Articles Posted in Education Law

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C.V. was a seven-year-old second grade student at an elementary school operated by Albuquerque Public Schools (“APS”). He was eligible for special education benefits for autism. One morning in 2011, C.V. disrupted his class, ran away from APS staff, kicked an APS social worker, and kicked and shot rubber bands at APS School Security Officer Xiomara Sanchez. To protect C.V. and others, Officer Sanchez handcuffed him to a chair. Before doing so, Officer Sanchez had called C.V.’s mother, who granted permission to restrain him, and repeatedly warned C.V. to calm down. Officer Sanchez was unaware of C.V.’s disability. C.V.’s parents sued under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), claiming APS denied C.V. a protected benefit and discriminated against him. The district court granted summary judgment to APS. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed that decision. View "J. V. v. Albuquerque Public Schools" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of allegations that AKC, a child with autism, suffered abuse at school by her special-education teacher, Vickie Cantrell. AKC’s parents, Ted and Bella Carroll, filed suit in federal district court against Cantrell, the school district, and others, seeking damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and a variety of state-law theories. The district court dismissed the Carrolls’ federal claims, concluding the Carrolls had not exhausted their administrative remedies before filing suit as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (the IDEA). The district court then dismissed the Carrolls’ complaint, declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over their state-law claims. The Carrolls appealed. The single issue on appeal before the Tenth Circuit was whether the district court erred in determining the Carrolls’ federal claims were subject to the IDEA’s exhaustion requirement. Because the Court concluded the Carrolls’ complaint alleged educational injuries that could have been redressed to some degree by the IDEA’s administrative remedies, it agreed with the district court that exhaustion of those remedies was required before the Carrolls could file suit. View "Carroll v. Lawton Independent School" on Justia Law

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Christine B., the mother of student "A.F.," filed suit claiming that the Espanola Public Schools failed to address appropriately her daughter's disabilities in the educational program it formulated for her. Before any hearing could be held, Christine sought to mediate her dispute. In the end, the parties signed a settlement agreement. As a result of the settlement, Christine B. asked the administrative agency to dismiss her Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) claims with prejudice. Despite the satisfactory result she received through mediation, Christine B. filed suit again, though not pursuant to IDEA, but under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and 42 U.S.C. 1983. The allegations in her federal court complaint and those in her original IDEA administrative complaint were nearly identical: both alleged that A.F. suffered from the same disabilities and both contended that the school district failed to take her disabilities into account in her educational program. Agreeing with the school district that Christine B. failed to exhaust available administrative remedies, the district court dismissed her lawsuit. Christine B. appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal. View "A.F. v. Espanola Public Schools" on Justia Law

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In this case, the parents of an autistic child withdrew him from the Douglas County School District because they believed his educational progress was inadequate. They later sought reimbursement of tuition and related expenses pursuant to federal law that required public schools to reimburse parents if the school could not meet the student's educational needs. The District’s denial of reimbursement was upheld after a due process hearing in administrative court, and that determination was also upheld in federal district court. The Tenth Circuit affirmed, finding sufficient support in the record to affirm the findings of the administrative law judge that the child received some educational benefit while in the District’s care and that is enough to satisfy the District’s obligation to provide a free appropriate public education. View "Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District" on Justia Law

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Kansas developed a school financing scheme that sought to avoid “mak[ing] the quality of a child’s education a function of his or her parent’s or neighbors’ wealth.” Displeased with the outcome of school finance litigation in state court, plaintiffs, parents of students in the relatively wealthy Shawnee Mission School District (“SMSD”), sought federal intervention to upend decades of effort toward establishing an equitable school finance system in Kansas. Adopting a "kitchen-sink approach," they claimed that aspects of the state’s school financing regime violated their rights to free speech, to petition the government, to associate, to vote, to education, to equal protection of the laws, to direct the upbringing of their children, and to dispose of their property. Upon review of plaintiffs' "novel and expansive claims," the Tenth Circuit found no support and affirmed the district court’s orders denying plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, granting in part defendants’ motions to dismiss, and denying reconsideration. View "Petrella v. Brownback" on Justia Law

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Paul and Melinda Muskrat brought a civil rights action on behalf of their disabled son against the school district where he attended school for several years and against certain school district employees. The Muskrats alleged that the defendants unconstitutionally subjected their son to timeouts and physical abuse. The school district moved to dismiss, arguing that the Muskrats had not exhausted their claims through administrative procedures established by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The district court denied this motion, ruling that the Muskrats had no obligation to exhaust their claims. The case then proceeded to discovery and the defendants eventually moved for summary judgment, arguing that no constitutional violation occurred. The district court agreed and granted defendants' motions. The Tenth Circuit affirmed in all respects. "First, plaintiffs' claims [did] not fail for lack of exhaustion. Second, reaching the merits, the district court did not err in concluding the defendants' conduct did not shock the conscience, nor did it have an obligation to evaluate the claims under the reasonableness standard of the Fourth Amendment." View "Muskrat v. Deer Creek Public Schools" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were high school students from Roswell, New Mexico who belonged to a religious group called "Relentless." They sued the Roswell Independent school district and its superintendent seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for allegedly violating their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by preventing them from distributing 2500 rubber fetus dolls to other students. They also challenged the District's policies requiring preapproval before distributing any non-school-sponsored materials on school grounds. Teachers complained that students' preoccupation with the dolls disrupted classroom instruction: "[w]hile teachers were trying to instruct, students threw dolls and doll heads across classrooms, at one another, and into wastebaskets. Some teachers said the disruptions took eight to 10 minutes each class period, and others said their teaching plans were derailed entirely. An honors freshman English class canceled a scheduled test because students had become engaged in name calling and insults over the topic of abortion. A Roswell security officer described the day as 'a disaster' because of the dolls." A magistrate judge granted summary judgment for the District on all claims and Plaintiffs appealed. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiffs' free speech, free exercise and equal protection claims. The Court also affirmed dismissal of Plaintiffs' facial challenge to the District's preapproval policies. View "Taylor v. Roswell Independent School Dist. " on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellee Elizabeth E. was a student in the Jefferson County, Colorado school system with substantial behavioral and emotional issues for which she required special education under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act ("IDEA"). In November 2008, Elizabeth's parents, Roxanne B. and David E. enrolled her at Innercept, LLC, a residential treatment center in Idaho, and sought reimbursement from Plaintiff-Appellant Jefferson County School District R-1 (the "District"). An Impartial Hearing Officer (IHO) concluded Parents were entitled to reimbursement for the placement under the Act. That decision was affirmed by a state Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), whose decision was, in turn, affirmed by the Colorado federal district court. The District appealed, arguing Innercept was not a reimbursable placement under the IDEA and that Parents' conduct precluded reimbursement. Finding that Innercept was indeed a reimbursable placement, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's order. View "Jefferson County School v. Elizabeth E." on Justia Law

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In this litigation, Appellants (plaintiffs below) brought an action under 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging the statutory scheme by which the state of Kansas funds its public schools. The district court dismissed their suit for lack of standing. Upon review of the matter and the applicable statutory authority, the Tenth Circuit concluded that the Appellants had standing because their alleged injury, unequal treatment by the state, would be redressed by a favorable decision. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Petrella, et al v. DeBacker, et al" on Justia Law

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The issue on appeal before the Tenth Circuit in this case was whether the use of a particular desk in special education classrooms was permissible under the United States Constitution. The desks in question wrap around the student on the front and the sides and have a securing bar that runs behind the student’s chair. A student can only remove herself by sliding under or crawling over the desk’s surface when the bar is in place. Ebonie S., a young girl with multiple disabilities, was often required to sit in this type of desk. Ebonie’s mother, Mary S., filed suit on her behalf under 42 U.S.C. 1983, contending that the use of the desk violated the Fourth Amendment, the Due Process Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Rehabilitation Act. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants on the constitutional claims, but denied summary judgment on the statutory claims. Plaintiff appealed the grants of summary judgment. "Plaintiff devote[ed] much effort to arguing that the use of the desk was prohibited under Colorado law and was contrary to well-established educational standards. But it is not our office to decide the lawfulness of the desk under state law or the wisdom of using the desk as a matter of pedagogical policy. . . . We hold only that use of the desk under the circumstances presented did not violate the Fourth or the Fourteenth Amendments." View "Ebonie S. v. Pueblo School District 60, et al" on Justia Law