This morning, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer. The Court considered whether excluding churches from an otherwise neutral and secular aid program administered by a state agency violates the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The Court held a Missouri program funding safety material for playgrounds at public and on non-secular private institutions but not religious ones violated the rights of Trinity Lutheran under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by denying the church an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status. Continue Reading Update: Supreme Court Issues Decision in Favor of Trinity Lutheran Church
In Chicago Tribune v. The College of DuPage and The College of DuPage Foundation, the Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District issued a unanimous decision ordering a public college’s fundraising organization to release records in its possession pursuant to a state Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA,” a.k.a. “sunshine law”) request. The Court in this case held that the College’s separately incorporated foundation conducts government business on its behalf and therefore is subject to the Illinois FOIA laws. Continue Reading Illinois FOIA Coming In Line with Other States
The extension of civil rights protections to transgender and gender non-conforming individuals is rapidly evolving. These issues are playing out in schools across the country, and a recent Seventh Circuit decision seems to suggest that transgender students will be afforded Title IX and Fourteenth Amendment protections.
In Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School Dist. No. 1., No. 16-3522, 2017 WL 2331751 (7th Cir. 2017) the Seventh Circuit affirmed a Wisconsin District Court’s decision granting a transgender student a preliminary injunction to use the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity, rather than his biological sex. Continue Reading 7th Circuit Orders School District to Allow Transgender Student Access to Restroom that Corresponds with Student’s Gender Identity, Not Biological Sex
Schools may have fewer choices in purchasing cheerleading uniforms in the future. Varsity Brands, Inc. (“Varsity”) and Star Athletica, LLC (“Star”) have been battling over the design of cheerleading uniforms and whether the designs of the uniforms are protectable under the Copyright Act. For background information about the case, please view my previous blog post.
On March 22, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled in Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc. (Case No. 15-866) that Varsity’s designs might be eligible for trade secret protections. The Court found that decorative elements of cheerleading uniforms could be protected by copyright law if they “can be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art separate from the useful article.” Continue Reading Supreme Court Finds Stripes and Zigzags Eligible for Copyright Protection
In yesterday’s unanimous decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, the Supreme Court articulated the standard by which federal courts should evaluate challenges to individualized education programs (“IEPs”) for students with disabilities. To pass muster under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), an IEP, according to the Court, must be “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” Op. at 14-15.
The IDEA specifically requires that students with disabilities receive a “free appropriate public education” (“FAPE”), a term that is itself undefined in the statute. The Supreme Court initially faced the interpretation of the FAPE requirement thirty-five years ago in Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson Central School District, Westchester County v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (1982). In Rowley, the Court made some general observations about the FAPE standard, but confined its ruling to the specific facts of the case, leaving the question of what substantive standard applies to another day. Continue Reading Supreme Court Clarifies Special Education Standards
As we noted was a possible outcome in our prior analysis of the Trump Administration’s withdrawal of the Obama-era guidance on facilities use by transgender students, the Supreme Court has remanded Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. without issuing a decision. Prior to this remand order, the Court was set to decide whether Title IX required schools to allow access to sex-segregated facilities according to each student’s “internal sense of gender” as opposed to their “biological gender,” as specified in the school policy at issue. The Supreme Court’s views on that topic will remain unknown until (and if) the Court elects to review another case presenting the same question. To learn more, please visit our Higher Education Legal Insights blog.
On February 22, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion in Fry ex rel. E.F. v. Napoleon Community Schools. Fry addresses the circumstances in which parents must exhaust the administrative remedies found in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), when their lawsuit purports to assert claims only under other federal discrimination statutes—namely, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The Court held, unanimously, that parents must exhaust IDEA’s administrative procedures only when the “substance, or gravamen, of the plaintiff’s complaint” seeks relief for the denial of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Continue Reading Supreme Court Clarifies Administrative Exhaustion Requirements Under IDEA
In a joint letter issued February 22, 2017, the Departments of Education (ED) and Justice (DOJ) withdrew prior Title IX guidance from the Obama administration that required schools receiving federal funding to allow students to use sex-segregated facilities according to their gender identity, as opposed to their anatomical birth sex. To learn more, please visit our Higher Education Legal Insights blog.
On Friday, February 10, 2017, the Trump Administration announced that the United States will no longer challenge the injunction against enforcement of the joint Department of Justice and Department of Education guidance on treatment of transgender students that was issued last year. We expect further developments in the coming weeks and months, but for now see our Higher Education Legal Insights post on this issue.
On October 18, 2016, a federal magistrate judge in Illinois issued a recommendation that the Federal District Court deny a motion seeking to deny a transgender
student access to the girl’s locker room. The School District’s 2013 policy gave transgender students access to whichever restroom facilities most aligned with their gender identity, but did not extend that access to locker rooms. A transgender student, who identifies as female, filed an administrative complaint alleging Title IX violations with the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office for Civil Rights resulting in a resolution agreement called the “Locker Room Agreement.” This agreement entitled only this particular student to use the girl’s locker room and also included measures for all students to maintain their privacy. Continue Reading Redefining Sex: Illinois Magistrate Makes Recommendation to Protect School’s Balanced Transgender Locker Room Policy