Constitutional Claims and Civil Rights
Religious group sought court order forcing school district to allow participation in a "take-home flyer forum" made available to other community organizations. The group wanted to use the forum to circulate invitations to its after-school evangelical programs. The school district refused, claiming the group's participation in the forum would be an establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment. Held: For the religious group. The school district could not exclude the group from its program based solely on its religious viewpoints. Since allowing the group to participate in the forum did not single it out for any special benefit not afforded other similarly situated groups, the district's prohibition was an impermissible violation of the group's First Amendment rights. Child Evangelism Fellowship of MD, Inc. v. Montgomery County Pub. Sch., 373 F.3d 589 (4th Cir. 2004).
Student association sued school district for violations of members' First Amendment rights and the Equal Access Act (EAA). The Lubbock Gay Straight Alliance (LGSA) sought permission from the district to post fliers on campus and use the PA system to promote their meetings. The district refused, citing a policy which banned all discussion of sexual activity, other than abstinence, by campus organizations. Held: For the school district. A school district may control sexual subject matter and prohibit indecent speech in a public school without violating the First Amendment. Moreover, the district acted within the EAA's bounds because it denied LGSA's publicity requests in order to maintain order and discipline on campus. Caudillo v. Lubbock Indep. Sch. Dist., 311 F. Supp. 2d 550 (N.D. Tex. 2004).
Teacher sued principal and school board for allegedly violating her right of free speech and association. A teacher had been reprimanded and disciplined several times in previous years for negative statements she made about her employment. After being fired, she alleged the termination was retaliation for publicly criticizing the principal. Held: For the principal and school district. The teacher was unable to show that her speech was a substantial reason for the disciplinary action that was taken against her. Smith v. Dunn, 368 F.3d 705 (7th Cir. 2004).
Teacher sued school board, asserting that its policy of random drug testing violated her Fourth Amendment rights prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures. The policy implemented random, suspicionless drug testing for all employees in "safety sensitive" positions. Held: For the school board. The high amount of regulation and the job responsibilities inherent in the teaching profession should leave teachers with a reduced expectation of privacy. Random testing is preferable because teachers and students are not obligated to report peers or mentors, and employees may not avoid detection by abstaining from drug use prior to scheduled testing. Therefore, since the testing policies ensured reliability, privacy, and confidentiality, the school board's implementation of random, suspicionless drug testing did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Cragerv. Bd. of Educ. of Knott County, Ky., 313 F. Supp. 2d 690 (E.D. Ky. 2004).
Parents of home-schooled children sued various schools alleging violation of constitutional rights. Home-schooled children were denied participation in extracurricular sports activities. Parents sued claiming that students' religious and due process rights were violated. Held: For the schools. Schools are not required to accept non-enrolled students because sports are permissive programs. There is no constitutional right to participate in sports. Since the parents chose to home school their children, there was no infringement on free exercise of religion. Reid v. Kenowa Hills Pub. Schs., 680 N.W.2d 62 (Mich. App. 2004).
Student sued school district for denial of free speech, denial of equal protection, and sexual discrimination. The student alleged constant harassment due to his sexual orientation. The student fought with one of the harassers and was punished for fighting. He wanted to prevent any punishment occurring before trial. Held: For the school district. The student had a strong chance of success in proving his claim for sexual discrimination, because the school district was deliberately indifferent to the other students' actions. However, student's punishment related to fighting, not to his constitutional claims. Thus, the school may punish him before the trial occurs. Doe v. Perry Comm. Dist., 316 R Supp. 2d 809 (S.D. Iowa 2004).
Student sued teacher, principal and school board, alleging violations of his right to free speech, as well as his right not to have an established religion forced upon him. A student raised his fist in silence during the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance and was later punished by being paddled by the principal. The student's classroom teacher also enforced a moment of silent prayer each day. Held: For the student. There was a question as to the principal and teacher's motivation in suppressing the student's actions during the Pledge of Allegiance. The teacher's practice of enforcing a moment of silent prayer violated the student's right not to have a religion forced upon him. Holloman v. Harland, 370 F.3d 1252 (11th Cir. 2004).
School district appealed court's decision granting expelled student's temporary restraining order (TRO). Student had composed, performed, and distributed copies of a song threatening to kill his teacher's baby. The school board held an expulsion hearing and voted to expel the student for the rest of the school year. The student and his mother sought a TRO to enjoin the school district from expelling the student. Held: For the school district. The school board's choice of punishment was not unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious, or oppressive considering the seriousness of student's conduct. Thus, the extraordinary intervention by a court issuing a TRO was not justified. Wilson v. Hinsdale Elementary Sch. Dist. 181, 810 N.E.2d 637 (Ill. App. 2nd Dist. 2004).
Student challenged a delinquency ruling, claiming she was subjected to an unconstitutional, warrantless search and seizure by a school official. Two students had reported missing money from their purses during a gym class. The assistant principal, aided by a female hall monitor, immediately searched pockets and book bags of students in the class, locating the missing amount in the student's book bag. The student sought to suppress this evidence in a delinquency hearing following the search. Held: For the school. The school's assistant principal did not act as an agent of the police while performing the search. He reasonably limited the scope of the search to the class in the gym, and was justified in his belief a search would return order to the class. Thus, no Fourth Amendment rights were violated. In re: A.D., 844 A.2d 20 (Pa. Super. 2004).
Parents sued board of education and school administrators for alleged constitutional violations of free speech and privacy. The superintendent of schools devised a voluntary survey to be administered to students that included questions pertaining to alcohol use, sex, drug use, and criminal history. The parents filed suit after some teachers allegedly failed to inform students that the survey was voluntary. Held: For the board of education. Voluntary surveys are not a violation of free speech as long as students are not forced to participate. If the results of such a survey are not released to the public, then an action for privacy violations cannot be maintained. C.N. ex rel. J.N. v. Ridgewood Bd. of Educ., 319 F. Supp. 2d 483 (D.N.J. 2004).
Students sued school district and school employees alleging First Amendment violations of free speech. After requesting the resignation of the varsity basketball coach and refusing to play an away game, players were suspended from the basketball team. Held: For the school district and employees. Because the students' speech was not political and did not deal with any matter of public concern the students were not engaged in protected activity. In addition, the students' behavior considerably disrupted the activities of the basketball team, and suspension from the team was appropriate. Pinard v. Clatskanie Seh. Dist., 319 F. Supp. 2d 1214 (D. Or. 2004).
Students sued school district, the city and other public officials, asserting multiple constitutional and state law violations. Several students formed a plot to shoot other students and faculty as they exited the school. After the appropriate authorities were notified of the plot, the students' homes were searched and the suspects were arrested. Held: For the school and city, in part. Although the arrests were proper and probable cause existed for the multiple searches, the court held it lacked jurisdiction to decide the state claims. Smith v. Barber, 316 F. Supp. 2d 992 (D. Kan. 2004).
Parent sued school district, principal, and associate principal claiming violations of First and Fourteenth Amendments. After filing multiple lawsuits and allegedly acting in an unacceptable manner, the father was prohibited from reentering school property. The son was suspended after violating the disciplinary code. Held: For the school district, principal, and associate principal. The father failed to show that his behavior was constitutionally protected. Therefore, no constitutional violation occurred, and the officials were immune from suit. Van Deelen v. Shawnee Mission Unified Sch. Dist. No. 512, 316 F. Supp. 2d 1052 (D. Kan. 2004).
Student sued school claiming violations of free speech rights, and sought injunctive relief and temporary restraining order. As part of an ad campaign for student council representative, plaintiff used a poster featuring a religious motif. After several complaints, the poster was removed in accordance with the principle's authority to approve all campaign ads. Held: For the school. School officials may interrupt free speech that does not take place in a public forum. Middle school student council elections are student-sponsored activities that educators may regulate if the regulations are related to legitimate pedagogical concerns. Phillips ex rel. Phillips v. Oxford Separate Mun. Sch. Dist., 314 F. Supp. 2d 643 (N.D. Miss. 2003).
Student sought acquittal on offenses of trespass on school property and resisting arrest. A student remained on school property after unsuccessfully attempting to contact his mother. The dean of the school told the student his failure to leave the school property was trespass and instructed the school resource officer to arrest him. The student pulled away and struggled when the officer attempted to handcuff him. Student was subsequently convicted of trespassing and resisting arrest. Held: For the student in part and for the state in part. The student could not legally comply with the dean's directions to leave since he was unaccompanied by a parent and had no parental consent to leave by himself. The court held the student was not trespassing. However, the school officer was justified in arresting the student since he could reasonably believe there were grounds for an arrest based upon the dean's instructions. E.W. v. Fla., 873 So.2d 485 (Fla. 1st Dist. App. 2004).
Student was sexually assaulted during class by other students. She sued school board and substitute teacher alleging a violation of her right to due process. Special education student was forced to perform sexual acts on male students during class. Substitute teacher was not in the classroom at the time. Teacher asked to be dismissed from the lawsuit. Held: For the substitute teacher. Teacher did not have a duty to protect the student because there was no special relationship. Also teacher is not liable under a state-created-danger theory because she did not create or increase the risk that the student would be subjected to violent acts of private parties. Teacher is entitled to qualified immunity from a civil lawsuit unless she knowingly violated a constitutional right. Doe v. Detroit Bd. Of Educ., 310 F. Supp. 2d 871 (E.D. Mich. 2004).
Student sued school district, alleging district violated due process rights by transferring her to an alternative high school. The school district referred the student to the alternative school because of her academic and behavioral problems. Both the student and her mother consented to the transfer. The student later claimed that she received a substandard education at the alternative school and argued the transfer violated her due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Held: For the school district. A district can use an alternative school to segregate students with significant behavioral and academic difficulties from their peers. No constitutional rights were violated because the referral policy was rationally related to the legitimate state objective of facilitating graduation. Turley v. Sauquoit Valley Sch. Dist., 307 F. Supp. 2d 403 (N.D.N.Y. 2003).
Student Conduct and Discipline
State charged student for misdemeanor offense, alleging violation of state statute. A 10-year old student stood up in class and asked the teacher for a shotgun in order to shoot another boy. The student was immediately removed from the classroom and interrogated by the police. The student was charged with a misdemeanor offense for interfering with the educational process. Held: For the student. The legislative intent of the statute was intended to protect students, not to punish them. Each school has in place disciplinary actions to punish students. Idaho v. Doe, 92 P.3d 521 (Idaho 2004).
Parents sued school board after other students in a school bathroom assaulted their child. Parents allege their son was assaulted as part of "Freshman Friday", a day when upper class students haze incoming freshmen. Student was told to meet other band members in the bathroom. Student sustained injuries to his neck and back as a result of the assault. Held: For the school board. There could be civil liability for hazing but the student in this case was not hazed because hazing must relate to initiation related to a student organization. The court determined the student was attacked as a result of his freshman status and not as part of initiation into an organization. Duitch v. Canton City Schs., 809 N.E.2d 62 (Ohio App. 2004).
Student, who was assaulted by other students on school property, sued school district for negligence. Two other students assaulted mentally disabled student in the locker room. As a result of the assault student refused to return to school and his mother home-schooled him. Held: For the student. In this case the jury found that the school was negligent but that negligence did not contribute to the student's injury. However, the jury did award $15,000 to the student for pain and emotional distress. When results of a jury verdict are inconsistent, the court has discretion to reconcile the verdict so it reflects the intent of the jury. The court determined that the monetary award was fair compensation to the student. Olson v. Alexandria Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 206, 680 N.W.2d 583 (Minn. App. 2004).
Students with Disabilities
Disabled student sought attorney fees after winning a requested change to his Individual Education Plan (IEP). Student won an appeal of his IEP, and he sought attorney fees. The school district denied student was entitled to recover the fees. Held: For the student. Under the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA), the prevailing party in a dispute may recover reasonable attorney fees. Student was the prevailing party in this case because he won the administrative hearing and as a result the school district amended his 1ER Antonio v. Boston Pub. Schs., 314 F. Supp. 2d 95, (D. Mass. 2004).
Parents of a disabled child sued school district, alleging the child's Individual Education Program (IEP) was inappropriate. The parents disagreed with the child's IEP and requested the school district place the student at a private school for disabled children and pay the tuition. The school district refused. Held: For the school district. Although the school proposed an inappropriate IEP, the parents failed to object to it and give notice in a reasonable amount of time. Thus, tuition reimbursement may be denied. Schoenbach v. Dist. of Columbia, 309 F. Supp. 2d 71 (D.D.C. 2004).
Parents sued school board for violations under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Their son had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He was later suspended for giving a threatening note to another student. As a result, their son was expelled, and he could not return to the school of his choice within the district. Held: For the school board. The option to choose a particular school in a school district is not required by IDEA. The student's conduct was unrelated to his disability, therefore the school had the right to transfer student. AW ex rel. Wilson v. Fairfield County Sch. Bd., 372 F.3d 674 (4th Cir. 2004).
Parents sued school district for failure to provide free appropriate public education (FAPE). After student was diagnosed with a learning disability parents met with the school district to develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP). The parents disagreed with the IEP and requested funding for future and past private school costs for the student. The district refused, stating that the parents would have sent the student to private school regardless of what the district did. Held: For the school district. The parents did not meet the time limits to file a claim for reimbursement. Also, the parents must show they wished to send the student to public school in order to receive reimbursement for private placement. Miller v. San Mateo-Foster City Unified Sch. Dist., 318 F. Supp. 2d851 (N.D. Cal. 2004).
Parents of a disabled child sued school district, challenging the Individualized Education Program (IEP) created for their child. The parents alleged the school district created the IEP without the required team members, failed to properly determine the least restrictive environment for the student, and failed to provide for extended school year services. The school district disagreed and supported the IEP. Held: For the school district. The school district followed proper procedures in drafting and implementing the IEP. Absence of special education staff did not invalidate the IEP. Johnson ex rel. Johnson v. Olathe Dist. Schs. Unified Sch. Dist. No. 233, 316 F. Supp. 2d 960 (D. Kan. 2003).
Parent and student sued school district for private school tuition reimbursement. Parent and school district agreed to send student to a private school. The Committee on Special Education (CSE) later determined the student was disabled and recommended that the student should be placed in a residential school. The school district disagreed with the CSE finding and refused to pay for residential school tuition. Held: For parent and student. A school district cannot disavow its own CSE's determination. If the CSE determined the child has a disability, and the district failed to provide a free and appropriate public education, the school district must reimburse the parent for tuition. New Paltz C. Sch. Dist. v. St. Pierre ex rel M.S., 307 F. Supp. 2d 394 (N.D.N.Y. 2004).
Parents sued school district for failure to provide free appropriate public education (FAPE) under Individuals with Disabilities Eduation Act (IDEA). Parents of a severely mentally disabled child alleged the school district failed to provide the student with necessary educational services. The parents and school reached a compromise and requested that the court to approve their settlement. Held: Settlement was rejected. No approval can be given without a record of education or medical needs for the student. The parents did not provide enough information for the agreement to be approved. Also, the agreement failed to take into account a possible lifetime of educational disabilities for the disabled student, and it was not itemized or detailed. Johnson v. Clearfield Area Sch. Dist., 319 F. Supp. 2d 583 (W.D. Pa. 2004).
Parents sued Department of Education (DOE), alleging student had not received an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The DOE agreed to provide student with speech therapy services. The parents claimed the DOE did not provide services and harassed parents when parents protested the DOE's actions. The suit was dismissed. Held: For the parents. The parents have a valid claim of harassment and the court must hear it. Vives v. Key, 310 F. Supp. 2d 402 (D.P.R. 2004).
Disabled students sued school district, alleging a violation of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). All of the students had been placed in private schools by the school district. The district originally funded the students' education, but later the district stopped providing any funding and stated they would seek reimbursement from students for mistaken payments for the students' education. The district also stated that students would be transferred to public schools. Held: For the students. IDEA requires that students remain in their current school during a dispute. The school district cannot transfer the students to a new school until the dispute is settled. The district must also pay tuition at the current placement during the dispute. Failure to allow students remain is a violation of IDEA. Spilsbury v. Dist. of Columbia, 307 F. Supp. 2d 22 (D.D.C. 2004).
Parent requested school district pay attorney fees under the fee-shifting provision of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Parent requested a due process hearing after alleging the school district did not provide her son with a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) as required under the IDEA. The hearing officer found that the school district did not provide the FAPE and ordered an update to the child's Individual Education Plan (IEP). Parent then sued school district for attorney fees. Held: For the parent. IDEA allows parent of a child with a disability to recover reasonable attorney fees if they are the prevailing party. Parent qualified as the prevailing party since she obtained some relief on the merits of her claim against the school district. Gross v. Perrysburg Exempted Village Sch. Dist., 306 F. Supp. 2d 726 (N.D. Ohio 2004).
Teacher sued school board after slipping and falling on school sidewalk. Teacher was injured after falling on sidewalk next to faculty parking lot. The school board attempted to have the suit dismissed claiming that the teacher failed to prove school had created a dangerous condition. Held: For the teacher. The court agreed that evidence presented by the teacher indicated that traffic entering and leaving the parking lot had created a defect in the pavement and denied the school board's request to dismiss the suit. Täte v. Freeport Union Sch. Dist., Ill N.Y.S.2d 188 (N.Y. App. Div. 2d Dept. 2003).
School sued parent for libel, slander, and tortious interference. As a former employee of the school, the parent was not satisfied with the education of her child and voiced her opinion to numerous parents and the board of education. The school believed that the parent's comments and complaints were unfounded and malicious. Held: For the parent. The parent had a First Amendment right to voice her opinion and there was no case law or statutory support to hold a parent liable for tortious interference of a school. Nampa Charter Sch. v. Delapaz, 89 P.3d 863 (Idaho 2004).
Teacher sued school district alleging district was responsibile for injuries sustained during fight. While on lunchroom duty, a teacher was seriously injured when attempting to stop a fight between students. The teacher filed suit against the school district alleging negligence in failure to maintain a safe environment which resulted in her injury. Held: For the school district. Facts indicated that the Bureau of Indian Affairs and its employees, not the school district, controlled lunchroom operations and supervision at the school. Therefore, the school district had no duty to provide a safe environment in the lunchroom. Azure v. Belcourt Pub. Sch. Dist., 681 N.W.2d 816 (N.D. 2004).
Student and parent sued school district alleging negligent supervision. A student was injured after being shoved by another student during a relay race. The student and parent sued the school district for negligent supervision of children. Held: For the school district. The school district did not have a duty to prevent spontaneous and unforeseeable acts by another student. Further, the offending student's prior disciplinary problems were insufficient to place the school on notice that he would injure someone. Siegell v. Herricks Union Free Sch. Dist., Ill N.Y.S.2d 148 (N.Y. App. Div. 2d Dept. 2004).
Student sued school for injury sustained during football game. The student received a head injury during the early part of a football game. He removed himself from play and was later allowed to return to the game. He was also allowed to practice with the team the following week, where he sustained a second injury. The student claimed his coaches were negligent in allowing him to return to the game and as such, the school should be liable for his injuries. Held: For the school. The court determined that the coaches had exercised the appropriate standard of care in evaluating the situation and allowing the student to return to the game. Cerny v. Cedar Bluffs Junior/Senior Pub. Sch., 679 N.W.2d 198 (Neb. 2004).
Parent sued teacher and school district after student was injured during woodworking class. School safety protocol required the blade guard of a table saw to be disengaged during certain projects. The teacher, in accordance with this protocol, instructed the student to remove the guard, resulting in injury. Held: For the teacher and the school district. The adoption of the protocol was a discretionary decision entitled to official immunity. The teacher and the school district were immune from suit for damages flowing from compliance with the protocol. Anderson v. Anoka Hennepin Indep. Sch. Dist. 11, 678 N.W.2d 651 (Minn. 2004).
Parent sued school principal for damages resulting from car accident on school property. Parent and children were injured after crashing into an improperly repaired gate on school grounds. Held: For the principal. Recovery against the principal would be allowed only if maintenance of the gate were a duty he was legally required to perform and his failure to do so caused the injuries in question. The principal was not legally required to repair the gate pursuant to a required duty. He merely exercised his discretion regarding the maintenance of school property and therefore could not be held liable for damages resulting from his alleged negligence. Cooper v. Paulding County Sch. Dist., 595 S.E.2d 671 (Ga. App. 2004).
Student sued school board after being sexually assaulted at after-school program. The school board granted the Police Athletic League (PAL) a permit to operate an after-school program on its premises. A student who was sexually assaulted by a PAL employee sued the board, claiming that it was negligent in failing to prevent the assault. Held: For the school board. The school board did not control the PAL, was not responsible for the PAL's hiring decisions, and was not in a better position than PAL to protect participants in the after-school program. Therefore, the school board was not responsible for the actions of PAL employees. Jonathan A. v. Bd. ofEduc. of City of New York, 779 N.Y.S.2d 3 (N. Y. App. Div. 1st Dept. 2004).
Teacher sued parent for causing his termination as football coach. The parent of a high school football player made a series of derogatory remarks about the football coach to newspapers and school officials. The coach sued the parent, claiming that the remarks contributed to his firing, invaded his privacy, and damaged his reputation. Held: For the coach in part and for the parent in part. If the parent made the statements with knowledge that they were false or with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity, he can be held liable for damaging the coach's reputation and invading his privacy. However, the coach could not recover for the loss of his position because he failed to produce evidence that the board relied on the parent's statements when it decided to fire the coach. Myers v. Levy, 808 N.E.2d 1139 (111. App. 2d Dist. 2004).
Student sued school district alleging the district was responsible for injuries student suffered from an accident in a classroom. A student had an accident in a classroom and did not file a claim for the injuries within the time the school required. The student was approximately five months late in filing the claim. Held: For the school district. The student was unable to show a reasonable excuse for the delay in filing the claim. Thus, the school district was not held responsible for the claim. Del Carmen v. Brentwood Union Free Sch., Ill N.Y.S.2d 152 (N.Y. App. Div. 2d Dept. 2004).
Student sued school after being sexually abused by teacher. School officials investigated allegations of sexual abuse of a student by a teacher and, concluding that the allegations were false, failed to report the allegations as required by the state reporting statute. Another student sued the school after being sexually abused by the same teacher, claiming that the school was negligent in retaining the teacher and failing to report the allegations of abuse. Held: For the student. Reporting statutes protect children who are in danger of being abused as well as the child who has been abused. When a school learns that one of its teachers has abused a student, it should know that other students are at risk. Therefore, the school is liable if its failure to report the abuse results in injury to another student. Yates v. Mansfield Bd. of Educ., 808 N.E.2d 861 (Ohio 2004).
Student sued school district, alleging district was responsible for truck hitting him while crossing highway. The student was dropped off by his school bus at his bus stop and crossed the highway in front of the bus to his driveway. After the bus left, the student ran back to the highway to retrieve papers that had blown away from him. The student was struck by a truck and seriously injured. Held: For the district. The district owed no duty to the student at the time of the accident. The district fulfilled its duty to the student by seeing him to his driveway. Summers v. Cambridge Jt. Sch. Dist. No. 432, 88 P.3d 772 (Idaho 2004).
Student sued football coach and school district after student suffered a heatstroke during football practice. The student complained of feeling weak and requested a water break. The coach denied the request because he believed the student was lying. Held: For the football coach and school district. The coach was acting within the scope of his employment as head football coach in determining the pace and schedule of the practices. As a school official, his actions are considered discretionary. Thus the coach and the school district are immune to liability under the Mississippi Torts Claims Act. Harris v. McCray, 867 So.2d 188 (Miss. 2004).
Teachers - Employment & Dismissal
Teacher sued school alleging violation of constitutional rights, defamation, and infliction of emotional distress. After teacher publicly criticized principal and school program, she received a formal warning for teaching performance and insubordination and was later discharged. Additionally, principal made comments describing teacher's performance as "lazy" and "burnt out." Held: For the school. There is no evidence that the reasons given by the school for teacher's discharge were a pretext for unlawful retaliation for her criticism of the school. Also the principal's statements regarding teacher's performance were opinion and do not rise to the level of defamation. The court dismissed the emotional distress claim stating that there was no outrageous behavior by the principal that would support finding intentional infliction of emotional distress. Lifton v. Bd. of Educ. of Chicago, 318 F. Supp. 2d 674 (N.D. 111. 2004).
Two African-American principals alleged school district discriminated against them on the basis of their race. After principals' one-year contracts were not renewed, they sued the district for race discrimination. Principal One claimed she was treated badly from the start of her term, with teachers and parents writing complaints against her, alleging racial discrimination. Principal Two alleged poor treatment began after she reported a popular teacher for sexual harassment. Held: For the school in regards to Principal One; and in part for Principal Two. Principal One failed to prove that school's reason for termination was not legitimate. Principal Two presented enough information to create a triable issue regarding the school's reasons for termination. Tilghman v. Waterbury Bd. of Educ., 312 F. Supp. 2d 185 (D. Conn. 2004).
Teacher sued school board for wrongful termination after she was fired for making racially charged comments in her classroom. When students asked the eighth grade English teacher how she felt about interracial relationships, she stated she was opposed to them and that interracial couples should not have children. Teacher was aware there were biracial students present in the classroom. Held: For the school board. The court found that teacher acted willingly and openly and that her actions violated board policies. The board was correct in firing teacher for disrupting school. Also the First Amendment did not protect her private opinion. Loeffelman v. Bd. of Educ. of Crystal City, 134 S.W.3d 637 (Mo. App. 2004).
Former teacher sued school district alleging that the sorting and disposal of items following his termination constituted an illegal search and seizure. Teacher was fired, barred from his classroom, and suspended from teaching. Thereafter, his classroom was cleaned and certain items were thrown away. Held: For the school. Former teacher had no expectation of privacy in his former classroom, and he had already been afforded opportunity to remove items. After that the teacher lost any possessory interest in items, and therefore no illegal search or seizure took place. Shaul v. Cherry Valley-Springfield C. Sch. Dist., 363 F.3d 177 (2d Cir. 2004).
Other Employees - Employment & Dismissal
School district employee sued her supervisor and a co-worker, alleging sexual harassment. Employee had intimate relationship with her supervisor for three years, until supervisor ended the relationship and started to date co-worker. Employee claimed the two created a hostile work environment and sexually harassed her. Held: For the supervisor and co-worker. The employee was unable to establish that the conduct or communication of the supervisor or co-worker was sexual in nature. Thus, the employee did not meet the requirements to establish a sexual harassment claim. Coney v. Det. Bd. of Educ., 681 N.W.2d 342 (Mich. 2004).
Principal sued former employer for alleged free speech, due process, substantive due process, and contract violations. A principal was terminated after several teachers and members of the community complained about faulty leadership. Held: For the school. Principal failed to present evidence that her speech motivated the dismissal. She also had no valid due process or property interest claims because the allegations against her were not prejudicial, and she lacked tenure to claim a property right in her position. Howard v. Colombia Pub. Sch. Dist., 363 F.3d 797 (8th Cir. 2004).
Female coach sued school district alleging discrimination after a male coach was promoted instead of her. A head girls' varsity coach was not given the job as the male team's coach. Instead the position was given to a male assistant and the female coach sued for sex discrimination. Held: For the coach. The jury was entitled to not believe the reasons the school district claimed to use in the hiring decision. Fuhr v. Sch. Dist. of the City of Hazel Park, 364 F.3d 753 (6th Cir. 2004).
Student charged with promoting a detrimental drug. Based on an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers officials searched the school and found marijuana on the student. The vice-principal of the school allowed the search of the student when the police informed him of the tip. The viceprincipal did not know that the tip was anonymous. The student asked to have the evidence suppressed. Held: For the student. Reasonable suspicion was required to search the student while at school. The Crime Stopper's tip was anonymous and therefore unreliable since it could not be verified. There was no reasonable suspicion of the student so the search was unwarranted. Hawaii v. Doe, 91 P.3d 485 (Haw. 2004).…