Articles Posted in Education Law

by
Wisconsin amended its state constitution to permit state‐funded transportation of private and parochial students. Under Wis. Stat. 121.54, if a school district operating within a metropolitan area where other public transportation is available to schoolchildren exercises the "city option," there must “be reasonable uniformity" regardless of whether students attend public or private schools. The Milwaukee district (MPS) has public city-wide schools, which offer special courses; attendance‐area schools, which draw only from a particular neighborhood; and nonattendance-area schools, which do not offer special classes but serve students from outside the area. MPS Policy provides free transportation for high schoolers only if they live two or more miles from their school and more than one mile from public transportation. Students who attend citywide or nonattendance‐area schools are governed by “Racial Balance, Modernization, Overload, and Lack of Facility” rules, making any student assigned to a school farther than two miles from her home eligible for free transportation, regardless of proximity to public transportation. Private schools must submit lists of students eligible to receive busing by May 15. There is no notification deadline for public schools. On May 14, St. Joan, a private school, submitted a 62-name list; on September 29, it added six names. MPS refused to bus any of the students because each lived within one mile of public transportation, and the later‐added students were disclosed after the deadline. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Rational bases exist for the differences in busing eligibility. MPS has legitimate interests in reducing overcapacity in crowded attendance‐area schools and in expanding special program access. MPS students who attend citywide or nonattendance‐area schools are more likely to have to travel farther than students who go to attendance‐area schools. The court remanded with respect to the deadline. View "St. Joan Antida High School Inc. v. Milwaukee Public School District" on Justia Law

by
Under Wisconsin’s open-enrollment program, a public-school student can apply to transfer from his resident school district to a nonresident district that has available space. The program distinguishes between regular education and special education spaces. If a student with a disability requires special services, a nonresident district may deny the student’s transfer application if it lacks the services or space necessary to meet those special needs. Disabled school children, whose transfer applications were denied because nonresident districts determined that they could not meet the students’ special needs, sued the school districts and state actors under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12132; section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794(a); and the Equal Protection Clause. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Differential treatment of special-needs students does not make the program unlawful. Federal law forbids discrimination based on stereotypes about a handicap but does not forbid decisions based on the actual attributes of the handicap. The program makes decisions based on the actual needs of disabled students, so it complies with federal law. Even analyzing the case as a request for an accommodation, the requested change would fundamentally alter the program; neither the ADA nor the Rehabilitation Act requires fundamental alterations. View "P.F., a minor, by A.F., v. Taylor" on Justia Law

by
The District operates Naperville Central High School (NCHS), where H.P. attended three years of high school. In 2006, during her junior year, H.P.’s mother committed suicide. H.P. moved from her mother’s Naperville home to her father’s home, which is not in the District. H.P. completed her junior year at NCHS. Before the 2017‐18 school year, the District learned that H.P. no longer lived in the District. H.P.’s father asked the District to allow H.P. to attend her senior year at NCHS, instead of Downers Grove North High School. Under the District’s policy, “[a] student must establish residency within the School District boundaries.” Her father asked the District to waive that requirement to allow H.P. to attend NCHS as an accommodation for certain claimed disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Rehabilitation Act, including anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and seizures. The District again denied the request. H.P. enrolled in DGNHS, where she ultimately graduated. H.P. and her father filed suit, asserting disparate impact and disparate treatment under ADA Title II and Rehabilitation Act Section 504. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary rejection of both claims. H.P. could not show causation, i.e., that but‐for her alleged disability, she would have been able to obtain her requested accommodation--attending NCHS. View "H. P. v. Naperville Community Unit School District 203" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

by
Ashby’s son was a member of his elementary school choir. In 2014 and 2015, the choir performed a Christmas concert at a local museum in a historic building. The building was not then accessible to persons with disabilities. Ashby, who uses a wheelchair, was unable to attend the concerts. She sued the School Corporation, alleging discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12132, and the Rehabilitation Act. The district court concluded that the Christmas concert was not a “service, program, or activity of” the Warrick Schools, nor was the concert an activity “provided or made available” by the School Corporation and granted summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, accepting the Department of Justice’s suggestion that when a public entity offers a program in conjunction with a private entity, the question of whether a service, program, or activity is one “of” a public entity is fact-based and that there is a “spectrum” of possible relationships ranging from a “true joint endeavor” to participation in a wholly private event. The Department’s interpretation of its regulations is a reasonable one that offers a loose but practical framework that aids in decision-making. Upon close examination of the record, it is clear that the event in question was not a service, program, or activity provided or made available by the School Corporation. View "Ashby v. Warrick County School Corp" on Justia Law

by
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment in an action alleging claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 42 U.S.C. 1983, and Illinois law. Plaintiff filed suit on behalf of himself and a certified class of similarly situated part-time and adjunct faculty, challenging Oakton Community College's change in hiring practices such that the college would no longer employ retired state employees if they were also beneficiaries of the State University Retirement System. In regard to the ADEA claim, the court held that the district court applied the appropriate burden of proof where the ADEA and the cases interpreting it make clear that a policy may have a disparate impact on older workers as long as the employer shows that the policy was based on a reasonable factor other than age (RFOA); the district court correctly concluded that a reasonable jury would be compelled to find that Oakton's reason was an RFOA; and the district court properly required defendants to prove that Oakton's policy was, in fact, based on reasonable factors other than age. Likewise, the section 1983 claim failed because there was no ADEA violation. Finally, plaintiff's retaliatory discharge claim lacked merit. View "Dayton v. Oakton Community College" on Justia Law

by
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants after defendants refused to provide school transportation (or equivalent cash benefits) to plaintiffs' children. The court held that the record did not establish that the Superintendent or the school district furnished or withheld public benefits on the basis of non-neutral religious criteria; nor did the evidence support the claim that public officials impermissibly determined the school's affiliation on the basis of theology, ecclesiology, or ritual; but, rather, it showed that public officials applied a secular statute that limits benefits to a single school affiliated with any sponsoring group. In this case, St. Augustine declared itself to be Catholic. View "St. Augustine School v. Evers" on Justia Law

by
In 2008 Indiana University hired Haynes, who is black, as an assistant professor, funding most of his salary through the Strategic Recruitment Fund, which facilitates "recruitment of underrepresented minorities and women into the professoriate.” Haynes had a six-year probationary contract. Tenure candidates are evaluated on research, teaching, and service and must be “excellent” in one area and “satisfactory” in the others. In 2013, Haynes submitted his tenure dossier, selecting research as his "excellence" performance area. The committee voted 6–3 against tenure. The dean wrote that “the committee questioned the extent of Dr. Haynes’[s] impact based on low citation numbers and low numbers of publications in high-quality journals” and that Haynes’s “evaluations ha[d] been mixed[] and particularly low in the online courses” and failed to show “significant improvement.” The university-wide Tenure Advisory Committee voted unanimously against tenure; 18 of 27 faculty members found his teaching unsatisfactory and 19 found his research not excellent. Haynes sued under the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. 1981, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the University, upholding the exclusion of Haynes’s proffered expert reports for lack of “specialized knowledge.” A plaintiff needs compelling evidence that “clear discrimination” pervasively infected the tenure decision; this case was “not a close one.” Regardless of the finer points of academic tenure and its intersection with anti-discrimination law. Haynes lacks any evidence that the University denied tenure because he is black. View "Haynes v. Indiana University" on Justia Law

by
B.G. lived alternately with his mother (who speaks only Spanish) and siblings in a small apartment, and with his father, who apparently left B.G. to his own devices. He repeated first grade. B.G. was diagnosed with a specific learning disability and had significant behavior and attendance issues. B.G.’s father died in 2014. B.G was hospitalized with diagnoses of morbid obesity, hypertension, severe hypoxia syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, and obstructive sleep apnea. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services received a report that his mother was not able to care for her children. B.G.’s mother requested a Due Process Hearing with the State Board of Education, alleging that the Chicago Public School District had violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act. The District gave B.G. an aide, moved him to a classroom with a teacher familiar with “multisensory approaches,” and performed assessments of B.G.’s educational needs. Although she did not object to the report, B.G.’s mother requested Independent Educational Evaluations at public expense in seven areas. The State Board of Education concluded that the District's evaluations were appropriate. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The hearing officer conducted a five-day hearing, heard the relevant evidence, and concluded that the District’s experts evaluated B.G. appropriately; the record shows that the District’s evaluators were competent, well-trained, and performed comprehensive evaluations. Particularly under the deferential standard of review applicable here, there is no cause to set aside the hearing officer’s well-reasoned decision. View "B.G. v. Jackson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

by
Doe claims that she was sexually assaulted by a security guard at her middle school while she was in eighth grade. She filed suit under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681(a). To obtain damages, Doe was required to prove that a school official had actual knowledge of the alleged conduct. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in the school district’s favor. A reasonable jury could not have found that Ptak, the principal at Doe’s middle school, had actual knowledge of the security guard’s misconduct. It is undisputed that Ptak was unaware of Doe’s allegations of sexual abuse until after Doe had graduated; during Doe’s eighth‐grade year, no teacher or staff member had reported any incidents or concerns regarding the security guard and Doe to Ptak. Nor does Ptak recall seeing any physical contact between Collins and Doe during that school year. Doe relied on events that occurred during the previous school year to establish that Ptak had actual knowledge of the risk that the security guard would abuse Doe. View "Jane Doe No. 55 v. Madison Metropolitan School District" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

by
Deppe, a punter, enrolled at Northern Illinois University (NIU), a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I school, in 2014 without an athletic scholarship. Deppe decided to “red shirt” his first year; he practiced with the team but did not compete, so the clock did not run on his four years of NCAA athletic eligibility. In 2015 NIU signed another punter, so he looked for a new program. Coaches at the University of Iowa, another Division I school, told Deppe they wanted him if he would be eligible to compete during the 2016–2017 season. The NCAA indicated that under its year-in-residence rule, Deppe would be ineligible to compete for one year following his transfer. An exception permitting a one-time transfer with immediate athletic eligibility in limited circumstances was unavailable to Deppe. A player who transfers under extenuating circumstances may obtain a waiver of the NCAA’s requirement that a student’s four years of playing time be completed in five calendar years; the school to which he transfers must initiate the process. Iowa's football staff notified Deppe that the team had decided to pursue another punter who had immediate eligibility and would not initiate the process for him. Deppe sued the NCAA on behalf of himself and a proposed class alleging violations of the Sherman Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. The year-in-residence requirement is an eligibility rule clearly meant to preserve the amateur character of college athletics, is therefore presumptively procompetitive, and need not be tested for anticompetitive effect under a full rule-of-reason analysis. View "Deppe v. National Collegiate Athletic Association" on Justia Law