Articles Posted in Education Law

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In 2008, Arise, a Dayton community school (charter school), faced declining enrollment, financial troubles, and scandal after its treasurer was indicted for embezzlement. The school’s sponsor sought a radical change in administration, elevated Arise’s former principal, Floyd, to superintendent, removed all board members, and appointed Floyd’s recommended candidates to the new board. Floyd set up a kickback scheme, using former business partners to form Global Educational Consultants, which contracted with Arise. Global received $420,919 from Arise. While Global was being paid, Arise teachers’ salaries were cut and staff members were not consistently paid. Arise ran out of money and closed in 2010. The FBI investigated and signed a proffer agreement with Ward, the “silent partner” at Global, then indicted Floyd, Arise board members, and Global's owner. They were convicted of federal programs bribery, conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery, and making material false statements, 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(B), (a)(2); 18 U.S.C. 371; 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(2). Two African-American jurors reported that they were initially unconvinced; the jury foreperson, a white woman, reportedly told them that she believed they were reluctant to convict because they felt they “owed something” to their “black brothers.” This remark prompted a confrontation, requiring the marshal to intervene.The Sixth Circuit affirmed their convictions, rejecting arguments based on the Supreme Court’s 2017 decision, Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado. Although Pena-Rodriguez permitted, in very limited circumstances, an inquiry into a jury’s deliberations, this case did not fit into those limited circumstances. View "United States v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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Doe met Roe on Tinder. They eventually met in person. Doe invited Roe to his apartment, where the two engaged in sex. Three weeks later, Roe reported to the University of Cincinnati’s Title IX Office that Doe had sexually assaulted her that evening. No physical evidence supports either student’s version. Five months later, UC cited Doe for violating the Student Code of Conduct. UC resolves charges of non-academic misconduct through an Administrative Review Committee hearing process. UC’s Code of Conduct does not require witnesses to be present. If a witness is “unable to attend,” the Code permits him to submit a “notarized statement” to the Committee. After considerable delay, UC held Doe's hearing. Despite Roe’s failure to appear, UC found Doe “responsible” for sexual assault, based upon Roe's previous hearsay statements to investigators. UC suspended Doe for a year after an administrative appeal. Doe argued that the denial of his right to confront his accuser violated his due process rights. In granting a preliminary injunction against Doe’s suspension, the district court found a strong likelihood that Doe would prevail on his constitutional claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Due Process Clause guarantees fundamental fairness to state university students facing long-term exclusion from the educational process. The Committee necessarily made a credibility determination and its failure to provide any form of confrontation of the accuser made the proceeding fundamentally unfair. View "Doe v. University of Cincinnati" on Justia Law

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Crosby, a tenured professor at the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health, brought suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law, claiming that his removal as Department Chair amounted to a deprivation of his protected property and liberty interests without due process of law. He claimed that the defendants were not protected by qualified immunity and were liable under contract law for monetary damages. Before his removal, Crosby had been investigated for being “[v]olatile,” “explosive,” “disrespectful,” “very condescending,” and “out of control.” The report included an allegation that Crosby stated that the Associate Dean for Research had been appointed “because she is a woman, genitalia” and contained claims that the Department’s performance was suffering as a result of Crosby’s temper and hostility toward other departments. The University declined Crosby’s request to handle his appeal under a proposed Governing Regulation and stated that existing regulations would apply. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of his claims.Crosby identified no statute, formal contract, or contract implied from the circumstances that supports his claim to a protected property interest in his position as Chair; “the unlawfulness” of the defendants’ actions was not apparent “in the light of pre-existing law,” so they were entitled to qualified immunity. View "Crosby v. University of Kentucky" on Justia Law

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An unidentified individual alleged that Doe had engaged in nonconsensual sexual activities with a female University of Kentucky student. After an investigation, a Hearing Panel found that Doe had violated the Code of Student Conduct and assessed a one-year suspension. The University Appeals Board (UAB), reversed, finding violations of Doe’s due process rights and the Code of Student Conduct because Simpson, Director of the Office of Student Conduct, withheld critical evidence and witness questions from the Panel. After a second hearing, the Panel again found Doe had violated the policy. The UAB reversed, finding due process errors, including improper partitioning of Doe and his advisors from the student, denying Doe the “supplemental proceeding” described in the Code, and ex parte communications between the student, Simpson, and the Panel. A third hearing was scheduled, but Doe sought an injunction, citing 42 U.S.C. 1983, and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act, 20 U.S.C. 1681. Defendants argued that any constitutional problems would be cured in the third hearing, with new procedures. The court granted Defendants’ request that the court abstain from providing injunctive relief under Younger and held that Simpson was entitled to qualified immunity. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the abstention decision, reversed as to Simpson, and instructed the court to stay the case pending completion of the University proceedings. View "Doe v. University of Kentucky" on Justia Law

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A preliminary injunction required the Highland School District Board to treat an 11-year old transgender special-needs student as a female and permit her to use the girls’ restroom. Highland moved to stay the injunction pending appeal and to file an appendix under seal. The Sixth Circuit granted the motion to file under seal only with respect to four exhibits that were filed under seal in the trial court. In denying a stay, the court noted the girl’s personal circumstances—her young age, mental health history, and unique vulnerabilities—and that her use of the girls’ restroom for over six weeks has greatly alleviated her distress. Maintaining the status quo in this case will protect the girl from the harm that would befall her if the injunction is stayed. Public interest weights strongly against a stay of the injunction; the protection of constitutional and civil rights is always in the public interest. View "Board of Education of Highland School v. Doe" on Justia Law

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J.G.’s mother, Gohl, enrolled J.G. (age 3) in the Webster School Moderate Cognitive Impairment Program. During the year, his teacher,Turbiak, a 12-year special education teacher, faced criticism that she was overly harsh. It was reported that she pushed on children’s shoulders, once force-fed a gagging and crying student, and lifted children by one arm. During a meeting with Principal Moore, Turbiak admitted that she was “stressed out.” Although Moore told Turbiak not to do so, Turbiak called a meeting to find out who had complained. Turbiak’s co-workers returned to Moore, fearing retaliation. Turbiak was sent home for a few days and warned to be more professional, or face disciplinary action. The letter did not accuse Turbiak of abusing students. For four months, no one reported any problems. Then a social worker saw Turbiak “grab [J.G.] by the top of his head and jerk it back quite aggressively.” Turbiak claimed she was using a “redirecting” technique to focus J.G.’s attention after he threw a toy. A special education teacher familiar with this technique thought this sounded reasonable and returned Turbiak to her classroom. After a subsequent investigation, the district placed Turbiak on administrative leave. Gohl sued on J.G.’s behalf. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants; Gohl did not sufficiently allege violation of the Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the Rehabilitation Act. View "Gohl v. Livonia Pub. Schs." on Justia Law

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Binno, a legally blind individual, unsuccessfully applied for admission to law schools. He then filed suit against the American Bar Association (ABA), under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), claiming that his lack of success was due to a discriminatory admissions test “mandated” by the ABA. Thar examination, the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is used by nearly all U.S. law schools. Binno claimed that the LSAT's questions have a discriminatory effect on the blind and visually impaired because a quarter of those questions “require spatial reasoning and visual diagramming for successful completion.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the complaint, concluding that Binno does not have standing to sue the ABA because his injury was not caused by the ABA and because it is unlikely that his injury would be redressed by a favorable decision against the ABA. The LSAT is written, administered, and scored by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), which is not part of the ABA. The LSAC provides ADA accommodations (42 U.S.C. 12189) for persons with disabilities who wish to take the LSAT. The law schools to which he applied, not the ABA, determine what weight, if any, to give Binno’s LSAT score. View "Binno v. Am. Bar Ass'n" on Justia Law

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OSU hired Szeinbach in 1999 as a tenured professor in the College of Pharmacy, which then included doctors Vazquez (of Spanish origin) and Balkrishnan (of Indian origin). In 2005-2006, Szeinbach allegedly observed Balkrishnan and others discriminate against Seoane and that Balkrishnan favored Indian students. Szeinbach emailed the dean, stating that an evaluation of Seoane was “intentionally very biased.” Seoane filed an EEOC charge. Szeinbach later alleged that she had supported Seoane’s efforts by providing a copy of her email to the dean. She filed an internal complaint, alleging retaliation for her support of Seoane. In 2007 Balkrishnan wrote to the Primary Care Respiratory Journal, claiming that an article that Szeinbach had published was nearly identical to an article that Szeinbach had published in 2005. Balkrishnan sent similar correspondence to the dean and others and filed an internal complaint. A Committee concluded that Szeinbach’s use of and failure to cite her 2005 article demonstrated the “poorest of scholarly practices,” but closed its investigation. Balkrishnan continued to pursue the matter and, in a faculty meeting, called Szeinbach a “bitch.” In her suit for discrimination and retaliation under Title VII, the jury awarded her $300,000 in damages for emotional suffering and harm to her professional reputation and $213,368 to account for income that Szeinbach allegedly would have earned absent OSU’s illegal conduct. The court reduced Szeinbach’s damages by $213,368. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding her evidence “wholly speculative.” View "Szeinbach v. Ohio State Univ." on Justia Law

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DS attended Rutledge School, 2010-2012 as a seventh and eighth grader, where he was was involved in several verbal and physical altercations with other students. DS and his mother repeatedly complained to school officials that other students were bullying DS. School officials investigated these complaints, disciplined the students found culpable, and took other proactive measures such as placing DS in different classes from his alleged harassers. Despite these efforts, DS continued to have problems with other students, culminating in an attack in the school bathroom that led DS to transfer to another school. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of a complaint alleging violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and deprivation of DS’s constitutional rights to equal protection and substantive due process under 42 U.S.C. 1983. There was no evidence concerning how the defendants treated other students—male or female, heterosexual or homosexual—who similarly complained about bullying. “The law does not require that [defendants] . . . have a pleasant demeanor” in responding to harassment, but only that they respond to it in a manner that is not clearly unreasonable; the defendants acted on DS’s complaints. There was no state-created danger, nor any special duty to protect. View "Stiles v. Grainger County, Tenn." on Justia Law

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The Frys’ daughter, E.F., suffers from cerebral palsy and was prescribed a service dog to assist her with everyday tasks. Her school, which provided her with a human aid as part of her Individualized Education Program (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 20 U.S.C. 1415) refused to permit her to bring her service dog to school. The Frys sued. The district court dismissed on the grounds that because the Frys’ claims necessarily implicated E.F.’s IEP, the IDEA’s exhaustion provision required the Frys to exhaust IDEA administrative procedures prior to bringing suit under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the IDEA exhaustion provision does not apply because the Frys did not seek relief provided by IDEA procedures. Because the specific injuries the Frys allege are essentially educational, they are exactly the sort of injuries the IDEA aims to prevent, so the IDEA’s exhaustion requirement applies to the Frys’ claims. View "Fry v. Napoleon Cmty. Schs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law