Articles Posted in Education Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint, based on subject matter jurisdiction, against the University, UT High School, and various school officials, alleging claims of racketeering and "gaslighting." Plaintiff alleged that UT High School's various policies and practices regarding grading and ranking knocked him out of the running for various scholarships and admissions into prestigious colleges, and that officials conspired to do so in order to gaslight, or cause psychological harm, to him. The court held that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity under the Eleventh Amendment, because UT High School is an instrumentality of the State of Texas that enjoys sovereign immunity. Plaintiff's claims against the remaining defendants were abandoned. View "Sissom v. University of Texas High School" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion that J.M., a fourth grade student, was eligible for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The court held that the district court's findings were well-supported, reasonable, and correct. Among other things, there were various reliable indicators of J.M.'s struggle in the general education environment where he failed his benchmark tests, teachers reported that he struggled with attention to task due to avoidance behaviors, he had difficulty producing written work, and displayed excessively high/low activity level. View "Lisa M. v. Leander Independent School District" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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This appeal arose from the district court's 2017 decision to grant "provisional" unitary status to the school system in the area of facilities. The district court set a two-year year probationary period, during which it would retain jurisdiction over that aspect of the desegregation order and the school district would face semiannual compliance reviews. At the end of the two years, the district court would then consider an "unconditional" grant of unitary status in facilities. The school board appealed. The court held that the Youngblood procedure, requiring a probationary period before final dismissal of a desegregation case, is a longstanding practice in this circuit. The court rejected the school board's legal challenge to the Youngblood procedure and held that a district court has long had discretion to impose a Youngblood period, and the school board cited nothing that would allow the court to depart from this settled law. The court also held that the district court did not clearly err by determining that the school board came up a bit short of demonstrating good faith compliance and that a two year probationary period was necessary in this case. View "Moore v. Tangipahoa Parish School Board" on Justia Law

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A former student filed suit against the school district for violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, alleging that the school district was deliberately indifferent to her alleged sexual harassment and that the school district retaliated against her by withholding Title IX protections. The district court granted in part and denied in part the school district's motion for summary judgment. At issue on appeal was the deliberate indifference claim. The Fifth Circuit rejected plaintiff's contention that the question of whether a school district acted with deliberate indifference generally should be decided by a jury. The court held that summary judgment in the school district's favor was appropriate because there was no genuine dispute that the school district was not deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's claims of harassment. The court rejected plaintiff's claim that allowing deliberate-indifference claims to be resolved by jury deliberations served the underlying purpose of discouraging gender-based discrimination. View "I.F. v. Lewisville Independent School District" on Justia Law

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Parents of C.J. filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), alleging that the school district failed to provide him with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the school district and rejected parents' claim that the school district's refusal to provide Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) services denied C.J. a FAPE where parents could not meaningfully claim that C.J.'s individualized education plan (IEP) was predetermined; the district court did not clearly err by finding that sufficient notice of C.J.'s eligibility for summer school classes was provided; in light of the facts, the school district did not deny C.J. a FAPE by failing to protect him from bullying; and C.J.'s transition plan did not deny him a FAPE. View "Renee J. v. Houston Independent School District" on Justia Law

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E.R. has a history of life-threatening, non-convulsive, seizures, manifested by minor changes in her personality. The seizures must be timely treated by activating an implanted vagus-nerve stimulator and administering a Diastat suppository within two minutes. E.R. has permanently implanted shunts in her head that could fail, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a speech impairment, and impaired concentration. E.R. is globally developmentally delayed with an IQ of 51, and her medicines affect her ability to progress academically. E.R.’s academic years were based on individualized education plans (IEPs), developed by the school district (SBISD) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1414(d). After disputes with SBISD, E.R.’s parents removed her from SBISD and enrolled E.R. in private school, asserting SBISD had denied E.R. the IDEA-required free appropriate public education. They sought tuition reimbursement. The hearing officer, the district court, and the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of SBISD. The Fifth Circuit did not reach whether the district court was required to allow E.R.’s requested additional evidence because E.R. failed to brief how the claimed error affected a substantial right. E.R. failed to produce evidence that her IEP goals were too easy, or that she was capable of doing more. SBISD’s actions were procedurally and substantively reasonable. View "E. R. v. Spring Branch Independent School District" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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After the Department of Education issued a proposed determination that Texas was ineligible for $33.3 million of future grants because of the shortfall in both aggregate and per capita state funding, the state argued that it had complied with the "maintenance of state financial support" (MFS) requirement because funding under a weighted-student model had remained constant. The Fifth Circuit denied Texas' petition for review and held that the weighted-student model contravenes the plain meaning of the MFS clause. The court explained that, under the weighted-student model, Texas may reduce the amount of funding for special education if it determines that the needs of children with disabilities have changed. In this case, Texas violated the plain requirements of the MFS clause by doing so and was therefore ineligible for the corresponding amount of future Individuals and Disabilities Education Act Part B grants. Finally, the MFS clause did not exceed Congress's spending power by failing to provide sufficiently clear notice of its requirements. View "Texas Education Agency v. United States Department of Education" on Justia 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