Articles Posted in Education Law

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College of DuPage hired Breuder as its president. After extensions, his contract ran through 2019. In 2015 newly-elected members of the Board of Trustees, having campaigned on a pledge to remove Breuder, discharged him without notice or a hearing. Board resolutions stated that Breuder had committed misconduct. The Board did not offer him a hearing and refused to comply with clauses in his contract covering severance pay and retirement benefits. Breuder filed suit, citing Illinois contract and defamation law and 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Board as an entity moved to dismiss the complaint, contending that Breuder never had a valid contract because, under Illinois law, a governmental body whose members serve limited terms may not enter into contracts that extend beyond those terms. Individual Board members moved to dismiss the 1983 claim on qualified immunity grounds. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of both motions. The court noted precedent allowing Illinois Community Colleges to grant their presidents tenure beyond the date of the next board election. Rejecting claims of qualified immunity, the court noted that a hearing is required whenever the officeholder has a “legitimate claim of entitlement.” In discharging Breuder, the Board stated that he had committed misconduct. Even a person who has no property interest in a public job has a constitutional entitlement to a hearing before being defamed during a discharge, or at least a name-clearing hearing after the discharge. View "Breuder v. Hamilton" on Justia Law

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The Mayor of Chicago appoints the city’s Board of Education, 105 ILCS 5/34-3. Until 1995, the Mayor needed the consent of the City Council; now the Mayor acts independently. Plaintiffs claimed that the system violated the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. 10301 (section 2). School boards elsewhere in Illinois are elected; plaintiffs say that failure to elect the school board in Chicago has a disproportionate effect on minority voters. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Section 2(a) covers any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard” that results in an abridgment of the right to vote; it does not guarantee that any given public office be filled by election rather than appointment, a civil service system, or some other means. Whether having an appointed board is “good government” or good for pupils is irrelevant to the Act. While more minority citizens live in Chicago than in other Illinois cities and do not vote for school board members, neither does anyone else. Every member of the electorate is treated identically, which is what section 2 requires. View "Quinn v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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The Mayor of Chicago appoints the city’s Board of Education, 105 ILCS 5/34-3. Until 1995, the Mayor needed the consent of the City Council; now the Mayor acts independently. Plaintiffs claimed that the system violated the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. 10301 (section 2). School boards elsewhere in Illinois are elected; plaintiffs say that failure to elect the school board in Chicago has a disproportionate effect on minority voters. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Section 2(a) covers any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard” that results in an abridgment of the right to vote; it does not guarantee that any given public office be filled by election rather than appointment, a civil service system, or some other means. Whether having an appointed board is “good government” or good for pupils is irrelevant to the Act. While more minority citizens live in Chicago than in other Illinois cities and do not vote for school board members, neither does anyone else. Every member of the electorate is treated identically, which is what section 2 requires. View "Quinn v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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For decades, Elkhart, Indiana’s Concord High School has held a “Christmas Spectacular” concert. In 2015, the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote a letter expressing concerns about the religious nature of the Spectacular’s second half, which included religious songs interspersed with a narrator reading passages from the New Testament, and a student-performed nativity scene. The superintendent rejected the claim. Plaintiff sued under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. While the suit was pending, Concord volunteered to remove the scriptural reading and add songs representing Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. The judge concluded that the proposal was not adequate and granted a preliminary injunction forbidding the school from performing the proposed version. Concord actually performed a second half that spent about four and a half minutes each explaining and performing a song to represent Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Images are projected onto screens with each song. For the remaining 20 minutes, students perform numerous religious Christmas songs and a two-minute nativity scene, with mannequins, not student actors. There are no New Testament readings. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that the 2015 show did not violate the Establishment Clause and a declaratory judgment that the 2014 and proposed versions were unconstitutional, with an award of $10 in nominal damages. Plaintiffs’ request for a permanent injunction was denied. View "Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Concord Community Schools" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Grussgot was hired by a Milwaukee private school that provides non-Orthodox Jewish education. The school employs a rabbi and has a chapel and Torah scrolls but does not require its teachers to be Jewish. Grussgott claimed that she was solely a Hebrew teacher and had no responsibilities that were religious in nature. The school maintained that Grussgott was employed as a Hebrew and Jewish Studies teacher. Grussgott underwent treatment for a brain tumor and ceased working during her recovery. She has suffered memory and other cognitive issues. During a telephone call from a parent, Grussgott was unable to remember an event, and the parent taunted her. Grussgott’s husband (a rabbi) sent an email, from Grussgott’s work email address, criticizing the parent. The school then terminated Grussgott. Grussgott sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The school argued that because of Grussgott’s religious role, the ADA's ministerial exception barred her lawsuit. The district court agreed without considering the merits of her ADA claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Even taking Grussgott’s version of the facts as true, she falls under the exception as a matter of law. Her integral role in teaching Judaism and the school’s motivation in hiring her demonstrate that her role furthered the school’s religious mission. The school’s nondiscrimination policy did not waive the exception’s protections. View "Grussgott v. Milwaukee Jewish Day School, Inc." on Justia Law

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A.H. is a member of Evanston High School’s track and field team despite having spastic quadriplegia related to cerebral palsy. A.H. is considered an elite athlete within the disabled athletic community. He requested that the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) create a separate division with different time standards for para‐ambulatory runners in the Sectional and State championship track meets. The IHSA has implemented events and divisions within particular sports for disabled student‐athletes but does not have a para‐ambulatory division for track and field meets. While the IHSA does not organize or regulate individual school meets, it manages the most important track meets. The IHSA denied A.H.’s requests. A.H. sued under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794(a) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12182(a). The district court granted the IHSA summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. There is no reason to believe that disabled runners have been unable to attain the qualifying times simply “by reason of” or “on the basis of” their disability. Disabled runners would likely not meet the qualifying times even if they were not disabled. A.H. seeks an accommodation that would make him competitive and allow him to achieve results he currently cannot achieve. The Rehabilitation Act and the ADA do not require the IHSA to alter the fundamental nature of their events; A.H.’s accommodation requests are unreasonable as a matter of law. View "A.H. v. Illinois High School Association" on Justia Law

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Khan failed three courses in her first year of medical school at The Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. Ordinarily, under the school policy, this would permit the school administrators to dismiss her from the program. The school gave Khan a second chance. She was able to pass the classes on her second try the following year, but she continued to fail new classes in the second year. This time, however, she was pregnant. After being expelled, she sued, claiming that the school had violated the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 701. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the school. Whatever the nature of any discrimination, it has no legal relevance if Khan was not otherwise qualified, with or without accommodations, for the program. In the context of a university, a person is “otherwise qualified” if she is able to meet all of the program’s requirements in spite of her disability, with or without a reasonable accommodation. Under the school’s policy, Khan’s accumulated failure-equivalents in the 2010-2011 academic year rendered her eligible for dismissal before she became pregnant and acquired what she alleges were pregnancy-related disabilities. View "Khan v. Midwestern University" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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Carle’s medical residency program, which has an employment component, was governed by annual contracts. Residents were required to complete rotations before advancing and to pass the Step 3 U.S. Medical Licensing Examination before entering the third year. A third Step 3 failure results in termination. Carle residents cannot graduate unless they complete licensing requirements. Illinois medical students with five failures in the Step tests are not eligible for licensure without significant remediation. Rodrigo failed his first attempts at Step 1 and Step 2. He was required to repeat four rotations. His supervisors thought a neuropsychological examination might identify issues affecting his performance. Rodrigo never underwent recommended testing. Carle extended Rodrigo’s first and second years to allow him to repeat rotations and the Step 3 test, which he failed a second time. Rodrigo then informed Carle that he had a sleep disorder. Although Rodrigo did not request an accommodation, the director suggested that he take time off. Rodrigo did so, but failed a third time. Rodrigo asked to be promoted so that he could attempt to pass Step 3 in California. After termination of his residency, Rodrigo sued under the Americans With Disabilities Act. 42 U.S.C. 1210. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Carle, finding that Rodrigo was not a “qualified individual.” Passing Step 3 is an “essential function.” Rodrigo presented no evidence of a causal connection between his protected activity (seeking an accommodation) and his termination. View "Rodrigo v. Carle Foundation Hospital" on Justia Law

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Indiana law previously provided that, when school districts needed to reduce their teaching staffs, tenured teachers that were qualified for an available position had a right to be retained over non-tenured teachers. A 2012 amendment eliminated that right and orders school districts to base layoff choices on performance reviews without regard for tenure status. Madison Consolidated Schools relied on the new law to lay off Elliott, a teacher who earned tenure 14 years before the new law took effect, while it retained non-tenured teachers in positions for which Elliott was qualified. Elliott, who had been elected as president of his union, sued, claiming that the amendment violated the Contract Clause when applied to him. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in Elliott’s favor. The statute, not the annual contracts, granted Elliott his contractual tenure rights, which became enforceable the year Elliott earned tenure. A decrease in job security necessarily impairs his rights under that contract. The change substantially disrupted teachers’ important and reasonable reliance interests. Improving teacher quality and public-education outcomes are important public interests of the highest order but even important goals and good intentions do not justify this substantial impairment of the tenure contract for already-tenured teachers. View "Elliott v. Board of School Trustees of Madison Consolidated Schools" on Justia Law

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From 2002-2012, Frakes was a Peoria special education teacher. All of Frakes’s students were eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400. Nunn, like all of Frakes’s former supervisors, observed deficiencies in Frakes’s performance. In 2012, Nunn gave Frakes an overall performance rating of “unsatisfactory,” citing multiple specific examples Frakes was placed on a remediation plan. Before her remediation period began, Frakes was placed on medical leave status. In April 2012, Frakes was honorably dismissed as part of a reduction in teaching force. Because of her “unsatisfactory” rating, Frakes, and nine other full‐time tenured teachers, was placed in “Group 2” on the “sequence of honorable dismissal list” in accordance with Illinois law. Frakes filed an unsuccessful state court suit, asserting wrongful termination under the Illinois School Code. Frakes filed a federal suit, claimed that her “unsatisfactory” evaluation and dismissal interfered with her ability to aid students in exercising their rights under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Peoria. Frakes failed to show that she engaged in any protected activity under the Act. While Frakes provided some evidence that her “unsatisfactory” rating may have been unfair and her preferred teaching method may be better suited for disabled students, this does not render Frakes’s teaching style a protected activity. Frakes never complained about or discouraged discrimination based on disability or engaged in any other protected activity. View "Frakes v. Peoria School District No. 150" on Justia Law