February 2008 Archives

A federal appeals court says an Illinois family offered "absolutely no evidence to support their theory" that they faced retaliation for the parents raising concerns about their daughter's treatment by the high school softball coach. In fact, the panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, in Chicago, ordered the parents to explain why they shouldn't be held responsible for the attorneys' fees of the defendants, which included the softball coach and principal of Morton Community High School, and the superintendent and school board members of Morton Community Unit School District 709 in suburban Chicago. The ...


A public college in California has fired a math teacher after six weeks on the job because she altered her mandatory state Oath of Allegiance form, the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting. California State University-East Bay took the action against Marianne Kearney-Brown, a Quaker graduate student who was teaching remedial math on the campus, because she inserted the word "nonviolently" in front of the oath's language calling on her to swear or affirm that she would "support and defend" the state and U.S. constitutions "against all enemies, foreign and domestic," the newspaper reports. The oath is required of all ...


Over at the Edjurist Accord, Justin Bathon has been the first to tip me off to a potential scandal involving school lawyers in New York state. As the blog notes, Newsday has reported that one lawyer was listed as a full-time employee of five different school districts at the same time, allegedly accruing extensive state pension benefits when he in fact worked only part time for the districts as a private attorney. The lawyer, Lawrence Reich, has denied through his attorneys doing anything wrong or illegal and has suggested that the practice was widespread, Newsday reports. New York State Attorney ...


A federal appeals court today refused to allow the Missouri Charter Public School Association to intervene in the long-running desegregation lawsuit involving the Kansas City, Mo., school district. "The MCPSA sought to intervene nearly thirty years after the filing of suit, three years after final judgment was entered in the suit, four months after the motion for enforcement of judgments was filed, and eight days after the District Court entered judgment on the motion for enforcement of judgments," said the opinion for a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in St. Louis. "Intervention...


A federal appeals court has sided against a Maine parent's request to be reimbursed by a school district for several years worth of room, board, and travel expenses stemming from her son's enrollment in three out-of-state schools under a special education plan. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, in Boston, held in a Feb. 27 opinion that the school district "was under no affirmative obligation to bring to a head the issue of whether or not it should be responsible for non-tuition expenses." At stake in School Union No. 37 v. Ms. ...


My colleague David Hoff reports here in his NCLB: Act II blog that a coalition of civil rights groups has filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging a federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling that revived a major challenge to the No Child Left Behind Act as an unfunded federal mandate. The groups are joining the side of U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who earlier this month asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, to reconsider a ruling by a three-judge panel of the court in Pontiac School District v. Spellings. The ...


The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear appeals in two cases involving school districts. In the first, a Georgia father was seeking the justices' review of a case in which he alleges school officials ignored repeated complaints and warnings that a 5th grade teacher was sexually abusing young female students. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, ruled last year that a school principal and assistant principal were immune from the suit, and that the White County, Ga., school district was not liable under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 because ...


A federal appeals court has ruled that Arizona must comply with a lower-court ruling that says the state must do more to adequately fund instruction for English-language learners. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, issued its unanimous 91-page ruling late on Feb. 22 in Flores v. State of Arizona. The Associated Press reports on the decision here, and my Education Week colleague Mary Ann Zehr discusses the ruling in her Learning the Language blog here. Much of the ruling deals with the lengthy history of the lawsuit by families ...


In a significant decision in the security-conscious, post-Columbine era, a federal appeals court ruled today that video surveillance cameras installed in a middle school's locker rooms violate the Fourth Amendment privacy rights of students. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, ruled unanimously that students have a heightened expectation of privacy in areas of a school designated for them to change clothes. In its opinion in Brannum v. Overton County School Board, the court said: Given the universal understanding among middle school age children in this country that a school locker ...


The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear the appeal of a California school district in a controversy over a high school student's provocative newspaper editorial on immigration. The essay by Andrew D. Smith, who was a senior at Novato High School in 2001-02, was in the school's newspaper, The Buzz. The essay, which appeared Nov. 13, 2001, was titled "Immigration" and included several provocative assertions about Hispanics and immigrants, including: -- "I'll even bet that if I took a stroll through the Canal district in San Rafael that I would find a lot of people that would answer ...


A federal appeals court has ordered a lower court to reconsider its issuance of a preliminary injunction that barred the New York state education department from enforcing an emergency regulation against the use of "aversive interventions" for children with disabilities. The aversive therapies at the school at the center of the case include "skin shocks, 'contingent' food programs, and physical restraints," says the opinion by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, in New York City. The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center is in Canton, Mass., but it has served hundreds of students from ...


Public school officials may restrict speech disparaging homosexuality, a federal district judge has ruled. The Feb. 12 decision is the latest in a long-running case stemming from an incident in which a California high school student wore a T-shirt with hand-lettered messages that said, “Homosexuality is shameful. Romans 1:21,” and “Be ashamed." "In this court’s view, a school’s interest in protecting homosexual students from harassment is a legitimate pedagogical concern that allows a school to restrict speech expressing damaging statements about sexual orientation and limiting students to expressing their views in a positive manner," said the ruling ...


A federal appeals court has upheld a district court's finding that the Madison County, Miss., school district had achieved unitary status and thus could be released from decades of court supervision for its desegregation efforts. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, ruled unanimously on Feb. 11 in Anderson v. School Board of Madison County that the 11,000-student school system had "eliminated the vestiges of its former de jure segregated school system to the extent practicable." In 2005, at the time the district court was considering the Madison County ...


A federal appeals court today rejected a lawsuit by two Illinois school districts and four families that said the No Child Left Behind Act was in conflict with the main federal special education law. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, in Chicago, ruled unanimously in Board of Education of Ottawa Township High School District 140 v. Spellings that the "plaintiffs' claim is too weak to justify continued litigation." The Ottawa high school district, along with Ottawa Elementary School District 141 and the parents of four students in special education, had sued in ...


U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer told a conference in Hawaii that he and his fellow justices struggle so much with affirmative action cases because the nation holds two deeply ingrained but opposing views on the topic, according to this report in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. I noted in this post the other day that Justice Breyer planned to attend the symposium at the University of Hawaii law school on the Kamehameha Schools' policy of giving admissions preferences to Native Hawaiians. The Star-Bulletin notes that Justice Breyer "made it clear that he would not talk about the specifics of ...


I've heard about many states where school districts have sued their state over school finance formulas and the like. I had never heard of school districts suing their state supreme court, until now. The Idaho Statesman reports today that U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill of Boise has allowed a lawsuit filed by school districts against their state's highest court to proceed to trial. The districts sued the state high court after it ruled in 2005 that Idaho's school finance system was unconstitutional, but then allegedly refused to require the state to come up with a remedy. The federal ...


The federal government has filed its request for reconsideration of a federal appeals court ruling that revived a major challenge to the No Child Left Behind Act as an unfunded federal mandate. Lawyers filed papers on behalf of Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings asking the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, to reconsider last month's decision by a three-judge panel of the court in Pontiac School District v. Spellings. The secretary had announced late last week that such a request was coming. The 6th Circuit court panel ruled 2-1 on Jan. 7 that the ...


Two upcoming events in two distinctly different areas of the country will involve discussions on race and education. On Thursday, Feb. 7, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer will participate in a symposium in Hawaii that examines a legal challenge to the Kamehameha Schools' policy of giving admissions preferences to Native Hawaiians, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports. The private school, which enrolls 6,550 students on three campuses in Hawaii, last year settled a lawsuit brought on behalf of a white student who was denied admission to the school. The Kamehameha Schools had won a ruling in the U.S....


U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced today that the Bush administration will appeal a court ruling that revived a lawsuit which contends the No Child Left Behind Act is an unfunded federal mandate. Spellings said that U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, who is the top appellate lawyer in the Department of Justice, has authorized an appeal asking that the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, rehear the case of Pontiac School District v. Spellings. A panel of the 6th Circuit court ruled 2-1 on Jan. 7 that the states were ...


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