April 2009 Archives

The U.S. Supreme Court today took up a major case involving the Voting Rights Act of 1965, with the justices debating whether Congress had the right in 2006 to extend a key section that subjects certain states and counties to greater scrutiny for discrimination in voting procedures. The case has implications for school districts in any of the states covered by Section 5 of the voting-rights law. Under that section, the states and local governments must get federal approval, or "preclearance," of any change in voting procedure. For affected school districts, that typically involves changes in district boundaries for ...


A special education case in the U.S. Supreme Court today showed that some justices are concerned about parents getting a fair shake in the system, while others worry that school districts and taxpayers must shoulder the burden for expensive private schools for some students. "I think we've got to assume that Congress has some concern for the parents who correctly say, this [individualized education plan] is no good, it just can't be done in the school system, and the kid needs a special school," Justice David H. Souter said to the lawyer representing an Oregon school district. But Chief ...


The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear the appeal of a Kentucky family over a school's handling of a middle school student who gave a prescription Adderall pill to one of her classmates. The refusal to take up S.E. v. Grant County Board of Education (Case No. 08-927) is not a ruling on the merits, but it is interesting because the justices often hold on to appeals that raise the same or similar issues to cases they are deciding. Just last week, the court heard arguments in Safford Unified School District v. Redding, about whether the Fourth ...


With a busy week for education in the Supreme Court, I haven't had time to take note of these rulings: Arizona Private School Tax Credit: A federal appeals court revived a challenge to a state program that provides an income tax credit for contributions to private school scholarships, including at religious schools. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled 3-0 in Winn v. Arizona Christian School Organization that if the facts as alleged in a challenge are true, the tax credit program "“carries with it the imprimatur of government endorsement” ...


The case before the high court involved employment tests for firefighters, but race-conscious actions by schools were on the minds of some of the justices.


It didn't take long for today's U.S. Supreme Court arguments to delve into extreme hypotheticals about the limits of permissible school searches.


The U.S. Supreme Court appeared sharply divided today over a case that asks whether the state of Arizona is doing enough to educate English-language learners to satisfy a federal civil rights law. Kenneth W. Starr, the lawyer representing Republican state legislative leaders who are seeking relief from a federal court order that effectively is forcing the state to spend more on ELL programs, told the justices that English learners "are, in fact, making progress" under the program funded by the legislature. This drew a sharp response from Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who cited detailed test results showing that English ...


When the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in an important special education case on April 28, all eyes will be on Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.


This is the second in a series of previews of the three education cases being argued in the U.S. Supreme Court this month. The first post in the series, about the Horne v. Flores case, appeared on Monday. A strip-search of a middle school student by school officials looking for prescription drugs sets the stage for one of the most important U.S. Supreme Court rulings in a quarter century on student rights and public school responsibilities. The justices will hear arguments on Tuesday, April 21, in Safford Unified School District v. Redding (Case No. 08-479). Education Week's Erik ...


This is the first in a series of previews in the School Law Blog on the three education cases being argued in the U.S. Supreme Court this month. A quirky case over whether the state of Arizona’s spending on English-language learners satisfies an obscure federal civil rights law goes before the U.S. Supreme Court next week. One surprise of Horne v. Flores (Case No. 08-289) is that the appeal has attracted far more friend-of-the-court briefs than the other two education cases the justices will hear this month, one involving the constitutionality of a school’s strip-search of ...


A Nevada school district has settled a lawsuit brought on behalf of a former student who alleged that school officials failed to adequately respond to harassment she suffered because she openly displayed her Muslim faith. Under the settlement, former student Jana Elhifny will receive $350,000 from the Washoe County school district, which will be paid by the district's insurance carrier. Her lawsuit alleged she was harassed by fellow students for wearing a traditional head scarf in recognition of her Islamic faith and Egyptian heritage. The district also settled a related suit brought by a friend of Elhifny's who says ...


The Obama administration is siding with parents in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court about whether private school tuition can be reimbursed when a child has never received special education services in public school or even been enrolled in public school. "When a child with a disability has been denied a free appropriate public education, [the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] authorizes an awardof private-school tuition reimbursement regardless of whether the child previously received public special education," says the brief filed by U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan in Forest Grove School District v. T.A. (Case No. ...


The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether lawyers who press civil rights cases, such as to improve a state's foster-care system, may be awarded extra money on top of normal attorneys' fees when they bring about major changes. The justices on Monday granted an appeal by the state of Georgia in a case involving an award of $10.5 milllion in attorneys' fees for lawyers who brought a class action over the state's system for handling children in foster care A federal district judge authorized a $4.5 million enhancement on top of a $6 million regular ...


A federal appeals court today upheld a lower-court ruling granting unitary status to the Little Rock, Ark., school district in a long-running desegregation case. "The judgment declaring the Little Rock School District to be completely unitary is affirmed," said the unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in St. Louis. The court rejected an appeal from a group of black parents who intervened in a desegregation case that began in 1982, well after Little Rock's historic battle over integrating its Central High School in the late 1950s. U.S. District ...


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 ...


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