January 2009 Archives

Friday Roundup: Title VII, the Pledge of Allegiance, and Cheerleading

There were some pretty big school law developments this week: Title VII Retaliation: In a case involving a school district central office, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the main federal employment-discrimination law protects workers who faced retaliation for participating in an internal investigation. Justice David H. Souter said in an opinion for seven members of the high court in Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers a school system payroll specialist who complained about crude sexual conduct by her boss during an internal investigation launched ...


Friday Roundup: Football Coach Immunity, Confederate Flags, and Moment of Silence

After a long, busy weekend of inauguration events, bookended by Supreme Court news in education cases both last Friday (see my post here) and on Wednesday (see posts here, here, and here), there is still more school law news. Immunity in Football-Practice Death: A federal appeals court ruled today that three high school football coaches had qualified immunity from a lawsuit brought over the death of a player the morning after a workout session. The lawsuit alleges that at a voluntary workout session for the football team Rockdale County High School in Georgia in February 2007, three football coaches failed ...


Justices Ease Rule on Immunity Decisions for Public Officials

The U.S. Supreme Court today made it easier for judges to grant educators, the police, and other public officials immunity from lawsuits challenging their official actions. The court effectively overruled one of its own precedents that said judges determining whether government officials were entitled to "qualified immunity" must first decide whether a constitutional violation had even occured before turning to the immunity question. That "order of battle," from a 2001 case known as Saucier v. Katz, sparked criticism from federal judges and municipal governments, including school districts, which argued that courts were often forced to settle thorny constitutional questions ...


Justices Decline to Hear Pa. Home-Schoolers' Case

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear the appeals of several families in a challenge to Pennsylvania's record-keeping requirements for home-schooled children. The justices declined without comment to review an August ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, in Philadelphia, that the state's reporting requirements do not violate the families' First Amendment right of free exercise of religion. Under state law, parents who home school their children must provide instruction for a minimum number of days and hours in certain subjects and must submit a portfolio of teaching logs and the children’s ...


Supreme Court Backs Broad Reading of Title IX

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that Title IX does not bar victims of sex discrimination in schools from pursuing claims under an older federal civil rights law. The decision in Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee (Case No. 07-1125) is a victory for parents of a Massachusetts student who as a kindergartner was subject to sexual harassment by an older student on her bus. The parents can now pursue claims under the federal statute known as Section 1983, a Reconstruction-era law that allows plaintiffs to sue any individual who violates their civil rights under color of law. In ...


Supreme Court to Review Special Education, Strip-Search Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to add two more education cases to its docket for this term—one involving special education and the other stemming from a lawsuit over the strip-search of a middle school student by school officials looking for over-the-counter or prescription drugs. In the special education case, the justices will return to an issue they deadlocked over in their last term: Whether parents in a special education dispute with a school district may be reimbursed for “unilaterally” placing their child in a private school when that child has never received special education services from the ...


Roundup: Religion, Truancy, and Bus Drivers' Unions

A bit of a mix today. Religion in Public Schools: A federal district judge has ordered a Florida school district to stop promoting religion by sponsoring prayers at graduation ceremonies and other practices. U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers of Pensacola, Fla., issued a preliminary injunction on Jan. 9 ordering the Santa Rosa County school district to end practices such as sponsoring prayers at school-sponsored events, sponsoring off-campus baccalaureate services, and permitting teachers and other school personnel to promote their personal religious beliefs in the classroom or at other school events. The school district in December had admitted liability ...


Supreme Court Declines Appeal Over Abortion Display at School

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined the appeals of an assistant principal and a sheriff's department stemming from a lawsuit that challenged their handling of a graphic abortion display near a California middle school. The justices declined without comment to review a federal appeals court ruling that the assistant principal and sheriff's deputies violated the First Amendment rights of members of an anti-abortion group by ordering them to stop driving a truck displaying large, graphic images of aborted fetuses around Dodson Middle School in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. The suit stems from a March 24, 2003, incident when a ...


Supreme Court to Weigh Ariz. Case on English-Language Learners

The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to step into a long-running lawsuit in Arizona over funding for services to English-language learners. The justices accepted appeals from legislative leaders and the state superintendent of lower-court rulings that Arizona was not adequately funding ELL programs under federal law. A federal judge has ordered the state legislature to increase funding for such programs or else face fines of as much as $2 million per day. “Arizona needs this court’s help to return control over the funding of Arizona’s school programs to here it rightly belongs—out of the hands of ...


The School Law Blog is 1 Year Old Today

Today is the anniversary of the launch of The School Law Blog. It was an auspicious day on Jan. 7, 2008, because a federal appeals court issued a major ruling about the No Child Behind Act that day, just the kind of big school law news I was hoping for. My blog post about the NCLB ruling from that day is here, and the latest post on that case, which was reheard en banc last month by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, is here. Meanwhile, Education Week is releasing its annual Quality Counts report today, ...


Court Revives Title IX Peer-Harassment Case Against District

A federal appeals court today revived a Title IX lawsuit alleging that administrators of a Michigan school district were deliberately indifferent to a years-long pattern of sexual harassment against a male student by his peers. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, ruled 2-1 to restore the suit against the Hudson, Mich., area school district and Superintendent Kathy Malnar, overturning a summary judgment in their favor by a federal district court. The majority in Patterson v. Hudson Area Schools said a jury should be given the chance to decide whether the ...


Post-Holiday Roundup: Tuition, Journalism, and Drug Testing

The holidays are over and it's time to catch up with some school law developments of recent days: In-State Tuition for Immigrants: The California Supreme Court will take up a case involving a challenge to a state law that permits undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities, the Los Angeles Times reports. The challenge was brought by out-of-state students who pay more than triple what in-state students pay at University of California and California State campuses, the paper reports. Under the 2001 state law, "illegal immigrant students qualify for in-state rates if they attended a ...


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