Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Education Law
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In 2015, a group of parents brought a class action lawsuit on behalf of their children, who were enrolled in Minneapolis and Saint Paul public schools. The parents claimed that the state of Minnesota violated their children's right to an adequate education under the Education Clause of the Minnesota Constitution due to the racial and socioeconomic segregation present in the schools. The case went through several years of litigation, and the district court certified a question for immediate appeal: whether racial imbalances in Minneapolis and Saint Paul public schools are sufficient, standing alone, to establish a violation of the Education Clause. The Minnesota Supreme Court reformulated the certified question and held that racial imbalances in Minneapolis and Saint Paul public schools, standing alone, are not sufficient to establish a violation of the Education Clause. The court ruled that while the parents do not have to establish that state action caused the racial imbalances, they must show that the racial imbalances are a substantial factor in causing their children to receive an inadequate education. The case was remanded back to the district court for further proceedings. View "Cruz-Guzman, as guardian and next friend of his minor children vs. State of Minnesota" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs alleged that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Defendants Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD or the District) and its then Superintendent adopted distance-learning policies that discriminated against poor students and students of color in violation of the California Constitution. Plaintiffs rest their challenge on various side letter contract agreements between LAUSD and the teacher’s union, Defendant United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), which Plaintiffs contend implemented the distance-learning framework established by the Legislature in a discriminatory fashion. However, the District has returned to in-person instruction, and both the side letter agreements and the statutory framework that authorized them have expired. Nevertheless, Plaintiffs continue to seek injunctive relief to remedy what they contend are ongoing harms caused by the allegedly unconstitutional policies. The trial court sustained, with leave to amend, LAUSD’s demurrer on mootness grounds and granted, with leave to amend, its motion to strike the prayer for relief, reasoning that the requested remedies would not be manageable on a class-wide basis.   The Second Appellate District reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded with instructions. The court held that the trial court prematurely struck the prayer for relief at the pleading stage, notwithstanding the end of distance learning. Because Plaintiffs propose a seemingly viable remedy for the past and continuing harms they allege, their constitutional claims are not moot. The court wrote that the constitutionality of expired policies is measured by reference to the statewide standards that existed when the policies were in effect. Accordingly, the trial court erred by sustaining LAUSD’s demurrer to the eighth cause of action on mootness grounds. View "Shaw v. L.A. Unified School Dist." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, on behalf of a putative class of students, sued Southern Methodist University (“SMU”) for refusing to refund tuition and fees after the university switched to remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a claim.   The Fifth Circuit reversed that decision in light of King v. Baylor University, 46 F.4th 344 (5th Cir. 2022), which was issued after the district court’s ruling and which teaches that Hogan adequately pled a breach-of-contract claim. Alternatively, the district court held that Texas’s Pandemic Liability Protection Act (“PLPA”) retroactively bars Plaintiff’s claim for monetary relief and is not unconstitutionally retroactive under the Texas Constitution. That latter ruling raises a determinative-but-unsettled question of state constitutional law, which the court certified to the Texas Supreme Court: Does the application of the Pandemic Liability Protection Act to Plaintiff’s breach-of-contract claim violate the retroactivity clause in article I, section 16 of the Texas Constitution? View "Hogan v. Southern Methodist Univ" on Justia Law

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In March 2020, Bradley University closed its campus and canceled in-person activities because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It canceled one week of classes as it migrated to remote learning. Bradley resumed classes virtually and offered remote activities and resources. The campus remained closed for the rest of the semester. Bradley never rescheduled the week of canceled classes; the Spring 2020 Semester was 14 weeks instead of the planned 15 weeks of classes listed in Bradley’s Catalog, which stated: “This catalog serves as a contract between a student and Bradley.” Full-time, on-campus students had paid $17,100 in tuition and an $85 activity fee. The University provided pro-rata refunds for room and board to students who were forced to leave on-campus housing but did not refund tuition or activity fees.Eddlemon filed a purported class action, alleging that Bradley breached an implied contract to provide 15 weeks of classes and on-campus activities, and, alternatively that the University’s retention of tuition and activity fees constituted unjust enrichment. The district court certified a “Tuition Class” and an “Activity Fee Class.” The Seventh Circuit vacated. The district court did not conduct the rigorous analysis required by Rule 23 for class certification but repeatedly referred to Eddlemon’s allegations without addressing his proffered evidence or examining how he would prove his allegations with common evidence. View "Eddlemon v. Bradley Universityx" on Justia Law

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Two former students of Tulane University, on behalf of a putative class of current and former students, sued the University for failing to provide a partial refund of tuition and fees after Tulane switched from in-person instruction with access to on-campus services to online, off-campus instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court agreed with Tulane that the student's complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim.   The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court concluded that the claim is not barred as a claim of educational malpractice because the Students do not challenge the quality of the education received but the product received. Second, the court rejected Tulane’s argument that the breach-of-contract claim is foreclosed by an express agreement between the parties because the agreement at issue plausibly does not govern refunds in this circumstance. And third, the court concluded that Plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that Tulane breached an express contract promising in-person instruction and on-campus facilities because Plaintiffs fail to point to any explicit language evidencing that promise. But the court held that Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged implied-in-fact promises for in-person instruction and on-campus facilities. Moreover, the court found that the Students’ alternative claim for unjust enrichment may proceed at this early stage. Finally, genuine disputes of material fact regarding whether Plaintiffs saw and agreed to the A&DS preclude reliance on the agreement at this stage. Thus, Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged a claim of conversion. View "Jones v. Admin of the Tulane Educ" on Justia Law

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In a putative class action, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Fourteenth Amendment, and they sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court’s dismissal of claims brought by a group of students and parents who alleged that every school district in California failed to adequately accommodate special needs students after California public schools transitioned to remote instruction in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.   The panel held that Plaintiffs lacked standing to sue school districts in which they were not enrolled and the State Special Schools, which they did not attend because they did not allege that those Defendants injured them personally. The panel held that even if the “juridical link” doctrine, provides an exception to the rule that a named plaintiff who has not been harmed by a defendant is generally an inadequate and atypical class representative for purposes of Fed. R. Civ. P. 23, ever applies outside of the Rule 23 context, it would not apply here.   The panel held that the California public schools’ return to in-person instruction mooted Plaintiffs’ claims against the California Department of Education and the State Superintendent of Public Education, as well as their claims against other defendants seeking injunctions requiring a return to in-person instruction or reassessment and services until students return to in-person instruction. The panel vacated the district court’s judgment dismissing on the merits the claims that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring and remanded with instruction to dismiss those claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. View "DANIELLE MARTINEZ V. GAVIN NEWSOM" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a putative class action against the School District, claiming that shortcomings in the District’s translation and interpretation services violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400.The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the District, based on failure to exhaust administrative remedies. A “systemic exception” to IDEA’s administrative exhaustion requirement applies where plaintiffs “allege systemic legal deficiencies and, correspondingly, request system-wide relief" that cannot be addressed through the administrative process. The fact that a complaint is structured as a class action seeking injunctive relief, without more, does not excuse exhaustion; the systemic exception applies when plaintiffs challenge policies that threaten basic IDEA goals, not mere components of special education programs. Both named plaintiffs could bring the same IDEA claim from their complaint before a hearing officer who could then order that the District provide each parent with translated individualized education plans, more qualified or consistent interpretation services, or whatever process would ensure meaningful participation for that parent. Both the claim and the relief would be individualized, even if the relief could create spillover benefits for other parents. View "T.R. v. School District of Philadelphia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Terri Baker appealed the dismissal of this putative class action for lack of standing. She sued on behalf of herself and her son, S.F.B., to challenge Kansas laws and school district policies that: (1) required children to be vaccinated to attend school and participate in child care programs; and (2) provided a religious exemption from these requirements. She claimed these immunization laws and policies violated various federal and state constitutional provisions and statutes. Baker argued she and S.F.B. had standing because the immunization requirements and religious exemptions injured them in two ways: (1) the District misapplied Kansas law when it granted a religious exemption for S.F.B. to attend preschool despite being unvaccinated - her fear that the District would revoke S.F.B.'s religious exemption was an injury in fact that established standing; and (2) Baker "would like the option" of placing S.F.B. in a non-accredited private school (i.e., home school), school programs, or licensed child care - she contended Kansas law inhibited her from exercising these options and caused an injury in fact because she would be unable to secure a religious exemption for S.F.B. if she tried. Finding no reversible error in the district court's dismissal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Baker v. USD 229 Blue Valley" on Justia Law

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According to its website, the University of Northern New Jersey, founded in 2012, was “nationally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges and the Commission on English Language Accreditation” and “certified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Student and Exchange Visitor Program to educate international students.” The site included a statement from UNNJ's President, Dr. Brunetti, and its social media accounts informed students of closings for inclement weather and of alumni marriages. The University never existed. The Department of Homeland Security created the “sham university” to catch brokers of fraudulent student visas. It ensnared many such brokers; hundreds of foreign students “enrolled.” The government initially conceded that those students were innocent victims, but later suggested that they were akin to participants in the fraudulent scheme. Each enrolled student (including the plaintiffs) received a letter informing them that their student status had been terminated due to fraudulent enrollment. The government charged 21 individuals with fraudulently procuring visas. The plaintiffs filed a class action. The district court dismissed the claims, finding that there was no final government action. The Third Circuit vacated. Reinstatement proceedings are not required and would not afford an opportunity for review of DHS’s decision to terminate their F1 visa status. The students need not wait until removal proceedings are instituted to challenge the termination of their student status; neither immigration judges nor the BIA have authority to overturn the denial of reinstatement. View "Fang v. Director United States Immigration & Customs Enforcement" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying class certification in this suit alleging violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12131-12134, and the court's grant of judgment on the pleadings as to Parent/Professional Advocacy League (PPAL) and Disability Law Center (DLC), holding that PPAL and DLC lacked standing to pursue the claims in the complaint.S.S., a student at the Springfield Public Day School (SPDS), brought this suit on his own behalf and on behalf of a class of all student with a mental health disability who were or had been enrolled at SPDS, alleging that the City of Springfield, Massachusetts, and Springfield Public Schools violated Title II by segregating students with mental health disabilities in SPDS, a separate and inferior school. Associations PPAL and DLC joined S.S. as plaintiffs. The district court denied class certification. The court then ruled that the associations had standing but dismissed their claims for failure to exhaust. The First Circuit held (1) class certification was correctly denied; and (2) the associations lacked standing to bring this suit. View "Parent/Professional Advocacy League v. City of Springfield" on Justia Law