On January 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court (the “Supreme Court” or the “Court”) granted certiorari in the Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College (“SFFA v. Harvard”) case. The Court consolidated SFFA v. Harvard with SFFA v. University of North Carolina (“UNC”) because both lawsuits are being brought by the SFFA and seek to reverse the Court’s 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), upholding narrowly tailored, race-conscious measures to promote diverse student bodies in colleges and universities. The Court has extended the briefing schedule, and merits briefing will be completed this summer, with oral argument early in the October 2022 Term. Continue Reading Supreme Court to Hear Case on the Continuation of Affirmative Action in College Admissions
On January 14, 2022, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether a school district was within its rights in telling a coach not to continue to kneel and pray at the 50-yard line after his team’s games. Continue Reading Livin’ on a Prayer: Supreme Court to Hear Case of Football Coach who Lost Job for Praying
John Kluge, a former music and orchestra teacher at Brownsburg Community School Corporation (“BCSC”) allegedly was forced to resign after refusing to refer to transgender students by the names selected by the students, their parents, and their healthcare providers due to the teacher’s religious objections. Kluge identified as Christian and claimed that referring to students by their preferred names would “encourage students in transgenderism” and “promote gender dysphoria,” which went against his religious beliefs that “God created mankind as either male or female.” Initially, BCSC provided Kluge with the option of referring to students using only their last names, but ultimately, that accommodation was rescinded after several complaints were brought forward from other teachers, students, and parents regarding the negative impacts this practice had on transgender students. Continue Reading What’s in a name?: Federal Court in Indiana Dismisses Teacher’s Religious Discrimination Over the Use of Students’ Preferred Names
On June 23, 2020, in an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Mahanoy Area School District’s decision to suspend a student from the cheerleading team for posting vulgar language and gestures on social media (outside of school hours and away from the school’s campus) violated the First Amendment. Continue Reading Supreme Court Rules on Student Off Campus Speech: Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.
On April 28th, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., a student free speech case that every public school district in the country needs to be watching.
This situation arose with a Snapchat message posted while off campus by a then 14-year old girl on a Saturday following the announcement of the results of cheerleading tryouts. That girl (“B.L.”) had been placed on the junior varsity team for her sophomore year of high school, despite an incoming freshman making the varsity squad. Her anger over that decision resulted in a few Snapchat messages, among the messages was a picture of her and a classmate raising their middle fingers with the caption (uncensored in the original message): “F*** school f*** softball f*** cheer f*** everything.” Although Snapchat messages are designed to disappear within 24 hours, one of the recipients took a screenshot of the message, and it made its way to B.L.’s coaches. B.L. was then suspended from the junior varsity team for one year, and she decided to sue. B.L. claims that the suspension violated her constitutional right to free speech.
On February 12, 2021, the Department of Education (“the Department”) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) released guidance to support school and district leaders and educators to safely reopen elementary and secondary schools. The guidance focuses on how schools can consistently implement mitigation strategies during all school-related activities to successfully reopen schools and keep them open. To support this strategy, the Department released the COVID-19 Handbook (“the Handbook”), which is being released in two volumes, provides strategies to keep schools open and identifies ways to promote equity for communities of color and people with disabilities/chronic conditions who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Continue Reading U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance on Safely Reopening Schools
On November 11, 2017, various groups of parents and several individuals filed suit in federal district court in Oregon challenging Dallas School District No. 2’s policy of accommodating transgender students’ requests to use sex-segregated school facilities on the basis of their gender identity. Continue Reading <i>Parents for Privacy v. Barr</i>: Takeaways after Cert. Denial
On May 6, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (“ED” or “the Department”) released the long-anticipated final Title IX regulations, which have a significant impact on schools all across the country—both K-12 and higher education institutions. This post identifies some of the key differences between requirements for K-12 and higher education institutions, as provided in the final regulations and related comments from the Department.
Interested in learning more? Join us December 3 and 4, 2020, for two half-day training sessions on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault in K-12 Schools – Title IX Compliance and Response to New Regulations. Register here. Continue Reading K-12 Education v. Higher Education in Title IX Compliance: 2020 Regulations
- The ministerial exception protects religious employers from government interference in internal employment disputes involving the selection, supervision, and removal of individuals who play an important role relative to the core mission of the institution.
- To determine whether the ministerial exception applies in a specific case, courts must assess the nature of the duties or functions performed by the employee for the religious institution.
- Employees of religious institutions who are designated as performing functions vital to the core mission and that fall within the scope of the ministerial exception cannot pursue an employment claim.
- The Supreme Court stated: “When a school with a religious mission entrusts a teacher with the responsibility of educating and forming students in the faith, judicial intervention into disputes between the school and the teacher threatens the school’s independence in a way that the First Amendment does not allow.”
- This exception may apply to other lay employees of religious employers.
On June 30, 2020, the Supreme Court, in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, ruled that states must allow religious schools to participate in programs that provide scholarships to students attending private schools.
Background of Espinoza Case
The Montana Legislature established a program that granted tax credits to people who donated to organizations that award scholarships for private school tuition. However, the Montana Constitution contains a “no-aid provision” that prohibits government aid to flow to any school “controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.” To reconcile the program with this state constitutional provision, the Montana Department of Revenue (“Department”) promulgated a rule that prohibited families from using tax credit program scholarship money at religious schools. When the Department’s rule prevented three mothers from using the scholarship money at Christian schools, they sued the Department and alleged that the Rule discriminated on the basis of their religious views and the religious nature of the schools they had chosen. The Montana Supreme Court held that the tax credit scholarship program, without the rule, violated Montana’s no-aid provision and invalidated the program entirely.