Articles Posted in Education 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

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Jacob has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder and requires an Individualized Education Plan. He repeated kindergarten in a general education classroom with additional support. Jacob’s second year of kindergarten included several behavioral disturbances. His parents disagreed with recommendations to change his placement and services and filed a due process complaint, 20 U.S.C. 1415(b). After additional testing, the parents and their psychologist with the District. Some of Jacob’s services were discontinued and a Behavioral Intervention Plan was adopted. The District recommended that Jacob be placed in the Social Emotional Learning Foundations program (SELF). Jacob’s parents objected and SELF-placement was not adopted. Jacob struggled with the new Plan, The District sought to place Jacob in SELF, in a different district, over his parents’ objections. Jacob’s parents believed that SELF was more restrictive than necessary and that he should remain in general education in his home district. The Act maintains the placement status quo until the complaint is resolved, so Jacob was never moved to SELF. The district court affirmed an administrative decision, concluding that the District met the Act’s substantive requirement of providing Jacob with a free appropriate public education. The Seventh Circuit vacated, reasoning that the matter is moot because Jacob is in third grade and the parties have reached agreement regarding his third-grade placement. View "Ostby v. Manhattan School District Number 114" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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PFAC is the collective‐bargaining representative for more than 1,200 part‐time faculty members at Columbia College Chicago. The parties agreed to continue under a 2006-2010 collective bargaining agreement while they bargained for a successor agreement. During negotiations, Columbia unilaterally decided to reduce the credit hours for 10 courses in its School of Fine and Performing Arts (SFPA). Consistent with the CBA, Columbia notified part‐time faculty members affected by these changes, but not PFAC. PFAC filed an unfair‐labor‐practice charge regarding Columbia’s refusal to bargain over the effects reduction of course credit hours in a different department. The parties settled that charge. Negotiations broke down. PFAC learned of the SFPA credit‐hour reductions and demanded to bargain. In February 2012, PFAC called for Columbia to resume negotiations. Columbia responded that it had no obligation to bargain about the course‐credit‐hour reductions. The parties resumed negotiations in June. In August, the NLRB lodged a complaint against Columbia, alleging violations of 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1),(5), by failing to bargain: over the effects of the credit‐hour reductions before May 2012; for a successor CBA from February to June 2012; and in good faith. The Board upheld the charges and awarded bargaining expenses. The Seventh Circuit vacated in part. Columbia was not required to bargain over the effects of the credit‐hour reductions. The college had already satisfied its statutory bargaining duty on this issue when it negotiated and entered into the 2006 CBA. View "National Labor Relations Board v. Columbia College Chicago" on Justia Law

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Wilson was an admissions representative, recruiting students to CEC’s culinary arts college. Wilson earned a bonus for each student that he recruited above a threshold who either completed a full course or a year of study. If a representative was terminated, he was entitled only to bonuses already earned, not including students “in the pipeline.” CEC reserved the right to “terminate or amend” the contract at any time, for any reason, in its sole discretion. The Education Department released regulations, to become effective in July 2011, prohibiting institutions participating in Title IV student financial aid programs from providing bonuses based on securing enrollment. CEC decided to pay bonuses that were earned as of February 28, 2011, depriving Wilson of bonuses that were in the pipeline. CEC raised the base salary by at least the total of 3% plus 75% of each representative’s previous two years’ bonuses. Wilson sued. The Seventh Circuit remanded, holding that Wilson must prove that CEC exercised its discretion in a manner contrary to the parties' reasonable expectations. On remand, the district court rejected an argument that cost savings, not compliance with the regulations, drove CEC’s decision. There were no cost savings to CEC. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Even accepting Wilson’s characterization, the evidence is insufficient to allow a jury to reasonably conclude that CEC breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. View "Wilson v. Career Education Corp." on Justia Law

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Former students who participated on Penn’s women’s track and field team, regulated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sued Penn, the NCAA, and more than 120 other NCAA Division I member schools, alleging that student athletes are “employees” within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 and violated the FLSA by not paying their athletes a minimum wage. The district court dismissed, holding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue any of the defendants other than Penn, and failed to state a claim against Penn because student athletes are not employees under the FLSA. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The plaintiffs did not plausibly allege any injury traceable to, or redressable by, any defendant other than Penn. Citing the Department of Labor Field Operations Handbook, the court reasoned that NCAA-regulated sports are “extracurricular,” “interscholastic athletic” activities and that the Department did not intend the FLSA to apply to student athletes. View "Berger v. National Collegiate Athletic Association" on Justia Law

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Whitaker is a transgender boy whose high school will not permit him to use the boys’ bathroom. He sued, alleging violation of Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681, and the Equal Protection Clause. The defendants appealed denial of a motion to dismiss, arguing that appellate jurisdiction was proper under 28 U.S.C. 1292(b). The district court subsequently vacated its certification and the Seventh Circuit denied permission to appeal. The district court’s decision to withdraw certification destroyed jurisdiction to consider the petition under section 1292(b). View "Kenosha Unified School District v. Whitaker" on Justia Law

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Officer Byrne, responding to a bar fight, spotted one man chasing another. One man reached and entered a parked car; the other began punching at the driver’s window. Byrne restrained the pursuer, Hess, a student at Southern Illinois University. The car drove away. Hess stated that Franks had hit Hess’s sister in the face. Hess gave chase but claimed to have never made contact with Franks. Hess’s girlfriend and his siblings corroborated his story, though the sister did not have any injuries. Franks, who had driven himself to a hospital, had been stabbed several times. Franks’s description of his attacker matched Hess’s appearance. Hess was charged with aggravated battery. SIU’s Director of Students reviewed the incident reports and recommended that Hess be suspended. Although he received personal notice of his rights, Hess did not request an interim hearing, and, while suspended, missed final exams. At a subsequent hearing, Hess testified but said little. His counsel, who was present, had instructed him not to answer questions. Hess’s girlfriend testified on his behalf. Byrne testified that officers had found no evidence that Hess had a knife. Hess was expelled; he filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The university is not a “person” from whom money damages can be obtained under section 1983. Hess established neither a protected property interest nor a protected liberty interest; even if he had proven such an interest, defendants provided Hess with sufficient procedural protections. View "Hess v. Bd. of Trs. of S. Ill. Univ." on Justia Law

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In 2006, Southern Illinois University (SIU) hired Dr. Hatcher as an assistant professor of political science. In 2010 Hatcher assisted a graduate student in making a sexual harassment complaint about a faculty member. Hatcher was up for tenure and promotion to associate professor in 2011. Hatcher had received positive annual evaluations. Her external reviewers all recommended tenure.The political science department voted in favor of promotion and tenure. The College of Liberal Arts committee voted 5‐4 in favor of tenure and 5‐4 against promotion, noting Hatcher’s success in teaching and service, but expressing concern about her lack of academic publications in prestigious journals. The dean recommended that she receive neither tenure nor promotion. The provost agreed. Hatcher was denied tenure and, later, fired. Two male professors in Hatcher’s department were promoted and awarded tenure. The Review Board found that the provost did not sufficiently explain his decision; the Chancellor agreed, but declined to reverse the denial. Hatcher filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Her subsequent suit was dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part. Hatcher did not produce evidence from which a jury could conclude that SIU was lying about its reason for denying her tenure; she was not engaging in speech protected under Title VII or by the First Amendment when she assisted the student with the sexual harassment report. The court reversed dismissal of her claim of retaliation for filing a charge with the EEOC. View "Hatcher v. Bd. of Trs. of S. Ill. Univ." on Justia Law

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In 1994, Shott, a tenured associate professor of biostatistics at Rush University, sued, claiming discrimination by refusing to make reasonable accommodations for her religion (Orthodox Judaism) and disability (rheumatoid arthritis). A jury rejected Shott’s claim of religious discrimination but awarded her $60,000 for disability discrimination. She sued Rush again in 2011, alleging that Rush refused to increase her salary or promote her in retaliation for her earlier lawsuit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Rush. While that lawsuit was pending, Shott sued Katz (42 U.S.C. 1981), whom she had occasionally helped with statistical analysis, alleging that, in retaliation for her litigation Katz impeded her career advancement by rebuffing her invitations to collaborate. Katz was also Shott’s treating rheumatologist; she claimed he failed to timely respond to requests for prescription refills, requiring her to have an examination every six months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal, noting that Shott had not alleged that Katz’s medical care affected Shott's employment. Nor did the examination requirement amount to a material adverse action. “If she was not willing to comply with that obviously reasonable condition, she should have tried to find a new doctor, not filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.” Shott failed to allege a sufficient “nexus” between Katz’s refusal to collaborate and her career advancement; Katz’s decisions about what research to pursue, and with whom, are protected by the First Amendment. View "Shott v. Katz" on Justia Law