Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Education Law

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Chenari, a third-year George Washington University medical student, took a test published by the National Board of Medical Examiners. Before the exam, the proctor read aloud the instructions from NBME’s official manual, including that students must complete the exam in two and a half hours and that “[n]o additional time [would] be allowed for transferring answers” to the answer sheet. Chenari also received a copy of “Exam Guidelines,” containing a similar warning. When the proctor called time, Chenari discovered that he had failed to transfer 20-30 answers to his answer sheet, “panicked,” and continued to transfer answers. The proctor requested that he stop; he continued. When the proctor tried to take the exam, Chenari put his hand over it and continued entering answers, taking an additional 90-120 seconds. The proctor and another student reported Chenari. Pursuant to University procedures, an Honor Code Council subcommittee investigated and recommended dismissal for academic dishonesty. The Medical Student Evaluation Committee unanimously recommended Chenari’s dismissal. The Medical School Dean met with Chenari and upheld that recommendation. Chenari unsuccessfully appealed to the Provost, arguing that his conduct lacked “an element of deceit” like “cheat[ing]” or “l[ying].” The D.C. Circuit affirmed dismissal of Chenari’s suit, which alleged breach of contract and discrimination based on his disability, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), 29 U.S.C. 794(a), and 42 U.S.C. 12132. The court noted that Chenari never sought accommodation of his claimed disability under the school’s established procedures. View "Chenari v. George Washington University" on Justia Law

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Parents of B.D. filed suit against the District, challenging the adequacy of a compensatory education award and seeking to enforce other portions of the Hearing Officer's Decision, as well as to require the District to secure a therapeutic residential placement. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the District. The court concluded that the parents have met their burden of demonstrating that the Hearing Officer, affirmed by the district court, was “wrong,” as he failed to award sufficient compensatory education to put B.D. in the position he would be in absent the free appropriate public education (FAPE) denial; neither 20 U.S.C. 1415(i)(2)(A) nor 28 U.S.C. 1331 provides a cause of action for parents seeking to enforce a favorable hearing officer decision; and the district court correctly held that the request for an injunction - the only relief count three specifically sought - had become moot. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded in part. View "B.D. v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated cases, plaintiffs sought attorneys' fees, including fees for work performed by a special education expert employed by their attorney, after prevailing in actions brought under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq. The district court denied plaintiffs' motion and plaintiffs appealed. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the special education expert is a highly experienced special education consultant and expert. Because the expert is not a paralegal, her fees were nonrecoverable as part of reasonable attorneys' fees. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "McAllister v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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The parent of K.E., a student who was diagnosed with several learning issues, seeks reimbursement under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq., after she chose a private boarding school for K.E. The hearing officer and the district court denied reimbursement because, in their view, the child had no need to be in a residential program. The court concluded, however, that all statutory, regulatory, and judicial requirements for reimbursement of the costs of private school have been satisfied: the school district failed to offer the child a “free appropriate public education” in either a public school or a non-residential private school; the private boarding school the parent selected was, at the time, the only one on the record “reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits” designed to meet the child’s needs; the residential component of the private school was in fact “necessary to provide a free appropriate public education to” the child; and the school district has not shown that the parent acted unreasonably. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Leggett v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq., seeking an order requiring DCPS to provide her son with compensatory education. The district court dismissed the suit as moot because the school system responded to the complaint by offering an individualized education plan that is adequate to keep the child on track going forward. The court concluded, however, that the district court failed to address whether the child was entitled to compensatory education, which is a remedy that remains available. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Boose v. District of Columbia" on Justia Law

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Brown, a black female law professor at the University of the District of Columbia School of Law (DCSL), had worked for DCSL in various capacities for more than 20 years when she applied for tenure and promotion. The Faculty Evaluation Committee recommended tenure and transmitted her application to Dean Broderick, who initially recommended that the Committee withdraw its approval due to the sparseness and quality of Brown’s legal scholarship. Once Broderick learned that a law journal agreed to publish another of Brown’s articles, she endorsed the recommendation and forwarded her approval to then–Interim Provost Baxter, who rejected the application. President Sessoms agreed that Brown should not be awarded tenure and did not submit Brown’s application to the Board. Around the same time, the administration considered the tenure application of McLain, a white male. Brown alleges that McLain had “no legal publications” but that Broderick did not insist that he satisfy the three-publication requirement, as Broderick had with Brown’s application. The Board awarded him tenure and a promotion to full professor. Brown sued. The district court dismissed. The D.C. Circuit reversed dismissal of Brown’s D.C. Human Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. 1981 claims and affirmed dismissal of her other claims. View "Brown v. Sessoms" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, alleging that he was terminated from his position as a special education teacher because of an email he sent to the chancellor, which contained one sentence that constituted speech protected by the First Amendment. The court concluded that plaintiff was using the email as an internal channel through which he could, in his capacity as a teacher, report interference with his job responsibilities. Therefore, under Winder v. Erste, plaintiff's email constituted employee speech unprotected by the First Amendment. Further, it was not unreasonable for defendants to believe that it was not unlawful to fire plaintiff based on preexisting law. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's conclusion that the individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's First Amendment claim. View "Mpoy v. Rhee, et al." on Justia Law

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The Association filed suit, under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706, and the Constitution, challenging the State Authorization, Compensation, and Misrepresentation Regulations the Department of Education initiated under the Higher Education Act (HEA), Pub. L. No. 89-329, 79 Stat. 1219, 1232-54. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court holding that the Compensation Regulations did not exceed the HEA's limits; the court mostly rejected the Association's claim that these regulations were not based on reasoned decisionmaking; the court remanded two aspects of the Compensation Regulations, however, that were lacking for want of adequate explanations. The court also held that the Misrepresentation Regulations exceeded the HEA's limits in three respects: by allowing the Secretary to take enforcement actions against schools sans procedural protections; by proscribing misrepresentations with respect to subjects that were not covered by the HEA, and by proscribing statements that were merely confusing. The court rejected the Association's other challenges to the Misrepresentation Regulations. Finally, with respect to the State Authorization Regulations, the court concluded that the Association had standing to challenge the school authorization regulation, but held that the regulation was valid. However, the court upheld the Association's challenge in the distance education regulation, because that regulation was not a logical outgrowth of the Department's proposed rules. View "Assoc. of Private Sector Colleges and Universities v. Duncan, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought this qui tam suit alleging that the District of Columbia and its schools violated the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733, by submitting a Medicaid reimbursement claim without maintaining adequate supporting documents. The district court dismissed the case, relying on the court's precedent in United States ex rel. Findley v. FPC-Boron Employees' Club. Because the court concluded that the Supreme Court had implicitly overruled Findley in Rockwell International Corp. v. United States, the court reversed. View "Davis v. DC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, parents of children who were eligible to receive a free and appropriate public education, filed suit to challenge the exclusion of mapping of cochlear implants from the regulatory definition of "related services" under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1401(26)(B). The court concluded that the phrase "audiology services" as used in the IDEA's "related services" definition did not unambiguously encompass mapping of cochlear implants. The court also found that the Mapping Regulations embodied a permissible construction of the IDEA because they were rationally related to the underlying objectives of the IDEA. The court further found that the Mapping Regulations did not substantially lessen the protections afforded by the 1983 regulations. Because the Department's construction of its own regulation was neither plainly erroneous nor inconsistent with the regulation, the court owed it deference. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Department. View "Petit, et al. v. US Dept. of Education, et al." on Justia Law