Articles Posted in Education Law

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A party is bound by the terms of a consent decree that it voluntarily entered. The Fifth Circuit mostly affirmed the district court's judgment finding that Delta had violated a consent decree requiring Delta to comply with a desegregation order that it had voluntarily entered into. In this case, the desegregation requirements arose out of and served to resolve a longstanding desegregation effort in Concordia Parish properly overseen by the district court; were within the scope of the case; and furthered the equal protection objectives of the original complaint. The court rejected Delta's alternative argument that the district court's order granting further relief exceeded its remedial authority. Finally, the court vacated a portion of the district court's order requiring Delta to obtain authorization before enrolling students from other parishes under separate desegregation orders. View "Smith v. School Board of Concordia Parish" on Justia Law

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A Louisiana charter school did not qualify for the "political subdivision" exemption of the National Labor Relations Act and was therefore subject to the Act. In this case, petitioners challenged the NLRB's finding that petitioners, Louisiana charter school operators, committed an unfair labor practice and ordered it to recognize and bargain with the union. The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that petitioners, like most other privately controlled employers, was subject to the Act because Louisiana chose to insulate its charters from the political process. View "Voices for International Business and Education, Inc. v. NLRB" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of attorneys' fees for plaintiff under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The court held that the hearing officer's decision did not make plaintiff a prevailing party under the IDEA and thus she was not entitled to attorneys' fees. In this case, the officer's decision effected no change to plaintiff's educational plan, which the officer agreed was entirely appropriate despite lacking a prior autism diagnosis. Furthermore, the IDEA focuses, not on a student's diagnostic label, but on whether the student received appropriate education services, which the officer found plaintiff had received from the school district. View "Lauren C. v. Lewisville Independent School District" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment upholding a hearing officer's decision that the school district deprived plaintiff, a high school student with a disability, of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) by failing to fulfill its Child Find duty in a timely manner. The court held that the district court did not reversibly err by concluding that taken together, the student's academic decline, hospitalization, and incidents of theft should have led the district to suspect her need for special education services by October 2014, at the latest. Therefore, the school district violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act's Child Find requirements by failing to identify, locate, and evaluate students with suspected disabilities within a reasonable time. The court also held that the student was a prevailing party entitled to attorneys' fees because she received a FAPE and thus achieved some of the benefit she sought in requesting the due process hearing. View "Krawietz v. Galveston Independent School District" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the Texas Constitution after an assistant principal ordered a mass, suspicionless strip search of twenty-two female students in the sixth grade choir. After $50 went missing, the assistant principal ordered that each student be strip searched by the school nurse. The court held that the complaint alleged a claim for municipal liability where the students were searched in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights; plaintiffs adequately alleged an official municipal policy on which section 1983 liability may rest where the school district failed to train its employees about their legal duties not to conduct unreasonable searches; and, to the extent the amended complaint plausibly alleged deliberate indifference, it also plausibly alleged causation. The court also held that the district court erred by dismissing the Texas cause of action for failure to state a claim. View "Littell v. Houston Independent School District" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of unitary status in the area of faculty and staff employment per a consent decree to monitor the school district's efforts to desegregate its school system. The court held that the school district complied with the consent decree in good faith and intervenors failed to show otherwise. The court also agreed with the district court that the school district has eliminated the vestiges of de jure discrimination in employment. View "United States v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), alleging that the school district did not offer her daughter a free appropriate public education (FAPE). On appeal, the school district challenged an award in favor of plaintiff. The Fifth Circuit held, without adopting the characterization that the district court created a new category of IDEA private school student, that the district court's order could not be supported based on a requirement of temporary services for transfer students; plaintiff took a financial gamble of not being reimbursed when she placed her daughter in a private school without first allowing the school district to seek to comply with its obligations under IDEA; and, although the district court failed to recognize the proper private school placement, that failure did not create a penalty beyond what otherwise would be owed. Because the district court erred by holding that the school district was obligated to provide temporary services and by ordering reimbursement of the costs associated with such services, the court reversed in part. The court affirmed the district court's holding that the school district failed to make a timely offer of FAPE, thereby making reimbursement an appropriate form of relief. The court remanded for the district court to determine the amount of reimbursement owed from April 24, 2014, to the end of the school year. View "Dallas Independent School District v. Woody" on Justia Law

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In this appeal stemming from the desegregation of the school district, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's rejection of the School Board's latest proposed candidate, approving instead the candidate supported by plaintiffs and the Court Compliance Officer. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in modifying the academic-qualifications requirement and the selection-and-approval process. The court also held that the district court did not err by denying the motion for relief from judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) where a candidate's role with the Ministerial Alliance did not justify holding that the district court abused its discretion in appointing the candidate as Chief Desegregation Implementation Officer (CDIO). View "Moore v. Tangipahoa Parish School Board" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied rehearing en banc, withdrew its prior opinion, and substituted this opinion. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as a matter of law for defendants on plaintiff's claim that defendants violated her constitutional rights by requiring her to participate in a mock performance of the Mexican Pledge of Allegiance as an assignment for her Spanish class. The court held that, because plaintiff has graduated from high school, her only surviving claim was for nominal damages arising from the alleged violation of her rights; judgment as a matter of law was proper for the District on municipal liability claims for any constitutional violation that may have arisen from the assignment or subsequent actions, as well as claims against the District for retaliation and violation of equal protection; qualified immunity on compelled speech was properly granted for the Spanish teacher and the principal; and qualified immunity was properly granted to the teacher and principal on claims that they violated plaintiff's First Amendment rights by removing her from class. View "Brinsdon v. McAllen Independent School District" on Justia Law

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After the University found that two former students violated the University's sexual misconduct policy, the students filed suit alleging that they were denied constitutional due process and were discriminated against in violation of Title IX. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the University and the individual defendants, holding that the students did not meet their summary judgment burden to demonstrate a genuine factual dispute that the process surrounding their disciplinary cases was constitutionally defective. The court rejected the students' allegations of selective enforcement and deliberate indifference. In this case, there was no sound basis for an inference of gender bias and the pleadings here did not meet the high standard of misconduct for deliberate indifference. View "Plummer v. University of Houston" on Justia Law