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.

Background

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.


Continue Reading Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. – the student free speech case every public school administrator should know about

A few weeks ago, the United States District Court of Massachusetts issued its long-awaited decision in the lawsuit brought by Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. (“SFFA”) against Harvard University (“Harvard”).  In a 130-page decision, the court found in favor of Harvard, holding that Harvard’s race-conscious admissions process was lawful.
Continue Reading Harvard Race-Conscious Admissions Process is Lawful

In light of the 2017-2018 U.S. Supreme Court term ending and the 2018-2019 Supreme Court term beginning with new Justice Brett Kavanaugh, school district personnel must be mindful of the recent Supreme Court holdings and significant cases the Court may hear this term.
Continue Reading The Supreme Court with Justice Kavanaugh: What Might Recent and Future Cases Mean for Urban Education?

D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated on July 9, 2018 to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump. Should he be confirmed, his appointment could have far reaching effects to educational entities across the country. Kavanaugh is a strong proponent of religious liberty and second amendment rights, and has issued a variety of high-profile opinions.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh & Education Law

The October 2016 term of the United States Supreme Court was historic. Justice Neil Gorsuch was nominated by President Donald Trump to the United States Supreme Court on January 31, 2017.  After Democrats filibustered the confirmation vote of Gorsuch, Republicans invoked the “nuclear option,” allowing a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee to be broken by a simple majority vote.  In yet another historic moment, Gorsuch became the first Supreme Court justice to serve alongside another justice for whom he once clerked (Justice Anthony Kennedy). 
Continue Reading Emerging Legal Issues in Urban Education: Recent Court Decisions and Agency Actions Affecting Public Education

Supreme Court SunriseIn 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

Gavel On Rainbow FlagAs 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