Recent Decisions - PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
Constitutional Claims and Civil Rights
Employee appealed dismissal of hostile work environment claim against school district under Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA). A Minnesota school employee claimed she was subjected to a hostile work environment because her supervisor made offensive and inappropriate comments about women in the workplace. The district court dismissed the claim on the ground that the facts alleged did not fit within the definition of sexual harassment under the MHRA. The court of appeals upheld the dismissal, and the employee appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Held: For the school district. While the MHRA does permit sex-based hostile work environment claims, the supervisor's comments were infrequent and neither sufficiently hostile nor abusive to support such a claim. La M ont v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 728, 814 N.W.2d 14 (Minn. 2012).
Principal appealed summary judgment in favor of school district dismissing her claim of race discrimination. A school superintendent received a copy of an email about a controversial policy change that contained false and inaccurate information. The superintendent demanded the school's principal, a Hispanic female, identify who had disseminated the information. The principal was terminated for insubordination when she refused to identify the individual, and she sued, alleging racial discrimination. Held: For the school district. The principal failed to show that the school's reason for terminating her was a pretext for racial discrimination. Jaramillo v. Adams Co. Sch. Dist. 14, 680 F. 3d 1267 (10th Cir. 2012).
Teacher appealed summary judgment in favor of city and school employees dismissing discrimination claims. A teacher claimed discrimination motivated a mandated classroom change, position shift, and a derogatory remark about her age. Held: For the school. The teacher was unable to prove discrimination. The change in the teacher's position did not constitute an adverse employment action and the school's classroom change was an accommodation of a disability. A single remark was insufficient to create a hostile work environment. Silvis v. City of ?. Y., 946 N.Y.S.2d 22 (App. Div. 1st Dept. 2012).
Parents, on behalf of student, appealed order dismissing claims alleging school district violated student's due process and equal protection rights. A nine-year-old girl was sexually assaulted on six separate occasions, when a man unrelated to the student was allowed to sign her out of school without verifying his identity. Held: For the school district. Despite state compulsory education and the girl's relatively young age, a "special relationship" did not exist between the student and the state because the girl's parents voluntarily chose to send her to that school. Because knowledge of impending harm was never alleged, the danger was not created by the state. The state-created danger doctrine did not apply because knowledge of impending harm was never alleged. Doe ex rei. Magee v. Covington Co. Sch. Dist., 675 F. 3d 849 (5th Cir. 2012).
Former students appealed order dismissing claims alleghi school district violated students' equal protection rights. Students alleged that their school district's employees did not respond to instances of sexual harassment and teasing of students because of the students' gender, and their claim was dismissed. Held: For the students in part and for the school district in part. Despite the students' vague allegation and failure to allege facts showing intentional discrimination, they were permitted to amend their complaint against the administrators, while all claims against the school district were properly dismissed based on Eleventh Amendment immunity. Because the students sued the administrators in their personal capacity and not their official capacity, immunity did not apply. ??-Rifai v. Willows Unified Sch. Dist., 469 Fed. Appx. 647 (9th Cir. 2012)(unpublished).
Middle school student and his mother sued school district and administrators alleging search violated mother's due process rights. …