Articles Posted in Education Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants, challenging on First Amendment grounds, a school uniform policy that required their two minor children to wear shirts or sweatshirts with a logo consisting of the name of the school, a stylized picture of a gopher (the school mascot), and the motto "Tomorrow’s Leaders." Given the failure of the Ninth Circuit's en banc call, the panel held that the uniform policy—both the motto requirement and the exemption—violated the First Amendment. The panel reasoned that there can hardly be interests more compelling than fostering children's educational achievement and providing a safe and supportive educational environment. However, requiring students to display the motto "Tomorrow's Leaders" on their uniforms was not narrowly tailored to serve those interests. The panel held that the Individual Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because the applicable law was not sufficiently clear to put them on notice that the uniform policy would violate the First Amendment. However, because the Institutional Defendants were not individuals, they were not protected by qualified immunity. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Frudden v. Pilling" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's judgment in favor of DOE in a suit filed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Plaintiff, the parent of J.B., filed suit individually and on behalf of J.B., challenging J.B.'s individualized education plan (IEP). The panel held that the case was not moot; DOE violated the IDEA by failing to address transition services in the proposed IEP; DOE violated the IDEA by failing to specify in the IEP the Least Restrictive Environment during the regular and extended school year, and the IEP did not detail the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of the proposed specialized instruction in J.B.'s Science and Social Studies activities; nothing in 20 U.S.C. 1414(d) indicates that an IEP must specify the qualifications or training of service providers nor was it established in the record that DOE agreed to provide such an aide at the IEP meeting; and DOE violated the IDEA by failing to specify Applied Behavioral Analysis as a methodology in the IEP. View "R. B. v. Hawaii Department of Education" on Justia Law

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An educational agency does not commit a per se violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1414, by not specifying the anticipated school where special education services will be delivered within a child's individualized education program. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Department in an action brought on behalf of a student under the IDEA. The panel held that the IDEA did not require identification of the anticipated school where special education services would be delivered in light of the student's planned move to a new school district. Therefore, the student was not denied a free appropriate public education because of a purported procedural error. View "Rachel H. v. Department of Education, State of Hawaii" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying a high school coach's motion for a preliminary injunction that would require the District to allow him to kneel and pray on the fifty-yard line in view of students and parents immediately after football games. The panel held that the coach spoke as a public employee, not as a private citizen, and therefore declined to reach whether the district justifiably restricted his speech to avoid violating the Establishment Clause. The coach could not demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits of his First Amendment retaliation claim, and was not entitled to the preliminary injunction he sought. By kneeling and praying on the fifty-yard line immediately after games, the coach was fulfilling his professional responsibility to communicate demonstratively to students and spectators, and he took advantage of his position to press his particular views upon the impressionable and captive minds before him. View "Kennedy v. Bremerton School District" on Justia Law

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The passage of Assembly Bill 97, a massive reform package designed to streamline public education financing and decentralize education governance, did not abrogate the Ninth Circuit's decisions in which the panel held that California school districts and county offices of education (COEs) are "arms of the state" entitled to state sovereign immunity. Applying the factors set forth in Mitchell v. Los Angeles Community College District, 861 F.2d 198, the panel held that school districts and COEs in California remain arms of the state and cannot face suit. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's lawsuit against the Orange County Department of Education where plaintiff alleged claims related to his termination with the Department. View "Sato v. Orange County Department of Education" on Justia Law

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M.N. filed a due process complaint alleging that the District committed procedural and substantive violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400(d)(1)(A). The ALJ denied all claims and the district court affirmed. The Ninth Circuit filed an amended opinion reversing the district court's judgment, holding that neither the duration of the hearing, the ALJ's active involvement, nor the length of the ALJ's opinion can ensure that the ALJ was thorough and careful in its findings of fact; plaintiffs' claim that the District committed a procedural violation of the IDEA by failing to adequately document its offer of the visually impaired (TVI) services was not waived; the District committed two procedural violations as to the individualized education plan (IEP); the District's failure to specify the assistive technology (AT) devices that were provided infringed M.N.'s opportunity to participate in the IEP process and denied the student a free appropriate education (FAPE); the panel remanded for a determination of the prejudice the student suffered as a result of the District's failure to respond to the complaint and the award of appropriate compensation; in regard to substantive violations, the panel remanded so the district court could consider plaintiffs' claims in light of new guidance from the Supreme Court in Endrew F. v. Douglas Cty. Sch. Dist., 137 S. Ct. 988 (2017); and M.N., as the prevailing party, was entitled to attorneys' fees. View "M.C. v. Antelope Valley Union High School District" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a dispute over which California government entity would be responsible for funding the education of K.G. pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400(d)(1)(A). The School District contended that the district court erred in granting K.G. relief from its original judgment denying attorneys' fees. The court concluded that the district court did not apply the incorrect legal rule in evaluating whether to grant relief pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1) where the district court's determination that K.G.'s delay in pursuing Rule 60(b) relief was understandable in light of the original attorney's poor mental and physical health; K.G. was the prevailing party entitled to attorney fees because K.G.'s prayer was answered in full when the ALJ designated the School District as the responsible agency and granted K.G.'s requested relief; K.G. qualified as a prevailing party under the IDEA, and this victory was not trivial or merely technical; but it was not clear from the district court's award that it took into account forgoing considerations in reducing the fees originally requested. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "Irvine Unified School District v. K.G." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, parents of a student at the District, filed suit alleging claims that the District violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. Plaintiffs argued that the district court misapplied the statute of limitations in 20 U.S.C. 1415(f)(3)(C) to their claims that the District failed to identify their child's disability or assess him for autism in 2006 and 2007. The court concluded, as a question of first impression, that the IDEA's statute of limitations requires courts to bar only claims brought more than two years after the parents or local educational agency "knew or should have known" about the actions forming the basis of the complaint. In this case, the district court barred all claims "occurring" more than two years before plaintiffs filed their due process complaint. Therefore, the court remanded so that the district court could determine when plaintiffs knew or should have known about the actions forming the basis of their complaint. View "Avila v. Spokane School District 81" on Justia Law

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M.C. filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400(d)(1)(A), alleging that the district violated the IDEA by (1) failing to adequately document the services provided by a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI), (2) failing to specify the assistive technology (AT) devices provided, and (3) failing to file a response to the due process complaint. The court concluded that the district's failure to adequately document the TVI services and AT devices offered to M.C. violated the IDEA and denied M.C. a free appropriate public education (FAPE); these procedural violations deprived M.C.'s mother of her right to participate in the individualized education program (IEP) process and made it impossible for her to enforce the IEP and evaluate whether the services M.C. received were adequate; and, at the very least, plaintiffs were entitled to have the district draft a proper IEP and receive compensatory education he would have occupied but for the school's violations of the IDEA. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment and remanded. View "M.C. v. Antelope Valley Union High School District" on Justia Law

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The court filed (1) an order amending its opinion and denying a petition for panel rehearing and a petition for rehearing en banc, and (2) an amended opinion reversing the district court's summary judgment in favor of the school district. Plaintiff filed suit to require the district court to provide her son L.J. with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. Although the district court found that L.J. was disabled under three categories defined by the IDEA, it concluded that an IEP for specialized services was not necessary because of L.J.'s satisfactory performance in general education classes. The court concluded that the district court clearly erred because L.J. was receiving special services, including mental health counseling and assistance from a one-on-one paraeducator. The court pointed out the important distinction that these are not services offered to general education students. The court explained that the problem with the district court's analysis is that many of the services the district court viewed as general education services were in fact special education services tailored to L.J.'s situation. Because L.J. is eligible for special education, the school district must formulate an IEP. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for the district court to provide that remedy. The court also concluded that the school district clearly violated important procedural safeguards set forth in the IDEA when it failed to disclose assessments, treatment plans, and progress notes, which deprived L.J.'s mother of her right to informed consent. The school district failed to conduct a health assessment, which rendered the school district and IEP team unable to evaluate and address L.J.'s medication and treatment related needs. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "L. J. v. Pittsburg Unified School District" on Justia Law