Articles Posted in Education Law

by
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that full-time staff members who also teach part-time (50-75 individuals, “FTST”) were included in the Part-Time Faculty Association at Columbia College Chicago (PFAC) bargaining unit for the purposes of their part-time faculty duties. Under the collective bargaining agreement’s recognition clause FTST are part-time faculty members and arguably fall under the scope of the general inclusion but also qualify as full-time staff members, which are expressly excluded from representation. An arbitrator vacated the ruling. The Seventh Circuit upheld the NLRB decision. Given the primacy of the NLRB’s determination, the countervailing arbitration decision cannot stand. The National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 159, “confers broad discretion on the Board to determine appropriate bargaining units,” because “the bargaining unit determination is a representational question reserved in the first instance to the Board.” View "Part-time Faculty Association v. Columbia College Chicago" on Justia Law

by
Manley, a school board member, was not up for reelection but her allies were when she had a verbal altercation with a student who was leaf-letting for Manley’s political opponents outside a high school play. The student accused Manley of bullying; the student and her parents pursued a campaign to embarrass Manley with online petitions, newspaper articles, and comments at public meetings. The superintendent began an investigation. Manley sued to enjoin the investigation. No injunction was issued. A public report found that Manley violated a board policy calling for “mutual respect, civility and orderly conduct” at school events. The board formally admonished Manley. Manley did not seek reelection. Manley’s claim for damages was rejected on summary judgment for failure to offer evidence of a required element of a due process claim: the deprivation of a constitutionally recognized liberty or property interest. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Manley’s claims that she was deprived of a feeling of fair‐dealing on the part of the government; her mental and emotional well‐being; and processes mandated by the state and the district. The Constitution does not require government officials to avoid upsetting other officials; this “unprecedented theory’s threat to robust public debate is obvious.” Emotional distress alone is insufficient to prove a denial of due process. Manley identified no substantive liberty or property interest attached to the procedural rules the district allegedly violated. View "Manley v. Law" on Justia Law

by
Wisconsin law gives state university students rights to organize themselves and to run their governments, which have the power to spend substantial funds. Plaintiffs, the University of Wisconsin Madison (UWM) Student Association and former and current UWM students, alleged a conspiracy to interfere with student governance in violation of various rights protected by 42 U.S.C. 1983. They claim that the UWM administration excluded certain students from student government by unseating the legitimately elected officers and replacing them over several years with a supposedly “puppet” student government with a similar name, the defendant Student Association at UWM. The district court dismissed the suit with prejudice. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims against the defendants who were not timely served with process and the dismissal of a right-to-organize claim under state law. The court reversed the dismissal with prejudice of the remaining claims for misjoinder, stating that it could understand the district court’s frustration, but the remedy for misjoinder is severance or dismissal without prejudice. View "UWM Student Association v. Lovell" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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