June 2008 Archives

With the U.S. Supreme Court ruling 5-4 today that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a gun unconnected to a militia, I thought I'd point out the lengthy decision's few references to schools. In his opinion for the 5-4 majority in District of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia has a passage stressing that the ruling "should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing ...


A federal appeals court has ruled that two small Texas school districts do not have to comply with restrictions on student transfers under a broad 1970 desegregation order because those districts had desegregated voluntarily in the 1960s and were not defendants in the original lawsuit. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, issued the decision June 24 in Samnorwood Independent School District v. Texas Education Agency . The 112-student Samnorwood district and the 101-student Harrold Independent School District, both in the Texas Panhandle, had been required by the TEA to comply ...


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 today that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments bars the imposition of the death penalty for the rape of a child. While the decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana (Case No. 07-343) does not directly implicate the school and institutional sex-abuse scandals of the last decade, there are some points in the majority and minority opinions that bear discussion from that perspective. In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy notes that the rape of a child, such as that of the 8-year-old victim in this case by her stepfather, is ...


A California appeals court heard new arguments on Monday in a closely watched case on home schooling. The Los Angeles Times reports here that advocates for home-schooling urged the court to "overturn a decision that severely restricted the ability of California parents to educate their children at home." Although as I understand it, the same appellate court that issued this controversial Feb. 28 ruling withdrew it when the judges agreed to hear new arguments. I blogged on the ruling here and here, and Education Week wrote about it here. I've tracked down links to some of the briefs filed in ...


A federal appeals court ruled today that a South Carolina school district did not violate the free-speech rights of a local citizen when it denied him access to its Web site and other communications outlets he had sought to use to counter the district's own message of opposition to a bill in the state legislature. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Va., held that Lexington County School District No. 1 was engaged in government speech when it used its Web site, e-mail system, and other means in 2004 and 2005 ...


The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear the appeal of a former high school student who filed a constitutional challenge to being paddled in a public school. The case was one of three school cases the justices declined to hear as its 2007-08 term winds down. The court also declined to step into a long-running lawsuit challenging the impact of New York state's teacher test on minority teachers in the New York City school system. And it refused to hear the appeal of a special education case from Wisconsin. In the corporal-punishment appeal, Serafin v. School of Excellence ...


A few odds and ends at the end of the week: California Homeschool Case Returns:The homeschooling case that caused a major stir earlier this year is scheduled for reargument before a California appeals court on Monday, according to Liberty Counsel. The organization has this press release and has filed this friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of several members of Congress. I haven't been able to confirm the argument date on the Web site of the California courts, but I don't have any reason to doubt Liberty Counsel. The court sent shock waves through the home-schooling community when it ruled that ...


In a victory for employees, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that employers bear the burden of persuasion in court in certain cases in which job actions have a disparate impact on older workers. Meanwhile, in another decision under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the court ruled against a Kentucky worker by holding that certain disparities in that state's public-employee retirement system do not violate the federal law. Both cases were being watched by education groups. In Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (Case No. 06-1505), the justices ruled 7-1 that an employer defending a disparate-impact ...


A federal district judge has upheld the U.S. Department of Education's regulations on "highly qualified" teachers under the No Child Left Behind Act. The judge rejected a legal challenge that said the rules permitted teachers in training under alternative-certification programs to be labeled as "highly qualified" under the law. "By failing to define the phrase 'full state certification as a teacher (including certification obtained through alternative routes to certification),' Congress gave the secretary [of education] the discretion to clarify what the statute permits," U.S. District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton of San Francisco said in her June 17 ...


Four years ago on Wednesday, Jessica Serafin was paddled by her San Antonio charter school principal for breaking a school rule. Serafin was just a few days past her 18th birthday, making her an adult, and she says in court papers she did not consent to being struck three times by a wooden paddle called "Ole Thunder" after she went off campus to buy breakfast. She sued the school, but has lost so far. Corporal punishment in schools remains legal in 22 states, according to court papers filed on behalf of the charter school, the School of Excellence in Education. ...


The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear the appeal of two Massachussetts parents who were seeking damages from their school district for alleged retaliation for advocating for their children with disabilities. The parents, Catherine Burke and Mikael Rolfhamre, alleged in their lawsuit that the Brookline, Mass., school district retaliated against them for pressing their children's rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The parents alleged that the district spread damaging rumors, made excessive demands for medical records, and limited access to independent evaluators. The IDEA ...


Folks, Education Week has been installing a new editorial-software system over the last few weeks, and its many glitches have not given me as much time to blog as I would have liked. Things are slowly getting better. Here are some short takes in school law this week: Edweek Update: In next week's issue of Education Week, I have this story about the U.S. Supreme Court's grant of an appeal dealing with Title IX and Section 1983. I blogged about the grant here on Monday. I will also have this story about the court's decision in Engquist v. Oregon ...


The U.S. Supreme Court sided with public employers in a decision today that will restrict workers from suing over alleged job discrimination based on arbitrary or vindicative reasons aimed just at them. The court's decision was 6-3 in Engquist v. Oregon Department of Agriculture (Case No. 07-474). The issue before the justices in the case involved whether public employees may press federal lawsuits under the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause when an adverse job action is based on subjective or malicious reasons targeted only at them. Such a suit is called a “class of one” claim. In the majority ...


The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it would take up an appeal examining whether Title IX provides the exclusive legal remedy for cases of sex discrimination in public schools. The court will seek to settle a split in the federal appeals courts over whether an older, broader federal civil rights law, known as Section 1983, also provides a basis for lawsuits alleging sex discrimination in education. Lawyers for a Massachusetts family argued in an appeal that claims under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 "are subject to very real limitations." For example, the Supreme Court has ...


In a decision with implications for school districts in many parts of the country, a federal court has upheld the extension by Congress of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A special three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court in Washington unanimously upheld the 25-year extension of the voting-rights law's Section 5, which requires federal approval for any changes in election procedures in specified states and counties with a history of discrimination in voting on the basis of race or language-minority status. The provision requires federal approval, or "preclearance," typically by the U.S. Department ...


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