Husch Blackwell’s Joe Diedrich appeared recently on the Institute for Justice’s Short Circuit podcast to provide analysis in connection with the Seventh Circuit’s ruling in Biggs v. Chicago Board of Ed. The appellate court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in the case below, a dispute between a fired elementary school’s interim principal and the Chicago Public Schools system.Continue Reading 7th Circuit Affirms Chicago Board of Ed Win in Occupational Liberty Case
- 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.Continue Reading Supreme Court Rules on Religious Schools Case: Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue
Title VI Obligations
School districts have an obligation under Title VI not to discriminate on the basis of race, color or national origin. They cannot intentionally discriminate – that is, for example, treat African-American students differently than white students on the basis of race – or engage in practices that have a disparate impact on…
On May 16, 2019, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), an anti-affirmative action group, filed yet another lawsuit against the University of Texas at Austin (the University). This is the third such suit SFFA has filed against the University. The new lawsuit alleges the University violates the Equal Rights Amendment of the Texas Constitution by considering race in the admissions process. A similar lawsuit between the parties was dismissed in April due to a lack of standing.
Top Ten Percent Plan
Texas passed a law in 1997 known as the “Top Ten Percent Plan” (TTPP) which requires public state universities to admit all applicants from Texas who rank in the top 10% of their high school graduating class. This law was modified in 2009 for the University to allow for automatic admission of 75% of the incoming freshman class, with the remaining 25% to be chosen based on admissions criteria. Currently, students in the top 6% of their graduating class are eligible for automatic admission at the University in this 75% group.
Continue Reading Affirmative Action Again Under Fire in Admissions
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a federal law prohibiting employers from discriminating because of sex also protects LGBTQ individuals.
Background of Pending Cases
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against an individual “because of” that individual’s “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” In two consolidated cases—Bostock v. Clayton County and Zarda v. Altitude Express—the Court will decide whether Title VII’s ban on “sex” discrimination also prohibits employment discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation. And in a third case—R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC—the Court will decide whether the sex discrimination ban also prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s status as transgender. All three cases will be argued on October 8, 2019.
Continue Reading A Look Ahead: Supreme Court to Review Prohibition of Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
On February 26, 2019, the Supreme Court of Missouri issued an en banc opinion in R.M.A. v. Blue Springs Sch. Dist., No. SC96683. The court held that a transgender student who was barred from using the boys’ locker room had stated a valid cause of action for sex discrimination in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”).
R.M.A., a female to male transgender student, attended school in Blue Springs R-IV School District (“BSSD”). R.M.A. filed a charge of discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (“MCHR”) in October 2014 alleging discrimination in a public accommodation based on sex. R.M.A. alleged that he lives as a male, has changed his legal name to a traditionally male name, and presents himself as male to all faculty, staff, and other students in the School District. R.M.A. alleged that BBSD had permitted him to participate in boys’ physical education class, boys’ football, and boys’ track, but that he had not been permitted to use the boys’ locker room or bathroom based on his sex and gender identity.
Continue Reading Supreme Court of Missouri Opines on Sex Discrimination under the Missouri Human Rights Act
On January 7, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States denied certiorari in Ferguson-Florissant School District v. Missouri Conference of NAACP. This case involves the Ferguson-Florissant School District (“FFSD”), a St. Louis area school district created after a 1975 desegregation order required the original FFSD to annex two neighboring school districts “to achieve a meaningful desegregation” within one unified district. United States v. Missouri, 515 F.2d 1365, 1366 (8th Cir. 1975) (en banc).
This lawsuit challenged FFSD’s method of electing school board members. The suit alleged that the at-large, popular vote, system, in which people only vote once for a candidate, was racially biased against African-American candidates. This lawsuit was originally filed in 2014, when six of the seven school board members were Caucasian, even though about four-fifths of FFSD’s student population was African-American and approximately fifty percent of its voting age population was African-American.
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Declines Review of Ferguson-Florissant School District v. Missouri Conference of NAACP
The United States Supreme Court abandoned its longstanding physical presence nexus standard for sales/use tax collection previously decided in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992) and National Bella Hess Inc. v. Department of Revenue of Illinois, 386 U.S. 753 (1967) with a decision announced last week in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. et al. Following South Dakota v. Wayfair, remote sellers with no physical presence in a state, but with substantial virtual and economic presence, can be compelled to collect sales/use tax without violating the commerce clause.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Paves Way for Additional School Funding in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc.
On October 4, 2017, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) agreed to drop its lawsuit against the state of Illinois over education funding distribution. The lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed by CPS without prejudice, meaning that CPS could still choose to re-file the case at a later date. Filed on February 14, 2017, by five families, the suit claimed that Illinois had violated the civil rights of students by distributing fewer funds to Chicago public schools than other public districts across the state. CPS alleged that only 76 cents were spent on Chicago students for every dollar spent on children in public schools outside of the city leading to a $500 million funding gap for Chicago public schools.
Continue Reading Lawsuits as Leverage: Chicago Public Schools Drop Lawsuit Against Illinois After Legislators Reach a Deal on Education Funding