Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Education Law
Mr. & Mrs. Doe v. Cape Elizabeth Sch. Dist.
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
Ms. S. v. Regional School Unit 72
Ms. S. filed a request for a due process hearing with the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) concerning alleged Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) violations in the case of her son, B.S., during his ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade years. A hearing officer with the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) dismissed Ms. S.’s ninth and tenth grade claims as time barred by a two-year filing limitation. Ms. S. sought judicial review, arguing that the two-year filing limitation was void because it was not promulgated in compliance with the Maine Administrative Procedure Act (MAPA). The district court upheld the hearing officer’s decision, concluding (1) the two-year filing limitation was valid; and (2) B.S. received a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the eleventh and twelfth grades. The First Circuit vacated and remanded in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the district court erred in its analysis of the validity of the two-year filing limitation, and the record is insufficient to determine whether the MDOE adequately complied with MAPA procedures when adopting the filing limitation; and (2) B.S. received a FAPE in the eleventh and twelfth grades. View "Ms. S. v. Regional School Unit 72" on Justia Law
Morgan v. Town of Lexington
R.M. was a 12-year-old middle school student in Lexington, when several students pulled him to the ground and beat him, repeatedly kicking and punching him in the head and stomach. The beating was captured on a video. Principal Flynn discussed the incident with R.M.’s mother, Morgan. He indicated that R.M. had agreed to the beating as part of an initiation into a group and had "delay[ed] the investigation," so that R.M. would not be allowed to participate in an upcoming track meet. Later, R.M. was "pushed, tripped, punched or verbally assaulted while walking in school hallways." R.M. had his pants pulled down in front of other students and was pushed into a locker. Morgan emailed Principal Flynn that R.M. did not feel safe at school and was scared to report bullying for fear of retaliation. R.M. missed a significant amount of school due to anxiety attacks. Morgan filed suit, alleging violation of R.M.'s federal substantive due process rights, relying upon a theory once suggested by the Supreme Court that when the state creates a danger to an individual, an affirmative duty to protect might arise. The First Circuit affirmed dismissal, further agreeing that the conduct did not fall within the scope of Title IX, which is concerned with actions taken "on the basis of sex," and not undifferentiated bullying. View "Morgan v. Town of Lexington" on Justia Law
Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College
An organization called Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. (SFFA) brought this lawsuit challenging Harvard College’s consideration of race in its undergraduate admissions decision. An opposing group of current and prospective Harvard students (“Students”) sought to intervene, over both parties’ objection, to advocate for the defeat of SFFA’s claims. The district court denied Students’ motion to intervene. Students appealed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that Students failed to show that no existing party would adequately represent Students’ interest and thus that Students’ participation as a party was not needed. View "Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College" on Justia Law
Posted in: Education Law
Int’l Junior Coll. of Bus. & Tech., Inc. v. Duncan
The United States Department of Education (DOE) Secretary decided through an administrative proceeding that International Junior College of Business and Technology, Inc. (International) could not participate in certain federal student financial assistance programs. Specifically, the DOE found that International failed to comply with a requirement that for-private colleges derive at least ten percent of their revenue from some source other than federal student aid (“the 90/10 rule”). International challenged the decision under the Administrative Procedure Act in a Puerto Rico district court. The district court granted the DOE’s motion for summary judgment, thus dismissing the action. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the DOE’s 90/10 assessment was proper; (2) the Secretary did not err in rejecting International’s attempts to cure its 90/10 violation; and (3) the magistrate judge did not err by denying International the chance to conduct discovery. View "Int’l Junior Coll. of Bus. & Tech., Inc. v. Duncan" on Justia Law
S. Kingstown Sch. Comm. v. Joanna S.
South Kingstown School Committee (Committee) runs one of Rhode Island’s public school districts. Rhode Island has accepted federal funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Appellant, the mother of P.J., a disabled child the Committee was responsible for educating, filed a due process complaint seeking additional educational services for P.J. from the Committee. The Committee settled with Appellant pursuant to a Settlement Agreement under which the Committee agreed to perform four evaluations of P.J. After Appellant demanded ten additional evaluations, the Committee filed a due process complaint of its own. A Hearing Officer ruled against the Committee, concluding that some of the evaluations of P.J. had not been appropriate. The Committee then filed suit in federal district court. The district court reversed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in determining that the Settlement Agreement relieved the Committee of any obligation to perform or fund one of the evaluations; and (2) the district court did not err in concluding that there was insufficient factual support for Appellant’s other evaluation request. Remanded. View "S. Kingstown Sch. Comm. v. Joanna S." on Justia Law
Lebron v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
Plaintiffs, the parents of a minor child with Asperger’s Syndrome, filed suit against the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Department of Education under a number of federal and state statutes for alleged retaliation and discrimination against their child. The Commonwealth moved to dismiss the claims against it pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, which the district court granted. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs did not sufficiently plead either discrimination or retaliation, and therefore, dismissal of their federal claims was proper; and (2) Plaintiffs’ argument that the Commonwealth waived its sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment was waived for lack of development. View "Lebron v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" on Justia Law
Rocket Learning, Inc. v. Rivera-Sanchez
This suit arose from a 2010 change to the certification and enrollment process for providers in the Commonwealth's Supplemental Educational Services program, funded under federal law. Appellant, a certified educational services provider based in Puerto Rico, filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Defendant, personally and in his official capacity as Puerto Rico's Secretary of Education, alleging that the change in the certification and enrollment process unilaterally and arbitrarily disadvantaged Appellant vis-a-vis its competitors. The district court dismissed the amended complaint in its entirety, finding that it lacked sufficiently well-pled facts to support a plausible claim that Defendant had violated Appellant's due process, equal protection, or commercial free speech rights. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed on alternate grounds, holding that Defendant was entitled to qualified immunity as to all claims. View "Rocket Learning, Inc. v. Rivera-Sanchez" on Justia Law
M.v. King Philip Reg’l Sch.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400-1491, requires that students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment possible. Sebastian, born in 1986, has mental retardation and began receiving special education services when he was three years old. Every year the school district developed an individualized education plan for him; he has received vocational and personal care education in addition to basic academic education and has had a variety of work experiences. Although he had visual-motor and visual-spatial deficits, as well as deficits in receptive language skills, he made steady progress. When he was 20 years old, his parents became dissatisfied with his public education and placed him in a private residential facility. An administrative hearing officer determined that Sebastian's parents were not entitled to recover the costs of Sebastian's private education, and the district court affirmed. The First Circuit affirmed, finding the services offered by the district adequate. View "M.v. King Philip Reg'l Sch." on Justia Law
Morales-Cruz v. Univ. of PR
UPRLS hired plaintiff as an assistant professor, with possibility of tenure after five years. During her probation, plaintiff, with a male professor, worked in the school's Legal Aid Clinic. Plaintiff's co-teacher had a sexual relationship with a student, who became pregnant as a result. Near the end of her probation, plaintiff requested a one-year extension. The dean questioned plaintiff about her knowledge of the relationship between her co-teacher and the pregnant student and chastised her for failing to report. There was no internal regulation prohibiting student-teacher relationships or mandating reporting. The Dean recommended the extension, but added comments questioning her judgment and maturity. When plaintiff learned of these comments, she wrote to the Chancellor and others, denouncing the comments. The dean reversed his position. A committee was formed and voted to deny the extension. After obtaining a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC, plaintiff sued UPRLS and individuals, alleging gender-based discrimination and retaliation under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(a), 2000e-3(a). The district court dismissed. The First Circuit affirmed. The allegations did support a reasonable inference that plaintiff was engaging in protected conduct when she opposed the dean’s remarks or that defendants’ actions were based on gender. View "Morales-Cruz v. Univ. of PR" on Justia Law