Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Education Law

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Where a university takes an adverse employment action against an employee, in response to allegations of sexual misconduct, following a clearly irregular investigative or adjudicative process, amid criticism for reacting inadequately to allegations of sexual misconduct by members of one sex, these circumstances support a prima facie case of sex discrimination. When contesting an inference of bias based on procedural irregularity, an employer cannot justify its abandonment of promised procedural protections by recharacterizing specific accusations in more generic terms. Where a student files a complaint against a university employee, the student is motivated, at least in part, by invidious discrimination, the student intends that the employee suffer an adverse employment action as a result, and the university negligently or recklessly punishes the employee as a proximate result of that complaint, the university may be liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint against Hofstra under Title VII and the New York State Human Rights Law, alleging that Hofstra discriminated against him because of his sex when it fired him in response to allegedly malicious allegations of sexual harassment. The court held that the district court's decision conflicted with circuit precedent in Doe v. Columbia University, 831 F.3d 46 (2d Cir. 2016), and relied on improper factual findings. In this case, the complaint alleged circumstances that provide at least a minimal support for an inference of discriminatory intent. On remand, the court noted that the district court should consider Hofstra's potential liability under a cat's paw theory. View "Menaker v. Hofstra University" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against NYIT, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL). Plaintiff alleged that NYIT discriminated against him based on his homosexuality and mental health disability. The Second Circuit affirmed in part, holding that plaintiff's 2010-11 claims were untimely, and the continuing violation doctrine did not apply to these claims. However, the court held that the district court erred in dismissing plaintiff's 2013-14 claims under the ADA and Title IX, because the four month statute of limitations for a New York State Article 78 Proceeding did not apply to these claims. Rather, a three year statute of limitations applied to both claims, and thus his claims were timely. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and remanded. View "Purcell v. N.Y. Institute of Technology - College of Osteopathic Medicine" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit held that the district court properly deferred to the decision of the New York State Review Officer (SRO), which concluded that student W.E. was not denied a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for the eighth grade school year and that Northwood School was not an appropriate unilateral private school placement for the ninth grade school year. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's November 2016 judgment and order in part. To the extent that the district court failed to accord appropriate deference to the SRO's conclusion that Northwood did not provide W.E. specially designed instruction so as to constitute an appropriate private school placement for the tenth grade school year, the court reversed in part the district court's opinion and vacated the award of tuition reimbursement to plaintiffs for that school year. The court also affirmed a July 2017 opinion and order granting the district court's grant of summary judgment and vacating the award of compensatory education for the eighth grade year. View "W.A.v. Hendrick Hudson Central School District" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in an action brought by parents of a student with an emotional disturbance against the school district. The parents claimed that the school district violated procedural requirements, provided an inadequate individualized education program (IEP) for more than two school years, and offered an inadequate IEP for a third year, which denied the student a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The court agreed with the district court that the school district provided and offered the student a FAPE at all times and that any procedural violations did not entitle the parents to any relief. View "Mr. & Mrs. P. v. West Hartford Board of Education" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in an action brought by parents of a student with an emotional disturbance against the school district. The parents claimed that the school district violated procedural requirements, provided an inadequate individualized education program (IEP) for more than two school years, and offered an inadequate IEP for a third year, which denied the student a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The court agreed with the district court that the school district provided and offered the student a FAPE at all times and that any procedural violations did not entitle the parents to any relief. View "Mr. & Mrs. P. v. West Hartford Board of Education" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that defendant, the principal of Capital Prep, violated plaintiff's First Amendment right of freedom of assembly and his state-law right to be free from the intentional infliction of emotional distress in banning plaintiff from attending virtually all Capital Prep events, on or off school property, because of his opposition to defendant's bullying and harassing efforts to compel plaintiff's daughter to remain a member of the girls varsity basketball team. The district court denied defendant's motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The Second Circuit dismissed the appeal insofar as it related to the claimed due process violation, holding that the claim was not properly before the court. As to the First Amendment claim, the court held that defendant's motion for summary judgment was properly denied to the extent that plaintiff complained of being banned from events beyond school property and from sports contests on school property to which the public was invited; but defendant was entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law to the extent that he banned plaintiff from school property otherwise. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and dismissed in part. View "Johnson v. Perry" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, on behalf of herself and her autistic son, filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq., against the DOE, seeking tuition reimbursement and claiming procedural and substantive violations of the IDEA. The district court affirmed the denial of relief. The court concluded that there were no procedural violations of the IDEA. However, the court concluded that plaintiff's son was denied a free and appropriate education (FAPE) because there were significant deficiencies rendering the individualized education program (IEP) inadequate. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "A.M. v. N.Y.C. Department of Education" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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Plaintiffs, individually and on behalf of their respective daughters J.C. and T.H., filed suit against District Defendants and NYSED Defendants. Plaintiffs claim that the district court erred in concluding that plaintiffs did not make a prima facie showing of discrimination against District Defendants pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), 29 U.S.C. 794 et seq. In this case, plaintiffs' disparate impact claim relies exclusively on data concerning students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. The court concluded that, aside from their receipt of special education services, the record is devoid of any evidence as to whether the students included in the data qualify as disabled under the ADA or Section 504. Because, as a matter of law, an IDEA disability does not necessarily constitute a disability under the ADA or Section 504, the court concluded that plaintiffs’ data does not establish “a significantly adverse or disproportionate impact on persons of a particular type produced by the defendant’s facially neutral acts or practices.” Therefore, the court concluded that plaintiffs failed to make their prima facie showing that District Defendants’ academic intervention services (AIS) policy adversely impacted individuals protected by the ADA and Section 504. The court concluded that the district court properly entered summary judgment in favor of District Defendants as to the ADA and Section 504 claims. Likewise, the district court properly entered summary judgment on their derivative Section 1983 claim against the District Defendants. The court affirmed the judgment. View "B.C. v. Mount Vernon Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, students who are currently enrolled in the District's public school system, filed suit alleging that a majority of the School Board are of the Orthodox/Hasidic Jewish faith or are sympathetic to the interests of the Orthodox/Hasidic Jewish community. Plaintiffs claim that the Board Defendants have promoted the Hasidic Jewish faith in violation of the First Amendment. Plaintiffs argue that defendants' unconstitutional actions contributed to the defunding of the public school system, which in turn injured plaintiffs by depriving them of educational opportunities and by damaging their psychological and mental well‐being.The court held that plaintiffs lack standing to assert an Establishment Clause claim against defendants because they are only indirectly affected by the conduct alleged to violate the Establishment Clause. Therefore, it is unnecessary to decide whether defendants are entitled to absolute or qualified immunity. View "Montesa v. Schwartz" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Columbia University student, appealed the dismissal of his amended complaint for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff alleged that the University violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq., and state law, by acting with sex bias in investigating him and suspending him for an alleged sexual assault. The court concluded that the complaint meets the low standard described in Littlejohn v. City of New York, by alleging facts giving rise to a plausible minimal inference of bias sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss, which the court held applies to Title IX cases. In this case, the complaint alleged that both the investigator and the panel declined to seek out potential witnesses plaintiff had identified as sources of information favorable to him; the investigator and the panel failed to act in accordance with University procedures designed to protect accused students; and the investigator, the panel, and the reviewing Dean reached conclusions that were incorrect and contrary to the weight of the evidence. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "Doe v. Columbia University" on Justia Law