Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Education 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

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the orders of the district court certifying three classes to proceed in a lawsuit against the University of Montana, holding that the district court abused its discretion in certifying Class 3 to pursue the claims.Current and former students of the University brought this lawsuit as a class action complaint alleging that the University breached its fiduciary duty to students by entering into a contract with Higher One, Inc. to process student loan refunds through non-competitive financial accounts and by providing students' personal information to Higher One. In two orders, the district court certified three classes to proceed in the lawsuit. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the district court's certification of Class 3 under Mont. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2) was an abuse of discretion; and (2) the district court abused its discretion in certifying Class 1 and Class 2 under Rule 23(b)(1) and (b)(2) but properly certified Class 1 and Class 2 under Rule 23(b)(3). View "Knudsen v. University of Montana" on Justia Law

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Washington public school teachers filed a class action to order the Director of DRS to return interest that was allegedly skimmed from their state-managed retirement accounts. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a stipulated motion to certify a class and dismissal of the action as prudentially unripe. The panel held that the district court erred in dismissing the teachers' takings claim as prudentially unripe because DRS's withholding of the interest accrued on the teachers' accounts constitutes a per se taking to which the prudential ripeness test in Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172 (1985), did not apply.In regard to the Director's alternative grounds for summary judgment, the panel held that plaintiffs stated a takings claim for daily interest withheld by the Director; the panel clarified that the core property right recognized in Schneider v. California Department of Corrections, 151 F.3d 1194 (9th Cir. 1988), covered interest earned daily, even if payable less frequently; plaintiffs' takings claim was not barred by issue preclusion or by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; and the takings claim was not foreclosed by the Eleventh Amendment. The panel also held that the district court erred in denying the motion for class certification. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Fowler v. Guerin" on Justia Law

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Regency operated for‐profit cosmetology schools in 20 states. Each offered classroom instruction and practical instruction in a salon, where members of the public could receive cosmetology services at low prices. Hollins, formerly a Regency student, asserts that the work she performed was compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201, and that Regency violated state wage laws. She wanted to bring suit as an FLSA collective action and a state class action but the district court denied her motion to conditionally certify the FLSA action and never certified a class action under FRCP 23. The court addressed the individual merits of her case and granted summary judgment in Regency’s favor. Regency has since closed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first rejecting a claim that it lacked jurisdiction. There was a final judgment despite the unaccepted opt‐in notices that the court received. On the merits, the court noted that time on the Professional Floor was a state‐mandated requirement for professional licensure; Hollins was actually paying for supervised practical experience; Regency was in the educational business, not in the beauty salon business; and Hollins did not need to go out and find a place where she could serve her supervised practice. View "Hollins v. Regency Corp." on Justia Law

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Named plaintiffs, 2008-2011 graduates of the Widener School of Law, claim that Widener violated the New Jersey and Delaware Consumer Fraud Acts by intentionally publishing misleading statistics, reporting that in 2005-2011, 90-97% of graduates were employed. In reality, only 50-70% of Widener graduates secured full-time legal positions. The school included non-legal and part-time positions without reporting the breakdown. In 2011, Widener improved its reporting, but allegedly continued to gather unreliable information by crediting secondhand accounts of employment and avoiding responses from unemployed graduates. The plaintiffs claim that publishing misleading statistics enabled Widener to inflate tuition. The plaintiffs moved to certify a class of “persons who enrolled in Widener University School of Law and were charged full or part-time tuition within the statutory period.” The district court denied class certification, finding that the plaintiffs could not meet FRCP 23(b)(3)’s requirement that common questions “predominate” over individual questions because they had not shown that they could prove damages by common evidence. The court noted differences in class members’ employment outcomes and that New Jersey has rejected a “fraud-on-the-market” theory outside the securities fraud context. Plaintiffs could not meet Rule 23(a)(3)’s requirement that the named plaintiffs’ claims be “typical” of the claims of the proposed class; students who enrolled in 2012 and later, after Widener improved its reporting, might prefer not to have Widener’s reputation tarnished by the lawsuit. The Third Circuit affirmed. The plaintiffs’ theory was insufficiently supported by class-wide evidence. View "Harnish v. Widener Univ. Sch. of Law" on Justia Law

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When the Chicago Board of Education deems a school to be deficient, it implements a reconstitution, replacing all administrators, faculty, and staff. A school may be subject to turnaround if it has been on probation for at least one year and has failed to make adequate progress . Under the collective bargaining agreement, tenured teachers are placed in a pool where they continue to receive a full salary and benefits for one school year. If a tenured teacher does not find a new position within that year, she is honorably terminated. Others are eligible for the cadre pool where they can receive substitute assignments, paid per assignment. From 2004-2011, the Board reconstituted 16 schools. In 2011, the Board identified 74 schools by removing schools that met the objective criteria related to standardized test scores and graduation rates. Brizard chose the final 10 schools. All were in areas where African Americans make up 40.9% of tenured teachers. No schools were selected from the north side, where only 6.5% of tenured teachers are African American. Of the teachers displaced, 51% were African American, despite comprising just 27% of the overall CPS teaching population. Teachers and the Union filed suit. The court declined to certify a class of: All African American persons … teacher or para-professional staff … subjected to reconstitution. The court found that the plaintiffs had not met established a common issue and had not adequately shown that common questions of law or fact predominated over individual claims. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that the class can be certified under both Rule 23(b)(2) and 23(b)(3). View "Chicago Teachers Union v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law