Recent Decisions - PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATON
Constitutional Claims and Civil Rights
Teacher appealed grant of qualified immunity to principal after alleging violation of First Amendment right. As part of a teacher's punishment for inappropriate communication with a colleague, the teacher was prohibited from attending science organizational meetings. The teacher challenged the punishment. Held: For the principal. Although the punishment was overly broad and unconstitutional, the principal was properly granted qualified immunity because the teacher's rights were not clearly established at the time of violation. Trial courts have broad discretion in their authority to award qualified immunity. Under the circumstances, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by granting the principal qualified immunity. Baar v. Jefferson Co. Bd. ofEduc, 476 Fed. Appx. 621 (6th Cir. 2012)(unpublished).
Former teacher appealed conviction of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. A former elementary school teacher was convicted of engaging in sexual intercourse with a former student. The teacher was not permitted to cross-examine the former student about statements regarding his past sexual conduct due to rape-shield statutory protection. The teacher alleged the trial court erred in not allowing the cross-examination. Held: For the State. The teacher had a constitutional right to confront witnesses against her. However, the evidence presented through the victim's testimony regarding past sexual history was not relevant and therefore did not qualify for an exception to the rape-shield statute. People v. Benton, 817 N.W.2d 599 (Mich. App. 2011).
Board of trustees moved for summary judgment against university hospital employee 's claims of discrimination and retaliation. An AfricanAmerican female employee was a licensed practical nurse at the university hospital. She alleged she suffered from race, sex, age, and equal pay discrimination at the hospital. The board of trustees sought to dismiss claims for failure to state a claim and protection under governmental and sovereign immunity. Held: For the board of trustees. Federal and state sovereign immunity protected the board of trustees as a state university hospital. Also, the employee did not exhaust her administrative remedies for her claims, thereby failing to meet the legal burden to show she was entitled to relief. Harris v. Bd. of Trustees U. of Ala., 846 F. Supp. 2d 1223 (N.D. Ala. 2012).
Parents, on behalf student, sued school district and school officials alleging racial discrimination in violation of Title VI. Over the course of several years, a student was racially harassed by various school peers. Ultimately, the student was accused of sexually harassing a female student and expelled from school. The student's parents alleged that the school officials violated Title VI by not appropriately addressing the peer racial harassment and by directly discriminating against the student when they expelled him. Held: For the school district and school officials. The school officials did not violate Title VI because they did not act with deliberate indifference towards the peer harassment and the harassment was not severe, pervasive, or objectively offensive. Further, the school officials did not directly discriminate against the student because their decision to expel him was not based on his race but on evidence that he sexually harassed a female student. CS. v. Couch, 843 F. Supp. 2d 894 (N.D. Ind. 2011).
Principal and teacher appealed denial of summary judgment for qualified immunity in student discrimination action. A mother, on behalf of a student, filed a racial discrimination action against a principal, teacher, and various other defendants. The principal and teacher claimed qualified immunity. Held: For the principal and teacher in part and for the mother in part. The principal and teacher were denied summary judgment for qualified immunity as to whether they acted with deliberate indifference to verbal racial discrimination by students because questions of fact remained. …