Failed Cheerleader Does Not Make Squad, Sues

Thanks to Aaron Weems of Fox Rothschild's litigation (family law) division for noticing this item detailed in the Dallas Observer's blog. In truth, even though it is from the 5th Circuit, it is quite a good discussion of foundational requirements to prove student on student Sexual Harassment in school.  The cases it cites are almost exclusively from the U.S. Supreme Court rather than 5th Circuit matters.

So what was the case about? To quote Circuit Judge Smith:

[r]educed to its essentials, this is nothing more than a dispute, fueled by a disgruntled cheerleader mom, over whether her daughter should have made the squad. It is a petty squabble, masquerading as a civil rights matter, that has no place in federal court or any other court.

Hear, hear! You tell them Judge Smith!

The case, Sanches v. Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, can be read in full here.

Pennsylvania Department of Education's BEC's on Enrollment and Pregnant Students Serve as a Reminder to School Districts to Review Policies

By  Timothy E. Gilsbach

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has recently issued two new BECs that present a good reminder for school district's to review their Enrollment Policy and Policy on Pregnant Students.  Both BEC's are not in response to any recent changes in the law, but are a good reminder of some issues that need to be considered by school districts in both areas.   

PDE issues a new BEC on Enrollment of Students in January which puts most of the information you need to know about the process of enrolling students in one place.  The new BEC sets out the information that a district may request, as well as what it cannot, when a student enrolls in the district and the process for doing so.  It further notes the need for a separate process for enrolling homeless students, which differs in many ways as to what can be required of other students.  It is important for districts to take a look at their policy on this issue to make sure it complies with the requirements set out in the law, as explained in the BEC.  PDE has requested that districts post their policies and procedures with respect to enrollment on-line no later that July 30, 2009. 

The second is a revised BEC on Pregnant and Parenting Students.  While not adding anything new, the revised BEC does provide two important reminders.  First, that school districts may not exclude pregnant students from the public school nor from extracurricular activities.  Second, and a little less obvious, is what to do with students who need to be absent from school due to pregnancy complications.  This process may be handled in-district if the period of absence is not to exceed three months, but if the absence is to be longer than three months, approval must be obtained from the Department of Education.  In addition, for excusing students for three months or less, school districts must have a policy for how such requests are handled and by whom. 

Both BEC's should have school districts taking a look at the policies implicated, especially if it has been some time since this policy has been revised.  If necessary, districts should revise these policies and/or guidelines.   

TItle IX, gender discrimination, and money damages

The question of money damages under various anti-discrimination / inclusion education statutes seems to be a hot subject recently. The recent en banc Third Circuit Court decision in A.W. v. The Jersey City Public Schools, 341 F.3d 234 (3d Cir. 2007), discussed in another entry, ruled that there is no cause of action under Section 1983 for money damages based on a violation of IDEA and or Section 504.  

A recent federal district court case from Puerto Rico, Frechel Rodriguez v. Puerto Rico Dept. of Educ., 478 F. Supp. 2d 191 (D. Puerto Rico 2007) (unfortunately, I have not found a public domain copy), reached a similar outcome in a Title IX-based claim of gender discrimination. Specifically, the issue was whether a plaintiff has a right of action under § 1983 to redress violations of Title IX.  According to the case, the Sixth and Eighth Circuits have held such a right exists, but the Second, Third, and Seventh Circuits have ruled such a § 1983 claim is barred under the Sea Clammers doctrine announced in Middlesex County Sewerage Authority v. National Sea Clammers Association, 453 U.S. 1 (1981).  The Frechel Rodriguez decision dismissed the Title IX-based § 1983 claims.

So what does this trial court case from Puerto Rico mean for us? 

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