Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Education Law

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Plaintiff, T.M.'s mother, filed suit against the County and others after T.M., a middle school student, was arrested for a fight on school property, taken to a juvenile detention center, and subjected to a strip and cavity search. Plaintiff alleged, inter alia, that the strip and cavity search violated T.M.'s Fourth Amendment rights. The district court granted partial summary judgment for the County on the Fourth Amendment claim. The court applied the deferential test in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders because the deference given to correctional officials in the adult context applies to correctional officials in the juvenile context as well. Applying Florence, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to make a substantial showing that the Center's search policy is an exaggerated or otherwise irrational response to the problem of Center security. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Mabry v. Lee County" on Justia Law

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The Board appeals the district court's order doubling the compensation of Donald Massey, the part-time Court Compliance Officer (CCO). Massey monitors the integration efforts of the Tangipahoa Parish School System. The court concluded that it has jurisdiction to hear this appeal under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1). On the merits, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in relying on the information that Massey provided in calculating his salary, and the district court did not abuse its discretion by crediting Massey with time spent working as a CCO when many of the tasks that Massey reported to have performed were outside the scope of his duties and responsibilities as a CCO. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Moore v. Tangipahoa Parish School Board" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that defendants violated her constitutional rights when she was required to participate in a mock performance of the Mexican Pledge of Allegiance. The district court entered summary judgment on some of plaintiff's claims and, after trial, entered judgment as a matter of law for defendants. The court concluded that, because plaintiff has graduated from high school, her only surviving claim is for nominal damages arising from the alleged violation of her rights; plaintiff failed to demonstrate the existence of an official policy or that the District had knowledge of the assignment, and thus judgment as a matter of law was proper for the District on municipal liability for any constitutional violation that may have arisen from the assignment or subsequent actions; the court's ruling also applies to the claims against the District for retaliation and violation of Equal Protection; qualified immunity was properly granted to Defendants Santos and Cavazos on the claim they violated plaintiff's First Amendment rights when they removed plaintiff from class; and, likewise, plaintiff's equal protection claim fails. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Brinsdon v. McAllen I.S.D." on Justia Law

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Parents of a severely disabled child (T.R.) prevailed in a suit against the school district where the child was abused by his special education teacher. A jury awarded a substantial verdict and the school district challenged the verdict, alleging that the parents are not the proper parties to file suit. In this case, the victim was a minor when the challenged conduct occurred but turned 18 by the time of trial; his disability rendered him incompetent even after he reached majority; a bank had been appointed to serve as his guardian; and that same bank oversaw a trust that paid for the minor’s medical bills. The court concluded that the parents have Article III standing to directly seek past medical expenses and to seek future home care expenses on behalf of T.R.; the Bank, as guardian, should have filed suit to recover the claims T.R. would otherwise possess - those for future home care expenses, physical pain and anguish, and impairment - by suing in their name on his behalf; the Bank owed a fiduciary duty to T.R., and absent a showing of conflict, the parents could not circumvent the Bank by filing suit on T.R.'s behalf; the court found that the district court's refusal to allow ratification of the parents' actions was an abuse of discretion because nothing in the text of Federal Rule 17(a)(3) or the court's decisions applying it supports the district court's decision; and federal statutes at issue do not authorize recovery for the parents' mental anguish based on the mistreatment of their son. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Rideau v. Keller Indep. Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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Parents of a severely disabled child (T.R.) prevailed in a suit against the school district where the child was abused by his special education teacher. A jury awarded a substantial verdict and the school district challenged the verdict, alleging that the parents are not the proper parties to file suit. In this case, the victim was a minor when the challenged conduct occurred but turned 18 by the time of trial; his disability rendered him incompetent even after he reached majority; a bank had been appointed to serve as his guardian; and that same bank oversaw a trust that paid for the minor’s medical bills. The court concluded that the parents have Article III standing to directly seek past medical expenses and to seek future home care expenses on behalf of T.R.; the Bank, as guardian, should have filed suit to recover the claims T.R. would otherwise possess - those for future home care expenses, physical pain and anguish, and impairment - by suing in their name on his behalf; the Bank owed a fiduciary duty to T.R., and absent a showing of conflict, the parents could not circumvent the Bank by filing suit on T.R.'s behalf; the court found that the district court's refusal to allow ratification of the parents' actions was an abuse of discretion because nothing in the text of Federal Rule 17(a)(3) or the court's decisions applying it supports the district court's decision; and federal statutes at issue do not authorize recovery for the parents' mental anguish based on the mistreatment of their son. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Rideau v. Keller Indep. Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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Parents of M.C. appealed the district court's denial of reimbursement for tuition in a private school under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. In this case, the parents adopted an all-or-nothing approach to the development of M.C.'s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) and they adamantly refused to consider any of the school district's alternative proposals. The court affirmed the district court's denial of reimbursement because the district court’s findings and the underlying record support the conclusion that M.C.’s parents acted unreasonably in unilaterally terminating the process of developing M.C.’s IEP. View "Rockwall Indep. Sch. Dist. v. M. C." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of their minor son seeking attorneys' fees under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act's (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1415(i)(3)(B), fee-shifting provision. The district court held that plaintiffs were the prevailing party by virtue of having obtained a “stay-put” order under the IDEA and awarded plaintiffs attorneys’ fees. The court held that plaintiffs are not the prevailing party by virtue of having invoked the IDEA's stay-put provision and the court concluded that its holding is consistent with several other circuit courts that have addressed the issue. Contrary to the district court’s conclusion, the ALJ’s stay-put order was not a ruling on the merits; nor is the stay-put order a “similar form of judicially sanctioned relief” sufficient to confer prevailing party status; the court disagreed with the district court’s reasoning that the stay-put order was essentially a preliminary injunction and that pursuant to the court's case law in this context, plaintiffs were entitled to attorneys’ fees; and, in Davis v. Abbott, the court recently reiterated the importance of a party having achieved relief on the merits for the purposes of determining prevailing party status in the context of interlocutory injunctive relief. Accordingly, the court reversed and rendered judgment for defendants. View "Tina M. v. St. Tammany Parish Sch. Bd." on Justia Law

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Parents of Seth B., a child diagnosed with autism, obtained an independent educational evaluation (IEE) and sought reimbursement. The district court subsequently ruled that the reimbursement was not warranted. The court concluded that the school board did not waive its right to refuse reimbursement and the proceedings before the district court were procedurally sound; the application of Bulletin 1508 did not violate the right to an IEE in this case; the court remanded for analysis under a substantial compliance standard where Seth’s IEE will “meet agency criteria” and merit reimbursement if it substantially complies with Bulletin 1508; but Parents will not be entitled to the full cost of the evaluation they obtained because they knew of the school board's cost cap of $3,000 and yet spent over $8,000. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "Seth B. v. Orleans Parish Sch. Bd." on Justia Law

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In a first appeal, the court reversed summary judgment in favor of the Board, holding that material fact issues surrounded the discriminatory purpose and effect of the Board’s adoption of a redistricting plan that concentrated economically disadvantaged students in a majority-nonwhite school district. On remand, the district court entered judgment for the Board. The court affirmed the judgment, concluding that the district court did not err in concluding that Option 2f does not make express racial classifications and so is not subject to strict scrutiny on that basis. Option 2f employed several means to shift the student population among the east bank schools. The court rejected plaintiff's alternative theory that, despite Option 2f’s facial neutrality, the redistricting plan’s funneling feature is nevertheless subject to strict scrutiny because it had both a discriminatory purpose and a discriminatory effect. The court agreed with the district court's conclusion that rational basis review is satisfied as to the equal protection claim and the court rejected plaintiff's remaining claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Board. View "Lewis, Sr. v. Ascension Parish Sch. Bd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq., seeking attorneys' fees after she proved in an administrative hearing that a school district had violated her child’s right to a free appropriate public education by repeatedly placing him in isolation during school hours. The court concluded that the district court erred in applying section 1415(i)(2)(B)’s limitations period to this action for attorneys’ fees under the IDEA by a party that prevailed at the administrative level. Because the statute contains no limitations period for such actions, the district court should have borrowed one from state law. The court held that the limitations period for such an action does not begin to run until the time for seeking judicial review of the underlying administrative decision passes, and that plaintiff’s action was timely under any limitations period that could be borrowed. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "D.G. v. New Caney Indep. Sch. Dist." on Justia Law