Primary and Secondary Education

Journal of Law and Education, Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

Primary and Secondary Education


This review reports all Supreme Court activity in the area of education law from July 29, 2017 through Oct. 31, 2017.

Torts

Three former students sued boarding school alleging sexual abuse by teacher. Boarding school administrators were aware that a teacher encouraged students to engage in inappropriate sexual activities such as nude parties and group masturbation. Further investigation unveiled that the teacher made suggestive sexual comments, viewed minors in the nude, and inappropriately touched students' genitals. Held: For the students. The teacher's conduct was foreseeable because the school administrators were aware of his uncommon sexual behavior toward students, thus the school was liable for negligence. Moreover, at least one victim was entitled to damages greater than that typically awarded for negligence, because the school deliberately disregarded the information it had available regarding the teacher's sexually deviant conduct. Doe v. Shattuck-St. Mary's Sch., 214 F. Supp. 3d 763 (D. Minn. 2016).

Faculty and Administration

Former teacher sued school and principal for age discrimination among other civil rights violations. A Catholic grade school teacher sued under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the state's civil rights law. The teacher exceeded the expected training and ce_72.tifications for her position, including completion of Catechism for Catholic teaching. At the end of her ninth school year, the principal terminated her in order to move in a new direction and hired a younger teacher. Held: For the school. The teacher's ADEA claim failed because she was disqualified from the Act by a ministerial exception. The exception bars employment law claims against religious organizations and considers the employee's formal title, the substance reflected in the title, the employee's use of that title, and the important religious functions performed by the employee. The teacher's claims failed because she taught religion and lead prayer daily. The federal court chose not to rule on her remaining state law claim. Ciurleo v. St. Regis Par., 214 F. Supp. 3d 647 (E.D. Mich. 2016).

State brought action against teacher for failure to comply with mandatory reporting laws. A teacher failed to comply with mandatory reporting laws when she did not report suspected sexual abuse of her daughters by their stepfather. She argued that she did not have a teacher relationship with her children and did not have knowledge of the abuse. Held: For the state. Dismissal of the teacher's criminal charges was improper because the state's mandatory reporting laws applied to her in her role as a teacher, but also as an adult with knowledge of abuse. The teacher did not argue that the state lacked evidence of her knowledge of the abuse, and the court sent the case back to the lower court for a ruling on her knowledge. State v. James-Buhl, 393 P.3d 817 (Wash. App. Div. 2 2017).

Unions for public-school employees sued state alleging unconstitutional taking of property through mandatory contributions to retiree health benefit program. The state legislature enacted a statute that required all public school employees to pay 3% of their salaries into a state retirement program. Held: For the employees. The legislature has the authority to tax, or impose fees for services, but the contribution did not fit into either category. The statute dramatically altered contractual relationships between the government and public school employees in violation of state and federal law. This amounted to the government taking property rightfully owned by the employees, so the court deemed the contribution an unconstitutional taking. AFT Michigan v. State of Michigan, 315 Mich. App. 602 (Mich. Ct. App. 2016).

Teacher appealed Board of Trustee's decision to deny claim for accidental disability benefits. Students attacked the teacher on three separate occasions, including punching, shoving, and holding her hands behind her back while yelling at her. …

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