University. The court reversed, concluding that plaintiff was not “otherwise qualified” to participate fully in the University’s football program because the University reasonably applied its Return-to-Play Policy. The court was required to give deference to the University's judgment. The court did not reach the University's challenge to the district court's evidentiary rulings. View "Class v. Towson Univ." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit challenging a hearing officer's conclusion that the School Board had provided O.S. with a free and appropriate education (FAPE). The district court affirmed the hearing officer's decision. At issue was whether the standard for a FAPE under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq., has changed since Board of Education v. Rowley. The court held that it has not and that, in evaluating whether a school provides a FAPE, the court still looks to whether the individualized education program (IEP) provides some education benefit to the student. Applying that standard to this case, the court concluded that the district court did not err in finding that the School Board met that requirement. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "O.S. v. Fairfax Cnty. Sch. Bd." on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

by
In 1970, the district court determined that the City and the Board were operating racially segregated schools and directed them to submit desegregation plans that would establish a nonracial, unitary school district. This appeal stemmed from the district court's two desegregation orders. Plaintiffs moved to enjoin the implementation of the Board's 2011-2012 student assignment plan because it failed to move the school district toward unitary status. The district court denied relief. The court vacated the district court's ruling, holding that the district court erred when it failed to place the burden on the Board to show that the 2011-12 student assignment plan moved the school district toward unitary status. Subsequently, the district court granted the Board's motion requesting that the district court declare the school district unitary and the district court dismissed plaintiffs' request for an injunction as moot. The court affirmed, concluding that the district court acted within its discretion in choosing to address the Board’s motion for declaration of unitary status before ruling on plaintiffs’ motion for injunctive relief. Further, the district court did not clearly err in determining that the school district is unitary. View "Everett v. Pitt Cnty. Bd. of Educ." on Justia Law

by
The Professional Massage Training Center (PMTC) filed suit against the Accreditation Alliance of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) after ACCSC denied PMTC’s application for re-accreditation. The district court entered judgment in favor of PMTC, finding that ACCSC had violated the school’s due process rights. The court awarded the school more than $400,000 in damages and ordered ACCSC to fully reinstate its accreditation. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the district court erred in conducting a de novo approach to the accreditation process; (2) judged by the correct standard of review, the accreditation decision was well supported and not arbitrary or capricious; and (3) the district court correctly dismissed PMTC’s state law claims for breach of contract, negligence, and tortious interference. Remanded. View "Prof’l Massage Training v. Accreditation Alliance of Career Schs." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, parents of nine-year-old E.L., who has autism, initiated an administrative complaint against the school board under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. An ALJ determined that the school board violated the IDEA by failing to provide E.L. with required speech therapy but, in all other respects, she was provided an appropriate special education program. The school board appealed and the state review officer reversed the ALJ's conclusion regarding the speech therapy. Plaintiffs then filed a civil action seeking judicial review of the administrative proceedings. The court concluded that E.L. did not exhaust her administrative remedies and that the school board did not violate the IDEA where the review officer's conclusion that E.L. received the speech therapy mandated by her individualized education program is supported by the evidence. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "E. L. v. Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education" on Justia Law

by
Relator filed suit against certain student loan corporations, alleging that they defrauded the Department of Education and thus violated the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729 et seq. After applying the arm-of-the-state analysis on remand, the district court again concluded that all of the student loan corporations constituted state agencies not subject to suit under the Act and granted their motions to dismiss. Applying the arm-of-the-state analysis to the corporations, the court vacated the judgment of the district court as to PHEAA and remanded to permit limited discovery on the question of whether PHEAA was truly subject to sufficient state control to render it a part of the state; vacated the judgment with respect to VSAC and remanded to permit limited discovery; and affirmed the judgment with respect to ASLA because it is an arm of Arkansas and therefore not subject to suit under the FCA. View "U.S. ex rel. Oberg v. Kentucky Higher Education" on Justia Law

by
College Newspapers challenged the ABC's ban on alcohol advertisements as violative of the First Amendment. The court concluded that the challenged regulation violated the First Amendment as applied to the College Newspapers where a regulation of commercial speech must satisfy all four Central Hudson Gas & Elec. Corp. v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n of N.Y. prongs in order to survive an as-applied challenge, and the regulation at issue here did not satisfy the fourth prong. The district court erred in concluding that the challenged regulation was appropriately tailored to achieve its objective of reducing abusive college drinking. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the ABC. View "Educational Media Co. v. Insley" on Justia Law