The Miami-Dade County, Fla., school board did not violate the First Amendment when it removed a children's book about Cuba from the shelves of school libraries, a federal appeals court has ruled. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, ruled 2-1 to overturn the ruling of a federal district judge. The majority and dissenting opinions total 177 pages in the case about a book that is only 26 sentences long. The book is ¡Vamos a Cuba!, or A Visit to Cuba, part of a series of books about countries for 4- to ...


A federal appeals court heard arguments this week over a Texas law requiring a daily moment of silence in schools. The statute calls for a daily one-minute period in which "each student may, as the student chooses, reflect, pray, meditate, or engage in any other silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student." A federal district judge in Dallas upheld the law, ruling last year that despite the mention of prayer as an option, the statute had the secular purpose of providing "a period of time for the full panoply of thoughtful contemplation." A Carrollton, ...


A Missouri school district did not violate the First Amendment when it prohibited students from displaying Confederate flags, a federal appeals court has ruled. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in St. Louis, ruled unanimously in favor of the Farmington school district on Jan. 30. "The record in this case contains evidence of likely racially motivated violence, racial tension, and other altercations directly related to adverse race relations in the community and the school," the court said in B.W.A. v. Farmington R-7 School District. "Because the school could reasonably forecast ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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