Recent Decision - UNIVERSITIES AND OTHER INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING

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Constitutional Claims and Civil Rights

Student appealed summary judgment for college and city officials where student claimed Fourth Amendment violation for injuries sustained during raid. Police shot pepper balls into a crowded stairwell to disperse a large group of party-goers at a university. A student was injured when a pepper ball struck him in the eye, and he sued. Held: For student. The party-goers posed no threat and were actively attempting to leave the stairwell upon order of the police. The student was considered seized under the Fourth Amendment when he was immobilized from the pepper ball that hit him. Nelson v. City of Davis, 685 F.3d 867 (9th Cir. 2012).

Student appealed disciplinary sanctions imposed by university, claiming her Facehook posts were protected by the First Amendment. A student was disciplined when she posted information on Facebook about the cadavers she was working with in her laboratory class, despite school rules against such disclosure. Held: For the university. The Facebook posts violated established academic program rules that required respect, discretion, and confidentiality in connection with student work on human cadavers. The rules were narrowly tailored and directly related to established professional conduct standards. Tatro v. U. of Minn., 816 N.W.2d 509 (Minn. 2012).

Student appealed dismissal of suit alleging state university violated student's due process and equal protection rights after her dismissal from dental school. A faculty committee dismissed a student for failing to meet established academic standards and failing to comply with her professional responsibilities. The student had previously been reprimanded and placed on academic probation numerous times. Held: For the university. The student's equal protection claim failed because the dismissal decision was neither arbitrary nor made in bad faith, as evidenced by prior reprimands of the student for similar problems. Furthermore, becoming a dentist is not a protected, fundamental right. Sung Park v. Ind. U. Sch. of Dentistry, 692 F.3d 828 (7th Cir. 2012).

Professor appealed decision affirming grant of immunity to state university for alleged First Amendment violation. A professor wrote a controversial essay regarding the September 1 1th attacks, and in response, a university panel conducted an investigation of the professor's academic integrity. The panel voted to terminate the professor's tenure. The professor argued the termination was a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech. Held: For the university. The actions of the university regents in terminating the professor met the criteria for quasi-judicial action, and therefore the regents were entitled to absolute immunity. Churchill v. U. of Colo, at Boulder, 285 P.3d 986 (Colo. 2012).

Student appealed dismissal of Title VII and me IX claims against state university for hostile work and educational environment. A student in a university's student employment program claimed a professor sexually harassed him and subjected him to a hostile work and educational environment. The university directed the professor to cease all contact with students and attend sexual harassment training. When the professor failed to comply, the university banned him from campus. Held: For the university. The university's overall response, including the investigation, the prohibition on contacting students, the training requirement, and the ban from campus, were a reasonable response to the student's claims. Milligan v. Bd. of Trustees ofS. III. U., 686 F.3d 378 (7th Cir. 2012).

Professor brought claims against state university for unlawful discrimination. An Indian professor alleged his supervisors provided negative reviews of him due to his religion, race, and national origin, causing the university president to deny him tenure. The professor alleged the denial was also retaliation after he made statements about the university's discriminatory practices against his wife. …