When is an apparent legal victory for protesting students not really a victory? When their lawyers fail to win an award of attorneys' fees. A federal appeals court has ruled that students who challenged their suspension for walking out of school to join a budget protest were not prevailing parties, even though a federal district judge sympathized with them and suggested he would grant the orders and injunction they sought. The trouble is, the judge never actually issued the temporary restraining order or injunction, the appeals court said. The case stems from a 2004 incident in which students walked out ...


The U.S. Supreme Court took up an age-discrimination case today with potential importance for the employment practices of schools. The issue in Gross v. FBL Financial Services Inc. (Case No. 08-441) is whether a plaintiff suing under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act must present direct evidence of bias to obtain a "mixed-motive" jury instruction. Such an instruction is potentially advantageous to plaintiffs because it shifts the burden of proof to employers to show there was a legitimate reason for an adverse job action in addition to any discriminatory ones. The justices ruled in a 2003 case, Desert ...


The Obama administration has filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court that backs efforts to bring about greater funding for English-language learners in Arizona public schools. The administration filed the friend-of-the-court brief in Horne v. Flores (Case No. 08-289) on the side of the state of Arizona and parents in the community of Nogales in a long-running case over how much funding the state must provide for English learners under a federal civl rights law. In an unusally divisive split within a state government, the state and the Arizona state board of education are lined up on one ...


Catching up with some developments of the week: School Vouchers: The Arizona Supreme Court struck down two voucher programs as violating the state constitution's prohibition against appropriating money for private or religious schools. The court's March 25 decision in Cain v. Horne, which concerns voucher programs for students with disabilities and for children in foster care, is here.The Arizona Republic reports here. The decision is the latest evidence that despite voucher proponents' 2002 victory in the U.S. Supreme Court in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the opponents of vouchers have many state constitutional arguments to pursue. End to Single-Sex Classes: ...


Here's a case with lessons for school administrators, especially when a school incident has grown into a national news story. And it has even greater lessons for the news media when it comes to verifying the facts about controversial incidents in schools. At a middle school in Lewiston, Maine, in April 2007, a student placed a bag containing ham on a cafeteria table where some Muslim students from Somalia were eating lunch. Muslims, of course, do not eat any form of pork, and the gesture offended the Somali students. They said it reminded them of an earlier incident in Lewiston ...


The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear the appeal of a California mother who objected on religious grounds to a state-run Web site designed to counter concerns about teaching evolution. The mother, Jeanne E. Caldwell of Roseville, Calif., alleged in a lawsuit that the Web site Understanding Evolution endorses the view that the theory of evolution is compatible with religion and disapproves of views such as her own that the two are incompatible. The Web site is operated by the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the National Center for Science Education, and was initially funded by ...


A school district may consider neighborhood demographics when assigning students to school, a California state appellate court has ruled. The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal is a victory for the student assignment plan of the Berkeley Unified School District. And it upholds a race-conscious assignment plan that doesn't rely on any individual's student's racial background. "To the extent that any preference is given to a student, it is on the basis of several factors relating to the collective composition of the student’s neighborhood (household income, education level, and race), not the student’s...


A federal appeals court has upheld a 2003 Texas law that requires a daily moment of silence in schools for students to "reflect, pray, or meditate." The law amended and earlier state statute that had merely permitted school districts to observe a moment of silence and did not mention prayer as an acceptable way for students to pass the time. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, on March 16 agreed with a federal district court in rejecting a First Amendment challenge to the law. Noting that the amended law ...


The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 affects school districts at their political foundation--the election of school board members. A U.S. Supreme Court decision this week could make it slightly harder for minority candidates to win election to school boards. Meanwhile, a separate case the justices are taking up this term could have a bit of impact on school districts that face special "preclearance" requirements under the voting-rights law. In a case decided on Monday, the justices ruled that law can only be used to help minorities elect their preferred candidates when the minority group members make up at ...


A federal district judge has issued a preliminary injunction barring a Florida school district from refusing to recognize a gay-straight student alliance. Administrators at Yulee High School in the Nassau County school district had argued that the club could be disruptive and that its message would violate Florida education policy encouraging sexual abstinence. Court papers indicate the district also objected to the group's proposed name: the Gay-Straight Alliance. Names such as the Tolerance Club might be more acceptable. In the March 11 injunction, U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., indicated that he agreed with another ...


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