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Court Crier: Education Law

In C.H. v. Rahway Board of Education, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, addressed the duty of care school officials owe in supervising students during school-sponsored recreational sports. The court held the school officials did not breach a duty of care to a student injured during a school-sponsored fundraising basketball game where the game was officiated by a referee, additional supervision was provided by several teachers, and there was no evidence of intentional injury. (June 19, 2019)

In Reading School District v. I-Lead Charter School, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania considered the proper scope of review by the Pennsylvania State Charter School Appeal Board (CAB) when it considers whether to uphold a school district’s decision to revoke a charter school’s charter. The court held that the CAB deliberately disregarded relevant evidence regarding the charter school students’ performance in rendering its decision and therefore its ruling was inappropriate. (March 14, 2019)

In Allegheny Intermediate Unit v. East Allegheny School District, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed, inter alia, whether an intermediate unit could invoke the doctrine of nullum tempus occurrit regi (“time does not run against the king”) to defeat the applicable statute of limitations when the doctrine was not first raised in its pleadings. The court held that the doctrine of nullum tempus is not an affirmative defense that must be raised in a pleading in order to be preserved, but must merely be raised at the appropriate stage of litigation. (January 25, 2019)

In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the United States Supreme Court denied the petition for a writ of certiorari regarding whether termination of the petitioner’s employment violated free speech rights, and the Court held it generally does not grant discretionary review of fact-specific questions. Here, although the petitioner’s free speech claim may ultimately implicate important constitutional issues, the Court found it cannot reach those issues until the factual question of the likely reason for the school district’s conduct is resolved. (January 22, 2019)

In Brewington v. Philadelphia School District, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether, under the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, 42 Pa.C.S. §§ 8541 et seq, the real property exception to governmental immunity applies where a student in gym class ran into a gym wall that did not have protective padding. The court held that the lack of padding on a gym wall may constitute negligence in the care, custody, and control of real property, and, thus, falls within the Act’s real property exception. (December 28, 2018)

In Wilson v. New York City Board of Education, the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, 2d Department, considered whether a school district could be liable to an elementary school principal for injuries sustained from a student. “A school district may not be held liable for the negligent performance of its governmental function of supervising children in its charge in the absence of a special duty to the person injured.” The court held that the school disrict established that it did not owe the principal a special duty. (December 12, 2018)

In Central Dauphin School District v. Hawkins, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether a school bus surveillance video showing a confrontation between a parent and a student was required to be disclosed under the Right-to-Know Law. The court held that the video was a public record subject to disclosure under the law. (December 10, 2018)

In Doe v. Boyertown Area School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed whether the Boyertown Area Senior High School’s policy which permitted transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms aligned with their gender identity should be enjoined. The court held that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated that they were likely to succeed on the merits of any of their claims and that plaintiffs had not shown that they would be irreparably harmed absent an injunction. (July 26, 2018)

In Re: Private Sale of Property By the Millcreek Township School District, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania addressed the role of a court following a school district’s decision to conduct a private sale of an unused or unnecessary school building pursuant to Section 7-707(3) of the Public School Code of 1949. The court held that a court’s involvement in such cases is limited to either approving or disapproving the sale based on the considerations set forth in the statute. Those considerations require a determination of whether the petition for private sale contains the requisite information and is adequately supported by the opinions of two disinterested individuals who are familiar with the real estate in the geographic area, have viewed the property for sale, and have concluded that the proposed sale price is fair, reasonable, and a better price than what could have been obtained at a public sale. The statute does not require, and thus the courts may not consider, whether the sale serves the public interest. (June 1, 2018)

In Stahr v. Lincoln Sudbury Regional School District, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that the doctrine of sovereign immunity and the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act barred a high school student’s negligence claim against her school district for personal injuries suffered while practicing field hockey. The Court found that the Act would allow claims for injuries originally caused by the district’s affirmative acts, but barred the student’s claim because the district merely failed to act to prevent her injuries. (May 18, 2018)

In Rena C. v. Colonial School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that a parent was substantially justified in rejecting the school district's ten-day offer to settle an administrative due process complaint to determine proper placement of her child under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) because the offer did not include attorney's fees. Under the IDEA, if a parent rejects the offer, the parent's eligibility for attorney's fees may be limited to only the fees accrued before the offer unless (1) the hearing results in more favorable relief than the offer, or (2) if the parent was substantially justified in rejecting the offer. Even though the court held that the parent did not receive more favorable relief, it also held that a ten-day offer that affords no attorney's fees provides substantial justification for a parent to reject the offer. (May 14, 2018)

In Nguyen v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that, in certain limited circumstances, universities may be liable for failing to prevent a student’s suicide. The court held that universities do not have a general duty of care to protect all students in all respects during their college life, including from suicide. However, the court also held that universities hold a special relationship with students, such that where a university has actual knowledge that (a) a student has attempted suicide while the student was enrolled at the university or just prior to matriculation; or (b) a student has indicated plans or intentions to commit suicide, the university has a duty to take reasonable measures to protect the student from self-harm. (May 7, 2018)

In Pugliese v. State-Operated School District of the City of Newark, Essex County, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, addressed whether a suspended educator is entitled to back pay while a remand of an arbitration decision regarding a tenure charge is pending. The court stated that New Jersey law seeks to alleviate the economic hardship endured by suspended educators and that a reverse and remand is akin to an order granting a new trial. Accordingly, the court held that the suspended educator was entitled to back pay beginning on the 121st day of her suspension as required under the statute. (April 27, 2018)

In American Civil Liberties Union v. Hendricks, the Supreme Court of New Jersey addressed whether the Secretary of Higher Education’s award of grant monies to a yeshiva and to a theological seminary as part of a state program to subsidize facility and infrastructure projects for higher education institutions in the state violated the Religious Aid Clause of the State Constitution, which prohibits the use of public funds for the maintenance of any minister or ministry. The court held that judicial review was premature because factual disputes require resolution before the secretary can make a properly informed decision on the grant applications. (May 2, 2018)

In Jane Doe No. 1 & Others v. Secretary of Education, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that the charter school cap in G.L. c. 71 § 89(i) does not violate the education clause or equal protection rights embodied in the Massachusetts Constitution because the cap protects the educational interests of students in the Commonwealth who do not attend charter schools. (April 24, 2018)

In Pollack v. Regional School Unit 75, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that a school district did not discriminate against a disabled student in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to allow a him to record everything said in his presence at school with an audio recorder because the device provided him no demonstrable benefit. (March 26, 2018)

In Zimmerman v. Sussex County Educational Services Commission, the Superior Court of New Jersey addressed whether part-time tenured teachers enjoy rights under the New Jersey Tenure Act (the “Act”) to protect them from a decrease in annual income after the school district decreased their work hours. The part-time tenured teachers’ collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) and employment contracts omitted a guaranteed minimum number of work hours. The court held that once the teachers obtained tenure, the Act required that tenure be a mandatory condition of their employment, and the failure to guarantee a minimum number of hours in the contract documents cannot strip the teachers of their tenure rights, specifically the protection against reduction in compensation. (February 13, 2018)

In Wellman v. Butler Area School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit examined whether a party that released all claims seeking relief for denial of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s core guarantee of a free and appropriate education (FAPE) must first exhaust all administrative remedies. The court held that because all claims seeking relief were based upon the denial of a FAPE, and the party released all claims related to the denial of a FAPE in a settlement agreement, the court had no basis upon which to grant relief so the case was properly dismissed. (December 12, 2017)

In Mount Lebanon School District v. J.S., the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether a school district must provide transportation for a gifted student to attend accelerated classes under the Pennsylvania Public School Code. The court held that the School Code does not require a district to provide transportation for gifted students. (November 9, 2017)

In H.E. v. Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit considered whether the fee-shifting provision in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for “a prevailing party” applies when party has only won the right to an administrative due process hearing. The parents of three children with disabilities sued their charter school under the IDEA alleging that the school failed to provide “free and appropriate public education.” The matter settled, and the school agreed to fund additional compensatory education for the children, however before it could make good on the agreement the school closed. The parents sought to enforce the agreement through the Department of Education, however an administrative hearing officer dismissed their case. The court reversed the administrative hearing decision and granted the parents a hearing while denying their request for attorney’s fees. The court held that under IDEA, a prevailing on a purely procedural matter warranted “prevailing party” status and therefore attorney’s fees. (October 11, 2017)

In Rubin v. CBS Broadcasting, Inc., the Superior Court of Pennsylvania considered whether a school police officer presented a cognizable claim of defamation or false light when the publication in which he was defamed issued a retraction, admitting the initial publication was false. The publication initially published a story that the school police officer was fired from his job over allegations of sexual abuse. The next day after the initial publication, the publisher issued a retraction, stating that the firing of the school police officer had nothing to do with any allegations of abuse. The court held that the school police officer who claimed that he was defamed presented a cognizable claim of defamation or false light as the publication made statements about the school police officer that were materially false. (September 8, 2017)

In Erie County Technical School v. Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether a school violated sections 1201(a)(1) and (5) of the Public Employee Relations Act by engaging in a coercive tactic and not bargaining in good faith when it sent a letter directly to its employees, instead of the teachers’ union, with the “final and best offer” the school proposed to the union. The court held that an employer has a First Amendment right to communicate its general views to its employees, and the letter was nothing more than an accurate depiction of negotiations and, therefore, did not constitute an unfair labor practice. (August 25, 2017)

In M.R. v. Ridley School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed when attorney’s fees are available to parents who allege violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. During judicial proceedings, the Act requires the child to remain at his or her current school. While the parents unsuccessfully challenged the school’s proposed placement for their child, the court ordered the school to reimburse the parents for costs of the child’s “stay put” placement. The court held that a court-ordered award of retrospective and compensatory relief under the “stay put” provision confers “prevailing party” status and entitles parents to attorney’s fees. (August 22, 2017)

In Purcell v. Reading School District, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania examined whether the termination of the school district superintendent was proper pursuant to charges brought under Public School Code, 24 P.S. §5-508 and 24 P.S. §10-1080 (on grounds of neglect of duty, incompetency and immorality). The court agreed that the superintendent was denied due process of law when the school board removed her from public office while egregiously comingling the investigative and adjudicative functions of the disciplinary proceedings. The charges against the superintendent originated with the school board, were testified to at the hearing by the same originating board members, and were voted upon by the same board members. This comingling by the board raised serious constitutional concerns relating to the required due process in administrative proceedings. (July 14, 2017)

In Larkins, Acting State Comptroller v. Solter, Jr., Superintendent, North Bergen District Board of Education, the Superior Court of New Jersey considered whether the State Comptroller was obligated to disclose his reasons for selecting the North Bergen District Board of Education for a performance audit before commencing the audit. The court held that New Jersey law does not impose any requirement for the State Comptroller to disclose findings of deficiency prior to conducting a performance audit. (June 15, 2017)

In Chestnut Hill College v. Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether a Catholic college’s expulsion decision is reviewable by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). At this early stage of litigation, the court could not definitively find that the college was not a “public accommodation” subject to the jurisdiction of the PHRC. The court further held that no risk of government entanglement with religion existed as the college did not connect the student’s claims to any religious doctrine. (April 17, 2017)

In Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, the United States Supreme Court addressed the standard for determining whether a school has met its obligations to provide a child with free appropriate public education (FAPE). The court held that to meet its FAPE obligation a school must offer an individualized education program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances. (March 22, 2017)

In In Application by Nonprofit Corporate Trustees, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that under a university’s bylaws, trustees were entitled to indemnification for their attorneys’ fees and costs associated with a motion to compel access to the university’s corporate records. The court noted that since Pennsylvania law authorizes a corporate director to inspect and copy “corporate books, records and documents, and in addition to inspect, and receive information regarding the assets, liabilities and operations of the corporation and any subsidiaries of the corporation” under 15 Pa. C.S. §5512(a)(1), when the university denied the trustees access to such information, their only recourse was to file a motion to compel under Section 5512(b) of the Nonprofit Corporation Law. Since they prevailed in the proceeding, they were entitled to indemnification under the university’s bylaws. (March 13, 2017)

In Joseph Kleinplatz v. Nathan L. Dembin & Associates, P.C., the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, 1st Department, addressed whether a complaint may be dismissed on the grounds of judicial estoppel when the plaintiff fails to disclose the complaint to the bankruptcy court. The court found that while an initial unintentional error would not be grounds for dismissal, in this case, the plaintiff failed to disclose the lawsuit to the bankruptcy court even after he retained bankruptcy counsel, and even after defendants cited the failure to disclose it in an unsuccessful summary judgment motion made years earlier, indicating that the omission was not a good faith mistake or unintentional error. (March 7, 2017)

In Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, the United States Supreme Court addressed whether a disabled student must exhaust administrative procedures under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) before she pursues discrimination claims against her school under the Americans with Disabilities Act and/or the Rehabilitation Act. The Court held that exhaustion of the administrative procedures established by the IDEA is unnecessary when the gravamen of the student's suit is something other than the denial of the IDEA's core guarantee of a “free appropriate public education.” The matter was remanded for an analysis of whether the gravamen of the student’s complaint -- which alleges only disability-based discrimination, without making any reference to the adequacy of the special-education services her school provided -- charges, and seeks relief for, the denial of a free appropriate public education. (February 22, 2017)

In In Re Petition of the Gateway School District to Approve the Arming of School Police Officers, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that, under Section 778 of the Pennsylvania School Code, a court does not have the authority to determine whether a school district should appoint an armed school police officer. The court held that the only authority provided to the court is limited to evaluating whether the individual proposed by the school board qualifies for the position. The court emphasized that it has no authority to review the decision by the school board to create a police force. (February 15, 2017)

In Khadidja Issa v. Lancaster School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed a provision of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA) and Pennsylvania law stating that a school district shall enroll a child the next business day, but no later than within five business days of application. School-age refugees facing language barriers asked the school district to transfer them from an accelerated credit-recovery high school to a program designed to teach language skills to English language learners. The court held that the students were likely to succeed on the merits of their EEOA claims, and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting a preliminary-injunction. (January 30, 2017)

In Touro College v. Novus University Corporation, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division 1st Department, addressed whether an accredited law school established a justiciable controversy against an online unaccredited law school upon which the court could provide a declaratory judgment. The court dismissed the claim for lack of proof that the accredited law school had been harmed by the online school. (January 26, 2017)

In Pocono Mountain School District v. Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether a school district that originally approved the creation of a charter school is financially responsible, after the revocation of the charter, for the charter school’s failure to make payments to its employees' retirement fund. The court held that retirement contributions constitute an outstanding financial obligation of a closed charter school and, that pursuant to section 17-1729-A(i) of the Charter School Law, the school district was not liable for the amounts owed. (December 28, 2016)

In Brewington v. City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether a student’s claim that his injury was caused by his school’s failure to affix safety mats to the gym’s walls was permitted under the real property exception to governmental immunity. The court explicitly overruled prior precedent that held that personalty placed on real property to render it safe for its intended use is considered to be real property for purposes of government immunity. It also held that the mere fact that the possible options for remedying the dangerous condition included the use of personalty was irrelevant. The student’s claim fell within the real property exception because the student alleged that the real property as it existed was unsafe for its intended and regular use as a gymnasium. (November 14, 2016)

In The Pennsylvania State Education Association v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether the home addresses of public school employees must be disclosed by school districts in response to Right To Know Law requests. The Court held that the law’s privacy exception and the right to informational privacy provided by the Pennsylvania Constitution preclude disclosure of the addresses. (October 18, 2016)

In Anversa v. Partners Healthcare System, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit addressed whether the doctrine of administrative exhaustion applies to the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity’s (ORI) regulatory requirements for an institution’s administrative review of research misconduct. The court held that administrative exhaustion applies to ORI’s regulatory requirements for an administrative review because it protects ORI’s authority over research misconduct and the investigation would create a useful record in a complex scientific context.  Consequently, the court found that “neither the unavailability of a monetary remedy in the administrative proceeding nor the agency’s inability to adjudicate state-law claims demands a different result.” (August 30, 2016)

In Goodwin v. Lee Public Schools, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts addressed whether a student may seek tort recovery under Mass. Gen. Laws c. 76, § 16 without first exhausting her administrative remedies under Mass. Gen. Laws. c. 71, § 37 H1/2. The court held that a student may seek monetary damages from a municipality for being unlawfully excluded from a public school without first exhausting her administrative remedies because c.71, § 37 H1/2 does not eliminate a student's available remedies, such as those under c. 76, § 16. (August 23, 2016)

In S.D. v. Haddon Heights Board of Education, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed whether claims that a board of education discriminated against a student and/or his parents based on his disability, and retaliated against them for enforcing the child’s rights under statutes other than the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), are subject to the IDEA. The student brought an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claim, Section 504 claims, and a § 1983 claim against the school board. The court determined that these claims could have been remedied through the IDEA administrative process, and therefore,the student’s claims were dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the student had not first exhausted the IDEA administrative process. (August 18, 2016)

In Parsons v. Mullica Township Board of Education, the Supreme Court of New Jersey addressed whether public entities and their employees are granted immunity pursuant to the New Jersey Tort Claims Act (TCA) for failure to report the results of a preventative public health examination. The court held that failure to timely communicate the results of an eye examination of a public elementary school student falls within the purview of the TCA, which provides immunity to public entities and their employees for failing to conduct an adequate physical or mental examination for the purpose of determining whether the examinee has a disease of a physical or mental condition. The court also held that other statutes which require certain screenings cannot determine, limit, or redefine the legislature’s intent in enacting the TCA. (August 17, 2016)

In Mahonski v. Engel, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania held that a Statement of Matters Complained of on Appeal, which contained 87 issues for review in a breach of contract action, violated Pa.R.A.P. 1925, and, therefore, the appellant waived all issues on appeal. In a consolidated appeal, the court held that the plaintiff-seller’s claim of a failure to comprehend the signed agreement of sale was not sufficient to invoke the discovery rule and extend the two-year statute of limitations on a fraud claim. (August 8, 2016)

In Doe v. Cape Elizabeth School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that, in considering a child’s eligibility for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a specific learning disability determination may include a broad range of assessments, including the child’s school grades, classroom performance, and standardized test scores, even if not tailored to measure the specific area of the child’s deficiency, but only when there is a nexus between those academic measures and the child’s deficiency. (August 5, 2016)

In Ms. S. v. Regional School Unit 72, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit addressed whether a two-year filing limitation to bring a due process hearing with the Maine Department of Education, concerning alleged Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) violations, was void because the filing limitation was not promulgated according to the Maine Administrative Procedure Act. The court held that the two-year limitation was not valid, but still determined that the student received a free appropriate public education under IDEA. (July 15, 2016)

In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the United States Supreme Court addressed whether a state university may use an admission formula that considered race. The Court held that universities are owed considerable deference when they look to balance the pursuit of diversity with the promise of equal treatment. Here, the opponents to the admission formula failed to show that the university could have met its needs via another more race-neutral process. Accordingly, the Court permitted the continued use of the admission formula. (June 23, 2016)

In New Kensington-Arnold School District v. New Kensington-Arnold Education-Association, PSEA/NEA, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that a School District was required to follow the dismissal procedures in Section 1127 of the state Public School Code, even though the employee elected a grievance arbitration instead of a school board hearing. The court held that the teacher employee did not waive his notice and hearing rights because Section 1133 of the Public School Code, which authorizes a teacher to challenge his dismissal by grievance instead of a school board hearing, expressly mandates the issuance of a Section 1127 written notice of charges and hearing before the choice of remedy is made. (June 13, 2016)

In American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey v. Hendricks, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, addressed whether the Department of Higher Education’s award of public grants to two religious institutions of higher education violated Article I, Paragraph 3 of New Jersey Constitution, otherwise known as the State Establishment Clause. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that public grants to a Jewish yeshiva college and a Christian theological seminary would be used to support religious instruction. Analyzing case law and the original intent of the drafters of the New Jersey Constitution, the Court invalidated all of the grants because they used state tax revenues for the maintenance or support of sectarian religious institutions. (May 26, 2016)

In Morgan v. Town of Lexington, MA, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit addressed whether the civil rights of a middle school student were violated because the town’s public school and its officials did not adequately respond to the bullying of the student. The court held that the facts did not give rise to a substantive due process violation, and that the conduct did not fall within the scope of Title IX, which is only concerned with actions taken “on the basis of sex.” (May 23, 2016)

In Hill v. Slippery Rock University, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) failure to provide testing for a specific medical condition, which caused student athlete’s death, increased the risk of harm. The court held that a reasonable factfinder could conclude that the failure to provide testing by the NCAA resulted in an increased risk of harm as a an error of omission. (May 3, 2016)

In Burke v. Independence Blue Cross, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether an insurer was required to provide insurance coverage for “in-school” applied behavioral analysis; notwithstanding, a place-of-service exclusion which specified that the insurer would not cover services provided in schools or other identified locations. The Court held that Pennsylvania law (40 P.S. § 764h) requires coverage of medically necessary treatment for autism spectrum disorders, including “in school” applied behavioral analysis, regardless of whether the policy excluded such coverage. (November 13, 2015)

In East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, State System of Higher Education v. Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Facilities, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether a professor could be reinstated and re-apply for tenure after being fired for failure to comply with the university’s collective bargaining agreement. The court held that the professor could be reinstated and re-apply for tenure, ruling that the university violated the terms of the collective bargaining agreement in its review of the professor’s tenure application by unilaterally modifying the tenure-review process as found in the collective bargaining agreement. (October 19, 2015)

In Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School v. School District of Philadelphia and School Reform Commission, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania considered whether the School District of Philadelphia has the statutory authority to suspend a section of the Charter School Law, which specifically forbids the school district from imposing enrollment caps on any charter school. The court held that the school district lacked the power to impose caps on enrollment in the charter schools and resolutions to that effect were invalid. The school district also lacked authority to enforce its enrollment caps by denying funding where the cap is exceeded unless enrollment was capped by agreement with the charter school. (August 27, 2015)

In Watts v. Manheim Township School District, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether a school district must provide free transportation to a student from two different residences where the student’s parents share physical custody of the student and both parents reside within the school district. The court held that the School District must provide transportation from and to both parents residences because the School District elected to provide transportation to students’ residences under the School Code. The court further held that there is no provision requiring parents to choose a residence for transportation purposes (in contrast to enrollment) and students cannot be required to travel more than 1.5 miles from their residence to the bus stop. (August 26, 2015)

In Truebright Science Academy Charter School v. The Philadelphia School District, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether the charter school should be dissolved under section 1729-A of the Charter School Law. The court upheld the nonrenewal of the charter because the charter school failed to meet the requirements set forth in its charter and the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s regulations, specifically pointing to its failure to make adequate yearly progress for two years of its five-year charter term and the consistently low percentage of students scoring proficient or better on standardized testing. (May 15, 2015)

In Parsons v. Mullica Township Board of Education, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division,addressed the viability of a cause of action brought by a student and his parents against a school nurse and Board of Education claiming that they breached their duties under N.J.A.C. 6A:16-2.2(k)(6) and the Torts Claims Act, N.J.S.A. 59:1-1 to 59:12-3, when they failed to notify the parents of a failed vision screening which ultimately led to a two-year delay in diagnosis and loss of sight in the student’s eye. The court determined that the nurse and Board were immune under the Tort Claims Act. (March 30, 2015)

In In re Villada v City of New York, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, 1st Department, addressed the issue of whether a teacher’s conduct towards another teacher violated Education Law § 3020(a) despite the teacher’s twenty year satisfactory employment history. The teacher’s unwanted sexual conduct occurred over a span of two months and evidenced his lack of appreciation for the seriousness of his actions. So, the court found that the egregiousness of the teacher’s misconduct far outweighed his satisfactory employment history. Thus, the teacher’s conduct was in violation of Education Law § 3020(a). (March 24, 2015)

In Pennsylvania State Education Association v. Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether the Right to Know Law deprives an individual of procedural due process by not providing a mechanism to ensure that the individual has notice that his or her personal data has been requested and an opportunity to demonstrate that his or her personal security may be at risk if the data is disclosed.  The court held that an agency may not grant access to an individual’s personal data without first notifying the individual and providing the individual with an opportunity to demonstrate that disclosure of the data is prohibited by the personal security exception. (February 17, 2015)

In Peguero v. Tau Kappa Epsilon, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, addressed the scope of duties that a college fraternity, its officers and its members, may owe to guests to protect them from violent conduct that may occur at a social event hosted by members of a fraternity.  Applying general principles of tort law, where the duty of care is not well settled, a court must engage in a so-called “full duty analysis.”  This analysis rests upon whether the “imposition of a general duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent foreseeable harm is fair and just under the circumstances.”  Since there was no evidence that it was foreseeable that victim would be shot while attending a party at premises used as a fraternity house, the court held the fraternity owed no duty to victim to protect him from the criminal acts of third parties. (January 15, 2015)

In The Summit School v. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Dept. of Education, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether, the Public School Code of 1949 requires the Department to reimburse the school district for the education of non-resident students pursuant to a contract between the school district and the school.  Finding the provision ambiguous, the court looked at legislative intent for a reasonable interpretation and held that where a non-resident student who has been determined to be a ward of the state is educated at the institution in which the student is housed, the Department shall pay tuition in the amount of one and one-half times the amount determined in accordance with the Public School Code, regardless of whether those services are provided by the host school district itself or contractually by a third party. (January 15, 2015)

In Bagwell v. Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed the issues of whether the Office of Open Records (OOR) was too broad in its application of the attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine, and whether such privileges were waived by an educational institution’s disclosure of certain subject matter to third parties, in light of the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL). The court held that the OOR sufficiently described the content of materials reviewed in camera, and therefore properly applied the attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine. The court determined that the educational institution did not waive either of these privileges by disclosing information pertaining to the same subject. (October 31, 2014)

In In the Matter of Town of North Hempstead v. County of Nassau, the New York Court of Appeals, addressed whether the Education Law permits Nassau County to charge back to the Town of Hempstead the amounts the County paid on behalf of the town residents attending public community colleges outside of their counties. The court found that Education Law Section 6302 did not relieve towns and cities from paying a share of the schooling for local residents attending public community colleges outside of their counties. (October 16, 2014)

In D.E. v. Central Dauphin School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed the scope of remedies available to a learning disabled minor who was deprived of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), where the school district failed to pay the minor a monetary equivalent of nearly 10,000 hours of compensatory education awarded by an impartial hearing officer during a due process hearing.  The court rejected the argument that the officer’s award only required the school district to reimburse for services the student had already attained (i.e., “front” the costs of his compensatory education award), reasoning that such interpretation is contrary to the very purpose of the IDEA, which is to provide a remedy for those denied a FAPE. (August 27, 2014)

In Kolodziej v. Board of Education of Southern Regional High School District, Ocean County, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, addressed whether a teacher’s unpaid leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) constituted continued employment at the beginning of the next succeeding academic year or at any point during the year.  The court held that the teacher remained an employee even during her maternity leave.  Because the principles underlying the FMLA and New Jersey’s Family Leave Act encourage an interpretation that preserves the rights of pregnant employees, the court found that the teacher's tenure rights were maintained even though she went on leave, and thus that she was tenured as of the beginning of her leave. (July 25, 2014)

In Commonwealth v. Kerstetter, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether the Pennsylvania School Code’s compulsory school age and attendance provisions apply to children whose parents voluntarily enroll them in public kindergarten programs. The court held that once a child is enrolled in a school district’s public kindergarten program, that child is subject to compulsory school attendance provisions.(June 16, 2014)

In Career Connection Charter H.S. v. School District of Pittsburgh, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether the Board of Public Education was correct in declining to renew a charter school pursuant to Section 1729-A(a) of the Charter School Law.  The court held that the material violations of its charter and the failure to meet student performance requirements supported the decision not to renew the charter. (May 19, 2014)

In Gati v. University of Pittsburgh, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania addressed the right of a dental student at a state university to enjoin the university from dismissing him for misconduct.  The court held that, based on the record, there was no reasonable ground to support an injunction, and that the student’s due process rights were not violated during the school’s disciplinary process. (May 8, 2014)

In Robinson v. Vivirito, the Supreme Court of New Jersey addressed the effect of the New Jersey Tort Claims Act (TCA) on a personal injury claim made against a school principal by a third party. The court had to determine the temporal and physical limits of a duty of the principal to protect a third party crossing school property on a Saturday when no school activities were being conducted. The plaintiff in this case was injured by a stray dog. The court held that under the TCA, a school principal owes no duty of care to a third party who decides to use school property after hours for personal purposes and is injured by a stray animal that is neither owned nor controlled by school personnel. (March 26, 2014)

In Pocono Mountain Charter School, Inc. v. Pocono Mountain School District, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether the State Charter School Appeal Board violated the charter school’s due process rights and abused its discretion when it re-opened the district’s case against the school to hear additional evidence on the revocation of the school’s charter.  Under Pennsylvania law, the school board has the discretion to re-open the record if supplemental information is provided that was previously unavailable.  The court held that the school board abused its discretion when it decided to admit an audit report after the close of the record because the facts contained in the report did not constitute previously unavailable information. (February 26, 2014)

In M. R. v. Ridley School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed whether:  (1) parents are eligible for reimbursement for private school costs if they do not file a claim seeking payment until after a court has ruled in favor of the school district, and (2) whether the right to interim funding, if applicable, extends through the time of a judicial appeal under the “stay-put” provision of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  The court held that the IDEA’s stay-put provision deems reimbursement for the costs of pendent placement in a private school an “appropriate” remedy.  The court also held that, to further the “protective purposes” of the IDEA, the stay-put placement is to remain in effect through the final resolution of the dispute. (February 20, 2014)

In Watts v. Manheim Township School District, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether Pennsylvania law requires a school district to provide bus service to two different residences within the same school district.  The court held that a school district cannot fulfill its transportation obligation by merely designating one residence as the sole bus stop without any consideration of the child’s other residence. To conclude otherwise would deprive the child of free transportation during alternate periods of custody. (January 7, 2014)

In Kickertz v. New York University, the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department addressed to what extent, if any, plaintiff's claims against New York University and three of its faculty members based on her improper expulsion may be brought in a plenary action, rather than the Article 78 proceeding used to challenge the propriety of the expulsion.  The court held that to the extent plaintiff's causes of action are, in essence, a challenge to the determination to expel her, she was only entitled to Article 78 review.  After reviewing each count in plaintiff's plenary action, the court permitted her leave to re-plead those claims that did not challenge her expulsion, i.e., her claims for defamation, unjust enrichment and sex and disability discrimination. (September 10, 2013)

In S.H. v. Lower Merion School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed whether the protections and remedies under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) extend to children who are mistakenly identified as disabled, but who are not, in fact, disabled.  The court held that there is no right to a claim under IDEA when a child is misidentified as “disabled” because the child is not actually “disabled.”  The court also addressed which standard – discriminatory animus or deliberate indifference – a plaintiff must demonstrate when seeking compensatory damages under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (RA) and Section 202 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The court held that deliberate indifference is needed to show intentional discrimination in RA and ADA actions. (September 5, 2013)

In B.H. v. Easton Area School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed the balance between a student’s right to free speech and a school’s need to control its educational environment.  The court held that bracelets worn by middle-school students as part of a breast-cancer-awareness campaign, which bore the slogan "I ♥ boobies! (KEEP A BREAST)” are not plainly lewd and comment on a social issue and therefore cannot be categorically banned from school. (August 5, 2013)

In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the United States Supreme Court addressed whether a public university violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when it considers race and ethnicity in admissions decisions.  The Court declined to rule on the substantive issue and held that the strict scrutiny standard should have been applied. (June 24, 2013)

In Morrow v. The Blackhawk School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (en banc) addressed the issue of whether public schools have a constitutional duty, under the Fourteenth Amendment, to protect students from abuse inflicted by fellow students under the circumstances alleged here, where two sisters were subjected to bullying in the form of a series of threats, assaults, and acts of racial intimidation at the hands of a fellow student and her accomplice.  The court explained that in order for a public school to have a duty under the Fourteenth Amendment, there must either be a “special relationship” or there must be a “state-created danger.” The court further explained that a “special relationship” has been established when “the State takes a person into its custody and holds him there against his will” and that the Due Process Clause can impose an affirmative duty to protect if the state’s own actions create the very danger that causes a plaintiff’s injury.  The court held that the allegations did not establish the special relationship or the state-created danger that must exist before a constitutional duty to protect arises under the Fourteenth Amendment. (June 5, 2013)

In Commonwealth v. Kerstetter, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether an enrolled kindergarten student must meet the requirements of the compulsory school attendance law.  Despite language in state regulations to the contrary, the Public School Code defines compulsory school age as “the period of a child’s life from the time the child’s parents elect to have the child enter school, which shall be not later than at the age of eight (8) years.”  The court held that enrolled kindergarten students are of compulsory school age. (February 19, 2013)

In Abington School District v. Department of Education, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether supplemental funding to a school district under Section 1376 of the Public School Code (Code) is to be based on the appropriateness of a student’s placement within a school or the availability of funded slots. The court held that, under Section 1376 of the Code, the Department of Education makes the determination based on the funded slots available. (January 7, 2013)

In Headen v. Jersey City Board of Education, the Supreme Court of New Jersey addressed whether the vacation leave provision of the New Jersey Civil Service Act, N.J.A.C. 4A:6-1.2(e), applies to a full-time food service worker employed on a 10-month basis. The court held that the paid vacation leave provision applies to career service, non-teaching staff employees of school districts that have opted to be part of the civil service program, including part-time and 10-month employees, who are entitled to a proportionate amount of paid vacation leave. (November 15, 2012)

In Wyland v. West Shore School District, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether a school district had an obligation to transport students who reside in more than one district, by nature of their parents having joint and equal custody.  The court interpreted Section 1361 of the Public School Code of 1494 to require the school district to provide transportation to “resident pupils,” which would include the students in question, who were residents of the district on the days of the week they resided with their father. (September 14, 2012)

In D.F. v. Collingswood Bd. of Ed., the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, addressed whether an allegation of a violation of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) was rendered moot by D.F.’s out-of-state move. The court held that the purpose of the IDEA would be a frustrated if an out-of-state move rendered IDEA claims moot. (September 12, 2012)

In Northeast Energy Partners, LLC v. Mahar Regional School District, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts addressed whether a contract between a school district and an energy broker for the procurement of electricity was exempt from the public bidding requirements required by the Uniform Procurement Act. The court concluded that, even when the contract is made with an energy broker rather than an energy supplier, the purchase of electricity is an energy contract exempt from the Uniform Procurement Act. (July 9, 2012)

In Smith v. Silver Lake Elementary, the Superior Court of Delaware opined on the breadth of the statutory immunity afforded Delaware school districts, pursuant to 14 Del. C. § 1056(h). The court held that, when an outside organization is authorized to organize activities on school grounds, the school district is immune from all claims based on simple negligence. (June 29, 2012)

In The School District of Philadelphia v. Department of Education, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether the Secretary of Education properly concluded that the enrollment cap within a charter school was invalid. The court determined that, in accordance with the Charter School Law, which specifically provides: “Enrollment of students in a charter school . . . shall not be subject to a cap or otherwise limited by any past or future action . . . unless agreed to by the charter school . . . as part of a written charter pursuant to section 1720-A,” 24 P.S. § 17-1723-A(d)(1) (emphasis added), the student enrollment cap was invalid. The charter school clearly evidenced its disagreement with the provision when it crossed out and initialed the enrollment cap provision of the charter agreement, and enclosed a letter of explanation of its disagreement with the provision. (June 4, 2012)

In Regis College v. Town of Weston, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts addressed whether exemptions from local zoning laws available to nonprofit educational institutions for “educational purposes” applied to a proposed development of educational and residential facilities for older adults. The court held that the term education is broad and comprehensive, and that the plaintiff would be entitled to the exemption if it could show that education was the dominant purpose of the development. (May 22, 2012)

In Ridley School District v. M.R., the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed which party bore the burden of persuasion in an appeal challenging an administrative decision regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The court held that the party challenging the administrative decision bears the burden of persuasion before the district court as to each claim challenged. (May 17, 2012)

In Easton Area School District v. Baxter, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania considered a ruling by the Office of Open Records that a reporter was entitled to emails and email addresses of school officials under the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL). The court refused to find that all emails sent from a work computer were records under the RTKL as some emails could be personal in nature. The court held, however, that emails which documented the school district’s activities and transactions were records and discoverable under RTKL. (January 24, 2012)

In Community Service Leadership Development Charter School v. Pittsburgh School District, a Charter School petitioned for review of an adjudication of the State Charter School Appeal Board denying its charter school application for the reason that the Charter School failed to integrate gender-based instruction, community service, and leadership development into the curriculum. The court vacated the Board’s adjudication because the Board did not “specifically articulate” its reasons for denying the application, as required by Section 1717-A(i)(6) of the Charter School Law. (January 5, 2012)

In Justin Layshock v. Hermitage School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed whether a school district can punish a student for expressive conduct originating off school grounds that did not disturb the school environment, and was not related to any school event. The student created a parody profile using his grandmother's computer on a social networking website utilizing the principal's photograph from the school's website. The court declined to adopt the school district's argument that the student's use of the principal's photograph created a sufficient nexus between the student and the school district to permit the School District to regulate the conduct. The court held that the First Amendment prohibited the school from reaching beyond the schoolyard to impose what would otherwise be appropriate discipline had the conduct occurred on school property. (June 13, 2011)

In J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed whether the school district violated a student's First Amendment free speech right and her parents' Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights to raise their child when it suspended the student for creating a MySpace profile page making fun of her school principal. The court held that the school district violated the student's First Amendment free speech right because the MySpace profile caused no substantial disruption in school, and it could not reasonably have led school officials to forecast a substantial disruption in school even though it contained adult and sexually explicit content. The court concluded that the student's suspension from school did not impinge on her parents' rights to discipline their child, nor did it force her parents to approve or disapprove their child's conduct. (June 13, 2011)

In Morabito v. Board of Education of the Smyrna Sch. Dist., the Supreme Court of Delaware considered whether the termination of the employment of a teacher at the Smyrna School District was warranted on the basis of neglect of duty pursuant to the teacher termination statute. The teacher appealed the decision of the Smyrna School District Board of Education arguing that there was not substantial evidence to support such a finding because the duties that the teacher was charged with neglecting were not contained in writing. The court held that the Board's conclusion was sufficiently supported in the 1,200-page record by testimony and documentary evidence. (May 16, 2011)

In the Matter of the State Board of Education's Denial of Petition to Adopt Regulations Implementing the New Jersey High School Voter Registration Law, the Superior Court of New Jersey addressed whether the Commissioner of Education must adopt regulations to implement the High School Voter Registration Act (HSVRA). The court found that, because the HSVRA requires that the Commissioner of Education "shall" adopt rules and regulations to implement the Act, such adoption is mandatory. However, the court held that the regulations already in place concerning public schools meet the minimal threshold requirement of the HSVRA and that further adoption is not necessary. For nonpublic schools, which have no regulations in place, the court held that regulations must be adopted. (April 25, 2011)

In Wayne Moving v. Philadelphia School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed whether a moving company could sue a school district for unjust enrichment for unpaid moving services. The court held that the Pennsylvania Public School Code applies to "contracts of any kind" and bars claims arising out of implied contracts and related claims for equitable estoppel. 24 Pa. Stat. Ann. Sec. 5-508. (October 28, 2010)

In Meyer v. Comm. College of Beaver Co., the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania addressed the extent of governmental immunity in a case involving students suing the community college, which lost its certification, under contract and warranty theories, as well as the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection law. The Commonwealth Court held that governmental immunity extends to all statutory causes of action, whether arising in tort or contract, subject only to the eight exceptions enumerated in the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act. The Supreme Court, disagreed, holding that "governmental immunity does not extend to all statutory causes of action, regardless of whether they sound in tort or contract." (August 17, 2010)

In Steven I. v. Central Bucks School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Court addressed the applicability of the statute of limitations in the 2004 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act to compensatory education claims that are brought after the statute's effective date, but that arise from conduct that occurred prior to the statute's passage. The statute of limitations did not become effective until seven months after the enactment of the 2004 amendments, giving plaintiffs ample opportunity to learn about the change in the law and to file a claim based on prior conduct. Therefore, the court held that it is reasonable to apply the statute to claims based on conduct that pre-dated the law. (August 18, 2010)

In Slippery Rock Area Sch. Dist. v. Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania granted a Petition for Allowance of Appeal to address a school funding question. The question the court will consider is: "Whether, pursuant to the Public School Code, 24 P.S. §§ 1-101 to 27-2702, and the Charter School Law, 24 P.S. §§17-1701-A to 17-1751-A, a school district that has exercised its discretion not to provide a kindergarten program to four-year old students within its district is nevertheless obligated to fund a kindergarten program provided by a cyber charter school for a four-year-old student residing within that same district?" (August 3, 2010)

In In re: Suspension of the Teaching Certificate of Melissa Van Pelt, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division issued a decision regarding the applicability of N.J.S.A. 18A:26-10 and N.J.S.A. 18A:28-8 to charter schools. N.J.S.A. 18A:26-10 governs the suspension of a teacher's certificate for wrongfully ceasing to perform his or her duties. N.J.S.A. 18A:28-8 requires a tenured teacher to give sixty days written notice of his or her intention to resign from a teaching position. The appellant in this case took issue with the final decision of the Commissioner of Education that suspended her teaching certificate for one year after she resigned from her teaching position at a New Jersey Charter School. In determining that these statutes apply to teaching staff members of charter schools as well as public schools, the Commissioner reasoned that the Charter School Program Act of 1995 (CSPA), N.J.S.A. 18A:36A-1 to -18, explicitly provides that charter schools are public schools and are required to "operate in accordance with its charter and the provisions of law and regulation which govern other public schools." N.J.S.A. 18A:36A-11(a). The Court found that, in light of the CSPA and the purpose of the statutes, the Commissioner's decision to apply the statues to charter school teachers and staff was in accord with the legislature's intent. (July 27, 2010)

In Ferren C. v. Philadelphia School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed whether the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) permits the award of compensatory education to a disabled student over the age of twenty-one. The court held that, although the IDEA limits the obligation of a school district to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) only to students under the age of twenty-one, an individual over that age is still eligible for compensatory education for a school district's failure to provide a FAPE prior to the student turning twenty-one years of age. Because the school district in this matter had previously failed to provide the plaintiff with a FAPE and the compensatory education awarded by the District Court served the purposes of the IDEA, the Third Circuit held that the plaintiff was entitled to the compensatory education awarded. (July 13, 2010)

In Besler v. Bd. of Educ. of West Windsor-Plainsboro Reg'l Sch. Dist., et al., the Supreme Court of New Jersey addressed whether, for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the President of the defendant Board of Education was acting as a final policy maker while presiding at a Board meeting, such that the Board could be held liable for a violation of the plaintiff's First Amendment rights. The court also addressed a remittitur request associated with the plaintiff's claim for damages based on emotional distress. For § 1983 purposes, a municipality can be held liable for the acts of an official who has final policymaking authority related to the questioned activity. Whether an "official" has final policymaking authority is a question of state law for the court. The plaintiff filed a § 1983 claim alleging that the Board violated his First Amendment rights when the President of the Board did not permit him to continue his speech during the public comment period of a Board meeting. The court held that because the President of the Board controlled the Board meeting and the other Board members acquiesced in the President's decision to silence the plaintiff, the President had final, policymaking authority. Thus, the defendant could be held liable for his actions. Addressing the defendant's remittitur request, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court's denial of a remittitur, and remanded the case for a remittitur hearing. In so holding, the Court stated that compensatory damages for emotional distress in a § 1983 claim must be based on more than de minimis mental anguish, fleeting embarrassment, or mere shock and bewilderment. (May 17, 2010) 

In J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed the First Amendment rights of a student who created a MySpace.com Internet profile from her home computer that featured her principal. The profile did not state the principal's name, but included his photograph from the Blue Mountain School District website, as well as statements insinuating that he was a sex addict and pedophile. The school subsequently suspended the student, "J.S." J.S. argued that the school violated her First Amendment rights by punishing her. The Third Circuit disagreed. Because school authorities could reasonably have forecast a substantial disruption of, or material interference with, the school as a result of the MySpace profile, the court held that the School District did not violate J.S.'s First Amendment free speech rights when it disciplined her for creating the profile. (February 4, 2010)

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Layshock v. Hermitage School District, addressed another First Amendment case arising from a student creating a MySpace.com profile. In Layshock, the plaintiff was suspended after he created a MySpace profile for his principal using his grandmother's computer. The profile contained lewd and offensive material. Unlike in J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District, the District Court found that the School District could not establish a sufficient nexus between the plaintiff's speech and a substantial disruption of the school environment. That finding was not challenged on appeal. The Third Circuit concluded that it would establish a dangerous precedent if it allowed school authorities to reach into a child's home and control his/her actions there to the same extent that they can control the child when he/she participates in school sponsored activities. Although schools, under certain very limited circumstances, may punish expressive conduct that occurs outside of school as if it occurred inside the "schoolhouse gate," the court found that none of those circumstances were present in this case. As a result, the court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff on his First Amendment claim.
(February 4, 2010)

In Orzech v. Fairleigh Dickenson University, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division addressed a charitable immunity claim under the Charitable Immunity Act (Act), N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-7 to -11. In particular, the court addressed whether Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) was immune from a claim by a twenty-one year old student who accidentally fell to his death from his fourth floor dormitory window because, at the time of the accident, he was a beneficiary of the school's charitable works. The Law Division rejected FDU's claim of immunity. The Appellate Division reversed the decision, holding "that FDU's negligent failure to enforce its alcohol policy and Orzech's violation of that policy [did] not negate Orzech's status as a beneficiary of FDU's educational works at the time of the accident." (December 29, 2009)

The Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari in Christian Legal Society Chapter v. Martinez to decide whether the Ninth Circuit erred when it held, directly contrary to the Seventh Circuit's decision in Christian Legal Society v. Walker, 453 F.3d 853 (7th Cir. 2006), that the United States Constitution allows a state law school to deny recognition to a religious student organization because the group requires its officers and voting members to agree with its core religious viewpoints. (December 7, 2009)

In Chambers v. School District of Philadelphia, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) claims brought by the parents of a child with cognitive and developmental disorders. Plaintiffs alleged that the School District's failure to provide their child with an appropriate education obstructed her intellectual growth and constituted a violation of their child's statutory and constitutional rights. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the School District on all of the Chambers' claims. The Third Circuit remanded the case, holding that parents have substantive rights under the IDEA, and that evidence of the School District's failure to provide a free and appropriate education was enough to overcome summary judgment as to the ADA claims. The court affirmed that part of the District Court's ruling holding that compensatory and punitive damages are not an available remedy under the IDEA. (November 20, 2009)

In Stratechuk v. Board of Education, South Orange-Maplewood Sch. Dist. et al., the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit addressed whether a School District, in order to maintain a policy of complete religious neutrality, may prohibit celebratory religious music at school-sponsored events. The policy at issue prohibited the performance of music representing a religious holiday, but did not prohibit the teaching of celebratory holiday music. Plaintiff, the father of two students at the school, brought claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the School District's policy on the performance of religious holiday music violates the Establishment Clause, as well as his children's First Amendment "right to receive information and ideas, right to learn, and right to academic freedom." Discussing Plaintiff's Establishment Clause claim, the court agreed with the District Court's conclusion that the policy restricting the performance of religious holiday music does not violate the Establishment Clause. Regarding Plaintiff's First Amendment claim, the court affirmed the District Court's ruling that the School District's policy does not violate the First Amendment because the School District's concerts are not public fora, and the School District's interpretation of its policy is reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns. (November 24, 2009) 

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