Articles Posted in Education Law

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In these appeals arising from a complaint filed by Ms. S. with the Maine Department of Education alleging violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq., the First Circuit remanded with instructions to dismiss Ms. S.’s action with prejudice, holding that Ms. S.’s claims about her son’s education in school years 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 were time barred. The state due process hearing officer dismissed as untimely Ms. S.’s claims about 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 and found no violations as to school years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. In the First Circuit’s second decision it held (1) the district court erred in ruling that an earlier decision by the First Circuit foreclosed the interpretation of Maine’s Unified Special Education Regulation (MUSER) that Maine has established a two-year statute of limitations for due process complaints and has done so to align its statute of limitations with the IDEA’s; and (2) Ms. S.’s proposed construction of MUSER, her waiver argument, and her argument that the Regional School Unit 72 misled her were all without merit. View "Ms. S. v. Regional School Unit 72" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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The First Circuit dismissed as moot a school district’s challenge to the district court’s order compelling the school district to determine a student’s eligibility for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) without first obtaining its own evaluations and reversed the district court’s award of attorneys’ fees to the student’s parents, holding that the challenge to the order was moot and the attorneys’ fee award was mistaken. M.S., a student formerly enrolled in the Westerly School District in Westerly, Rhode Island, suffered from Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Plaintiffs, M.S.’s parents, unsuccessfully sought to have Westerly determine that M.S. was eligible for an IEP under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. During the dispute, the district court entered an order forcing Westerly to forego conducting its own evaluations and decide immediately if M.S. was eligible for an IEP, resulting in a determination that M.S. was not eligible. The court then awarded Plaintiffs attorneys’ fees as the prevailing parties. On appeal, the First Circuit held (1) because M.S. and Plaintiffs have since moved out of the Westerly school district, this Court lacked the power to review the order that Westerly determine M.S.’s eligibility without first conducting its own evaluations; and (2) the attorneys’ fees award was not proper because Plaintiffs were not the prevailing parties. View "J.S. v. Westerly School District" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the decision of the district court and remanded this case for entry of judgment in favor of Plaintiff and for remedial proceedings, holding that the district court erred in finding that Rhode Island does not discriminate against students with disabilities by failing to provide free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualifying students of the same age. Plaintiff, through her parent and on behalf of a certified class of those similarly situated, brought this action claiming that Rhode Island violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by providing “public education” to individuals without disabilities between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-two but does not provide special education services to individuals with disabilities of the same age. The district court concluded that the adult education programs provided to non-disabled Rhode Island students beyond the age of twenty-one do not constitute “public education” within the meaning of the IDEA. The First Circuit disagreed, holding that the adult education services in Rhode Island qualify as “public education” within the meaning of the IDEA. View "K.L. v. Rhode Island Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision upholding the determination of the Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) ruling against all of Plaintiff’s claims seeking placement for her minor child in a school outside of the Boston Public Schools (BPS) system, holding that there was no basis in which to reverse the district court’s decision. Plaintiff, on behalf of her minor child, initiated this proceeding pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. A hearing officer denied relief. The district court affirmed the BSEA’s decision. On appeal, Plaintiff raised a number of claimed errors during the hearing. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court applied the proper standard in evaluating the minor child’s education progress; and (2) Plaintiff’s challenges to the conduct of the hearing itself did not warrant reversal of the district court’s decision. View "Johnson v. Boston Public Schools" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court for Regional School Unit 75 (the district) on this complaint filed by a student’s parents on his behalf under, among other things, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), holding that Plaintiffs were precluded from proving an element necessary for them to prevail on their ADA claim. The student at issue, B.P., was diagnosed with several disabilities. B.P.'s parents sought permission from the school district court to allow B.P. to carry an audio recording device at school to record almost everything said in his presence. The school district refused to permit the device, and the parents filed this lawsuit. The district court entered summary judgment for the district. While Plaintiffs’ appeal to the Court was pending, an IDEA hearing officer issued a decision rejecting Plaintiffs’ position that the recording device was required under the IDEA. Plaintiffs appealed only the dismissal of their disability discrimination claims against the district. In affirming, the First Circuit held that because of the hearing officer’s factual findings, Plaintiffs could not make the preliminary showing that the device would benefit B.P. in some manner, which was an element essential to sustaining their reasonable accommodation claim. Therefore, Plaintiffs could not prevail. View "Pollack v. Regional School Unit 75" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s eighteen-month sentence imposed in connection with his conviction for one count of possession with intent to distribute less than fifty grams of cocaine. Defendant pled guilty to the charge pursuant to a plea agreement with the government. At sentencing, Defendant’s counsel argued for a term of imprisonment of six months, while the government asked the court to impose a sentence of twelve months. The district court ultimately sentenced Defendant to an upwardly variant sentence of eighteen months of imprisonment. The First Circuit affirmed the sentence, holding that it was neither procedurally nor substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Rondon-Garcia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Plaintiff’s motion to amend on the ground that the First Circuit’s earlier decision was law of the case. Plaintiff, acting on behalf of her daughter, brought suit against the Falmouth School Department (Falmouth) alleging that it failed to provide O.M. with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) as guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. The district court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff. The First Circuit reversed in Falmouth I, holding that Falmouth did not violate O.M.’s right to a FAPE. After the First Circuit’s decision in Falmouth I, Plaintiff sought to amend her complaint to include a claim that she had not included in her district court complaint. The district court denied the motion to amend. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court properly denied Plaintiff’s motion to amend under the law of the case doctrine. View "Ms. M. v. Falmouth School Department" on Justia Law

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O.M. was a student of the Falmouth School Department. O.M.’s mother, Ms. M. argued that her daughter’s individualized education program (IEP) specified that Falmouth would instruct O.M. using a Specialized Program Individualizing Reading Excellence (SPIRE) system during her third-grade year, and because Falmouth did not provide O.M. with the SPIRE instruction, the School Department violated O.M.’s right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) as guaranteed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The district court entered judgment in favor of Ms. M. The First Circuit reversed, holding that O.M.’s IEP did not mandate that Falmouth use SPIRE, and therefore, the School Department neither breached the terms of the IEP nor denied O.M. a FAPE by omitting such instruction. View "M v. Falmouth School Department" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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Plaintiffs, two high-profile medical researchers that held faculty appointments at Harvard Medical School and were intimately involved with a research laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, were investigated for alleged research misconduct. Responding to allegations that Plaintiffs used manipulated research data in articles reporting on studies supported by government funds, Harvard and Brigham triggered a unique federal statutory and regulatory scheme. Without awaiting the outcome of the administrative proceedings, Plaintiffs filed suit in federal court against the institutional defendants, alleging, inter alia, tortious interference with business relations, invasion of privacy, and unfair and deceptive business practices. The district court dismissed the action, concluding that the suit was premature because Plaintiffs had not exhausted their administrative remedies. The First Circuit affirmed as modified, holding (1) the district court correctly applied the doctrine of administrative exhaustion; but (2) on remand, the district court is directed to convert its order of dismissal to an order staying the case pending the timely resolution of administrative proceedings. View "Anversa v. Partners Healthcare Sys., Inc." on Justia Law

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When Jane Doe was in second grade, she began receiving special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act based on her deficiency in reading fluency. More than six years later, an administrative hearing officer determined that Jane was no longer eligible to receive special education. The district court affirmed. The First Circuit vacated and remanded the case, holding (1) the district court erred in relying on evidence of Jane’s overall academic performance without regard to how it reflected her reading fluency skills; and (2) the district court did not make an independent judgment as to the additional evidence submitted by Jane’s parents and afforded excessive deference to the hearing officer’s determinations in weighing the relevant reading fluency measures. View "Mr. & Mrs. Doe v. Cape Elizabeth Sch. Dist." on Justia Law