Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Education Law

By
ACT, Inc. and The College Board (collectively, Defendants) are national testing agencies that administer the ACT and SAT college entrance exams. When a student applies to take a test, Defendants obtain some of the student’s personally identifiable information (PII). As part of the examination process, some students authorize Defendants to share certain PII with participating educational organizations through an information exchange program. In 2014, a group of former information exchange program participants (collectively, Plaintiffs) filed a putative class action complaint against Defendants, alleging that they were harmed because the testing agencies did not disclose that the students’ PII was actually sold to the educational organizations for profit. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), concluding that Plaintiffs failed to establish standing under Article III of the Constitution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s factual allegations failed to establish a plausible claim of Article III standing. View "Silha v. ACT, Inc." on Justia Law

By
Rahn, a white male who earned a PhD in Industrial Engineering from the University of Illinois, was hired as a visiting professor at NIU. His wife, Regina, was hired as a tenure-track assistant professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering for that same school year. During that year, a tenure-track assistant professor position opened up in the Department. Rahn applied. Despite her husband’s status as an applicant, Regina was a voting member of the search committee. She claims that one committee member stated that he would not hire a white man into the department if qualified minority candidates were available. After another applicant was hired, the Rahns alleged reverse discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 701 42 U.S.C. 2000e, and copyright infringement, based on use of teaching notes and slides. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment on all claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. That testimony did not support indicate that an evaluation metric was a subterfuge for eliminating Rahn on racial grounds. A university employer may properly preference academic experience; Rahn did not present evidence that such a preference was inconsistent with the initial description of the position and the preferred qualifications. View "Rahn v. Bd. of Trs. of N. Ill. Univ." on Justia Law

By
In 1986, Packer, a Ph.D. in physiology, began work as a post-doctoral fellow at Indiana University’s School of Medicine. She was appointed to the tenure-track position of assistant professor in 1994. Packer’s 1999 application for tenure on the faculty was denied, but Packer successfully grieved the denial, and in 2001, was awarded tenure. Faculty members are evaluated based on teaching, research, and service. A faculty member’s overall performance is deemed satisfactory if she meets the minimum requirements in all three areas or if she is rated excellent in either teaching or research. The University represents that Packer, in the years leading up to her termination, repeatedly failed to meet expectations with respect to publication and external funding. Packer contends that her research performance is better than the University claims; that any deficiency was because the department chairman assigned her insufficient and inappropriate lab spaces and interfered with her efforts to obtain grant money; and that male faculty members whose research performance also fell short of expectations suffered no adverse consequences. In her suit, alleging sex discrimination, the University moved for summary judgment. Packer’s counsel did not properly support the elements of her claims with specific citations to admissible record evidence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the University. View "Packer v. Trs .of Ind. Univ." on Justia Law

By
D. Stahl claimed she was the victim of vicious, physical bullying by fellow East Porter students. D. complained to school officials. Apart from witnessing the counselor talk to one alleged bully and seeing the principal call another to her office, D. does not know if officials took any action. D. alleges that some teachers and coaches participated or were complicit in the bullying. Eighth Grade girls, preparing to play basketball, taunted D. D’s mother, Debbie came to the school and yelled at the alleged bullies. D.’s father, George, arrived and confronted the principal. Leaving the gym, George and his father confronted alleged bullies. The girls yelled that the men had attacked them. The principal called the police, who did not issue a citation. Superintendent Gardin stated that Debbie and George were banned from East Porter property until they met with him. The Stahls never arranged a meeting. D voluntarily did not return. The Stahls contacted a neighboring school district. George testified that he was advised that the school had “open enrollment." George told the principal about the ban. That evening, the principal informed them that D. would not be permitted to enroll.The Seventh CIrcuit affirmed summary judgment rejecting the Stahls’ suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. There was no genuine issue of material fact under the state-created danger standard. D. did not identify any similarly situated individuals who were treated differently with regard to her attempt to transfer schools. View "D. S. v. East Porter Cnty. Sch. Corp" on Justia Law

By
Bible defaulted on a loan under the Federal Family Education Loan Program, but entered into a rehabilitation agreement. She remains current on her reduced payments, but a guaranty agency assessed $4,500 in collection costs. Bible’s loan terms were governed by a Stafford Loan Master Promissory Note (MPN), approved by the Department of Education, incorporating the Higher Education Act, and providing for “reasonable collection fees and costs” in default, as defined by regulations promulgated under the Act. Bible sued, alleging breach of contract and violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961, arguing that federal regulations prohibit assessment of collection costs and that the guaranty agency committed mail fraud and wire fraud in assessing collection costs despite its representations that her “current collection cost balance” and “current other charges” were zero. The court dismissed, finding both claims “preempted” by the Higher Education Act, which permits collection costs and that Bible had not shown “a scheme to defraud; commission of an act with intent to defraud; or the use of mails or interstate wires in furtherance of a fraudulent scheme.” The Seventh Circuit reversed. The contract claim does not conflict with federal law. The Secretary of Education interprets the regulations to provide that a guaranty agency may not impose collection costs on a borrower who is in default for the first time and has complied with an alternative repayment agreement. Bible’s RICO claim is not preempted. View "Bible v. United Student Aid Funds, Inc." on Justia Law

By
When the Chicago Board of Education deems a school to be deficient, it implements a reconstitution, replacing all administrators, faculty, and staff. A school may be subject to turnaround if it has been on probation for at least one year and has failed to make adequate progress . Under the collective bargaining agreement, tenured teachers are placed in a pool where they continue to receive a full salary and benefits for one school year. If a tenured teacher does not find a new position within that year, she is honorably terminated. Others are eligible for the cadre pool where they can receive substitute assignments, paid per assignment. From 2004-2011, the Board reconstituted 16 schools. In 2011, the Board identified 74 schools by removing schools that met the objective criteria related to standardized test scores and graduation rates. Brizard chose the final 10 schools. All were in areas where African Americans make up 40.9% of tenured teachers. No schools were selected from the north side, where only 6.5% of tenured teachers are African American. Of the teachers displaced, 51% were African American, despite comprising just 27% of the overall CPS teaching population. Teachers and the Union filed suit. The court declined to certify a class of: All African American persons … teacher or para-professional staff … subjected to reconstitution. The court found that the plaintiffs had not met established a common issue and had not adequately shown that common questions of law or fact predominated over individual claims. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that the class can be certified under both Rule 23(b)(2) and 23(b)(3). View "Chicago Teachers Union v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law

By
Silk began working in 1986 at Moraine Valley Community College as a part-time, non-tenure track, adjunct professor. Silk’s typical teaching load included four courses during fall and spring semesters and two or three summer classes. The College finalized written contracts with adjuncts just before the start of the semester. In March 2010, Silk agreed to teach two sociology courses during the summer term. In April, Silk took a medical leave of absence for heart surgery and did not inform the College of his anticipated return date. During visits to Silk’s classes to arrange for substitute instructors, administrators discovered problems with assignments, syllabi, and attendance. Administrators informed Silk that his summer classes had been reassigned. The dean met with Silk to discuss the issues with his classes. Silk was assigned two courses for the fall 2010 semester. Issues arose during a classroom observation by administrators. The dean instructed human resources to place Silk on the “do-not-hire list” and informed Silk that there would be no more classes for him. Silk’s students filed a complaint regarding Silk’s instruction. After his termination, Silk filed suit, alleging discrimination based on age and disability and retaliation for having filed an EEOC complaint. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the College, except with respect to the fall 2010 semester, and remandedfor determination of whether the College reduced Silk’s course load because of perceived impairment. View "Silk v. Bd. of Trs., Moraine Valley Cmty. Coll." on Justia Law

By
Tetzlaff, age 56, lives with his mother, is unemployed, and owes approximately $260,000 in student loan debt, which is guaranteed by Educational Credit Management Corporation. When Tetzlaff filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2012, he sought to have this debt discharged, claiming that repayment constituted an “undue hardship” under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(8). The bankruptcy court held that Tetzlaff’s student debt could not be discharged. The district court and Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that the bankruptcy court found that Tetzlaff’s financial situation has the ability to improve given that “he has an MBA, is a good writer, is intelligent, and family issues are largely over” and that “Tetzlaff is not mentally ill and is able to earn a living.” The courts rejected an argument that the bankruptcy court erred in refusing to consider Tetzlaff’s payments to Florida Coastal Law School (which were not included in the discharge action) in concluding that he had not made a good faith effort to repay the debt held by Educational Credit. View "Tetzlaff v. Educ. Credit Mgmt. Corp." on Justia Law

By
Plaintiff, once a standout high school basketball player, sued 942 U.S.C. 1983) Valley View Community School District, and the Illinois High School Association, raising claims of First Amendment retaliation, equal protection, substantive due process, unconstitutional policy, section 1983 conspiracy to violate constitutional rights, and indemnification under the Illinois Tort Immunity Act. He alleged that the District and IHSA singled him out for residency investigations, which rendered him ineligible to participate in basketball for 10 days, because his mother complained to the District. The district judge determined that plaintiff failed to comply with local Rule 56.1 and deemed admitted all of the defendants’ properly supported facts and disregarded plaintiff’s additional facts that lacked evidentiary support. Rule 56.1(a)(3) requires a party moving for summary judgment to include with that motion “a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the moving party to a judgment as a matter of law,” organized by numbered paragraphs and referring to supporting materials that substantiate the asserted facts. The district judge entered summary judgment for the defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The defendants complied; plaintiff, in opposing summary judgment, was required to, but did not comply. View "Friend v. Valley View Cmty Unit Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

By
Nelson spent six months as the Director of Education at Sanford‐Brown College, a for‐profit educational institution in Milwaukee. After he resigned, Nelson initiated suit under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729. Based on its receipt of federal subsidies from the U.S. Department of Education, Nelson alleges that the college’s recruiting and retention practices resulted in the transmission of thousands of false claims to the government, potentially subjecting the college and its corporate parent to hundreds of millions of dollars in liability. After the United States declined to intervene, the district court ultimately entered summary judgment in favor of Sanford‐Brown. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court did not err by holding that its subject matter jurisdiction was limited to the period of time when Nelson was employed by SBC (2008-2009). FCA liability is not triggered by an institution’s failure to comply with Title IV Restrictions after its entry into a Program Participation Agreement, unless the relator proves that the institution’s application to establish initial Title IV eligibility was fraudulent. Sanford-Brown entered into its PPA in 2005. View "United States v. Sanford-Brown, Ltd." on Justia Law