Articles Posted in Education 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

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The University of Indiana South Bend employed Professor Grant, an African-American, in 1999. In 2008, several students complained to University administration that Grant inappropriately canceled classes, used obscene language in class, dismissed two students from his course without following proper procedure, and had permitted a nonemployee to grade student work and access academic records. During an investigation, Grant filed affirmative action complaints against the investigators. Students went to the South Bend Tribune with their concerns. The investigation uncovered discrepancies in Grant’s work history. The University dismissed then-tenured Professor Grant in 2011 for “serious misconduct” based on misrepresentations in his curriculum vitae. The district court rejected all of Grant’s 26 claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Grant’s claims that the University: discriminated against him on the basis of race; retaliated against him for his complaints against two University officials; denied him due process of law; defamed him in the South Bend Tribune; and breached a contract created by the University’s handbook. View "Grant v. Trustees of Indiana University" on Justia Law

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Bible Colleges and a student sued the Illinois Board of Higher Education, alleging that the Private College Act, 110 ILCS 1005/0.01, the Academic Degree Act, 110 ILCS 1010/0.01, and the Private Business and Vocational Schools Act of 2012, 105 ILCS 426/1, violated the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Illinois constitution and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. The plaintiffs have not sought certification of approval from the state under the applicable statutes, so there is no basis to believe that the regulations would infringe on their religious beliefs or practices or would unnecessarily entangle the government in religion. The statutes are neutral laws of general application and apply equally to secular and religious institutions. While the state statutes exempt older educational institutions from the governing mandates, the law is clear that, when no improper discrimination is involved, the government may include a grandfather clause in legislation without violating the guarantee of Equal Protection. The regulations do not impact the student’s choice of career. Rather, they merely determine whether he may obtain a degree from specific post-secondary institutions. View "Illinois Bible Colleges Association v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Regency operated for‐profit cosmetology schools in 20 states. Each offered classroom instruction and practical instruction in a salon, where members of the public could receive cosmetology services at low prices. Hollins, formerly a Regency student, asserts that the work she performed was compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201, and that Regency violated state wage laws. She wanted to bring suit as an FLSA collective action and a state class action but the district court denied her motion to conditionally certify the FLSA action and never certified a class action under FRCP 23. The court addressed the individual merits of her case and granted summary judgment in Regency’s favor. Regency has since closed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first rejecting a claim that it lacked jurisdiction. There was a final judgment despite the unaccepted opt‐in notices that the court received. On the merits, the court noted that time on the Professional Floor was a state‐mandated requirement for professional licensure; Hollins was actually paying for supervised practical experience; Regency was in the educational business, not in the beauty salon business; and Hollins did not need to go out and find a place where she could serve her supervised practice. View "Hollins v. Regency Corp." on Justia Law

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Ferrill was hired as Edgewood Elementary School's principal for an initial two-year term with an automatic third-year rollover unless the Board of Education opted out. Ferrill is black; the district serves predominantly white suburbs on the southern edge of Milwaukee County. While she was principal, Edgewood's staff had exceedingly low morale. Ferrill had multiple performance complaints. Staff described her as confrontational, inconsistent, and quick to claim racism. The superintendent hired a consultant to improve Ferrill’s performance. The consultant recommended termination. The Board opted out of the rollover, at the superintendent's recommendation. Ferrill found a new job, which the Board treated as a functional resignation. She sued, alleging racial discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. 1981, and retaliation under Title VII and the First Amendment. The district judge granted the Board summary judgment on some claims. A jury rejected others after less than 30 minutes of deliberation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Ferrill’s shortcomings were well documented and confirmed by an independent consultant, so she did not establish that she was meeting legitimate performance expectations and thus did not establish a prima facie case of discrimination. The retaliation claim failed for lack of evidence connecting the Board’s decision to activity protected by Title VII. View "Ferrill v. Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District" on Justia Law

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Officers executed a search warrant at Minney’s apartment. The warrant listed items to be seized: a Panasonic television, a Sony television, a Nintendo Wii, an Xbox 360, and 10 Xbox games. While searching Minney’s bedroom, Detective Vasquez found ammunition in the bedside table. Minney admitted that he was on parole for dealing cocaine. Officers arrested Minney as a felon in possession of ammunition. The search resumed. Vazquez found multiple guns in Minney’s bedroom. Officers recovered most of the electronics, but never found the second television. The court denied a motion to suppress the guns. Minney pled guilty to one count of being a felon in possession. The government dismissed two counts. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the suppression ruling. When executing a search warrant that specifically lists items to be seized, officers are entitled to search anywhere those items are likely to be discovered. Officers may seize the items named in the warrant and any evidence that falls under the plain‐view doctrine. Vazquez was lawfully searching under the warrant; the electronic devices could have reasonably been found in any of the places where Vazquez found Minney’s guns; the guns were in plain view in those places and were immediately incriminating because Minney was on parole for a felony. View "United States v. Minney" on Justia Law

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Ashton, a transgender high school senior, requested to use the boys’ restroom while at school. The Kenosha School District denied the request, indicating that Ashton’s mere presence would invade the privacy rights of his male classmates. In his suit under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act and the Equal Protection Clause, Ashton sought preliminary injunctive relief, asserting that his attempts to avoid using the bathroom exacerbated his vasovagal syncope, which renders Ashton susceptible to fainting or seizures if dehydrated, and that the situation caused him educational and emotional harm, including suicidal ideations. The district court denied a motion to dismiss and granted a preliminary injunction. The Seventh Circuit upheld the injunction. Ashton sufficiently demonstrated a likelihood of success on his Title IX claim under a sex‐stereotyping theory. Because the policy’s classification is based upon sex, he also demonstrated that heightened scrutiny, and not rational basis, should apply to his Equal Protection Claim. The District has not provided a genuine and exceedingly persuasive justification for the classification nor any evidence of how the preliminary injunction will harm it, or any students or parents. Harms identified by the District are all speculative, whereas the harms to Ashton are well‐documented. View "Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District" on Justia Law

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School district was not required to accommodate an administrator, whose disability precluded being “in the vicinity of potentially unruly students.” Brown was an assistant principal for Milwaukee Public Schools until she badly injured her knee while restraining a student. When she returned to work following surgery, she and her doctor stated that she could not be “in the vicinity of potentially unruly students.” Since virtually all students are “potentially” unruly, Milwaukee Schools understood that limit to bar virtually all student contact. It repeatedly communicated that understanding to Brown as it tried to find her a new position. When Brown’s three-year leave of absence expired before a suitable position was found, she was fired. Brown sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101, claiming that her disability had never prevented interaction with students and that Milwaukee Schools failed to accommodate her disability. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Milwaukee Schools. All but one of the other jobs Brown identified as reasonable accommodations would have required proximity to students. The lone exception would have been a promotion for which Brown was not the most qualified candidate. The Act did not require Milwaukee Schools to promote her as an accommodation. View "Brown v. Milwaukee Board of School Directors" on Justia Law

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Marian Catholic High School subjects its students to random drug tests. Although it is run by the Archdiocese of Chicago, it receives federal funds for this program. Students who test positive for illegal drugs are subject to sanctions, ranging from counseling to expulsion. Plaintiffs are Marian students who received false positive results in the tests. Six are African-American; one is white. Their suit, alleging that the drug-testing program is run in a way that discriminates on the basis of race in violation of the Constitution and federal statutes, was dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The complaint did not allege that hair testing had a racially disproportionate impact, either because of anything identifiable about different hair types, or because of differences in technology used or sample processing. It did not allege that the laboratory knew the race of the person whose hair it was testing. With respect to the 42 U.S.C. 1983 count against the guidance counselor who ran the program, the court found nothing indicating that she was a state actor. The fact that the school receives federal funds did not transform the school or its employees into state actors. The claims under 42 U.S.C. 1981 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 failed for lack of allegations of intentional discrimination by the guidance counselor. View "L.P. v. Marian Catholic High School" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Dr. Burton was hired as a professor at the University of Wisconsin‐Platteville. She was promoted to associate professor. Burton subsequently received a complaint from a student who claimed that another professor had sexually harassed her. Burton contacted Dean Throop, and her department chair, Caywood. The offending professor claimed the incident was designed to display to the class social norms by violating them. Days later, Caywood circulated a memo, stating professors were to bring students’ complaints directly to Caywood, rather than going outside of the department. Caywood believed Burton had overreacted. Throop and Caywood then began to withdraw support for a curriculum that Burton was developing. Burton was unanimously granted tenure. Caywood stepped down as department chair. Burton filed a charge of discrimination with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, alleging discrimination based on her sex and retaliation for reporting the student incident and deliberate indifference to her grievances. Administrators pressured her to drop her case. Burton filed suit and contacted the EEOC. Days later, Throop sent Burton a letter identifying seven examples of inappropriate behavior by Burton. After Throop accused Burton of canceling class without permission, Burton sent an email asking all of her students for their help in proving that she had held class that day. The Seventh Circuit affirmed rejection of Burton's claims on summary judgment. "Burton’s frustrations may be significant," but do not amount to actionable retaliation under Title VII or Title IX. View "Burton v. Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin" on Justia Law