A school principal did not violate the First Amendment rights of a 5th grader when she barred him from distributing candy cane-shaped Christmas ornaments with an attached card promoting Christianity, a federal appeals court ruled today. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Detroit, ruled unanimously in Curry v. Hensinger to uphold qualified immunity for the principal of the Handley School in Saginaw, Mich. The student, Joel Curry, had sought to sell the "candy canes," which actually were pipe cleaners and beads shaped to look like the Christmas confection and meant as ...


This week marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, which gave school administrators sweeping authority to regulate student speech in school-sponsored publications and activities. In the Jan. 13, 1988, ruling, the court held 5-3 that the principal of Hazelwood East High School in suburban St. Louis did not violate the First Amendment rights of journalism students when he withheld publication of two pages of the student newspaper because of concerns he had about articles on divorce and teenage pregnancy. Justice Byron R. White wrote for the majority that "educators are entitled to ...


In a case being watched closely by teacher-retirement funds, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that a federal securities law does not allow fraud claims against third parties who did not directly mislead investors, even if they were business partners of companies that did so. The issues in Stoneridge Investment Partners LLC v. Scientific-Atlanta Inc. (Case No. 06-43) are pretty far afield from education law that affects the classroom. But the case drew friend-of-the-court briefs from the California State Teachers' Retirement System, the New York State Teachers' Retirement System, and the New York City Board of Education Retirement System, ...


The U.S. Supreme Court today declined review of an appeal involving special education services for preschoolers. The question in D.P. v. Broward County School Board (Case No. 07-613) was whether a 3-year-old who transitions from early-intervention services under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to preschool services under Part B of the law is entitled to continue receiving the early-intervention services until the completion of a review of the child's proposed preschool program. (That is a paraphrase that sticks very close to how the family's lawyers phrased it in their appeal to the high court.) ...


It's been a banner week for teachers' unions in the federal courts. On Monday, the National Education Association won a big federal appeals court ruling reviving its legal challenge to the No Child Left Behind Act. Now, the Utah Education Association, an NEA affiliate, has won a ruling that says a state law barring state and local public employers from withholding workers' voluntary political contributions violates the First Amendment. The UEA was joined by several other state public-employee unions in its challenge to the law. In the case of teachers, those voluntary contributions are typically designated for teachers' union political ...


This grant opportunity caught my eye: "The Courts and K-12 Education" is the inaugural theme for a new grant program for scholars by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The Fordham Scholars grant program will aim to assist advanced doctoral students and junior faculty members in such areas as economics, law, and political science. The announcement says "successful projects in this year's round will examine how the courts (state, federal, etc.) may affect the ability of educators, policymakers, and entrepreneurs to foster stronger pupil achievement; greater choices for families; more efficient school operations; promising innovations in curriculum, instruction, school organization and, ...


A federal judge has ruled that a rural Missouri school district's longstanding practice of allowing Gideon Bibles to be distributed to students is unconstitutional, the Associated Press reports. The judge's opinion says that both the South Iron R-1 school district's earlier policy allowing classroom Bible distribution and an amended policy allowing the distribution before and after school and during lunch breaks violates the First Amendment's prohibition against government establishment of religion....


In a case being watched by education groups, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments today on whether certain disparities in Kentucky's public-employee retirement system violate a federal age-discrimination law. By the end of the hourlong argument, it seemed clear that a majority of the justices disagreed with the position of the Bush administration, through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that Kentucky's system violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. The case arose because of the different ways the retirement system handles workers who retire for disability reasons and those who retire because they have served the ...


A case to be argued in the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday over state and local-governmental early-retirement programs has drawn the interest of education groups. In Kentucky Retirement Systems v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the justices are essentially weighing whether it is OK for age to be a factor in an early-retirement system. That may sound like it borders on the absurd, but at issue is whether Kentucky violates the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act by its disparate treatment of workers seeking disability retirement versus those seeking early retirement based on years of service. The National School Boards ...


The Associated Press is reporting that a company and a school district's test of putting electronic-tracking chips in students' backpacks is raising the hackles of the American Civil Liberties Union. According to the AP, the pilot test in the Middletown, R.I., district would put the so-called radio frequency identification (RFID) chips in or on the backpacks of some 80 students, as well as a global positioning system device on their schoolbuses. The main goal appears to be to track whether students are on the bus when they should be. The head of the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU ...


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