Articles Posted in Education Law

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In this appeal, intervening statutory law enacted by the General Assembly rendered moot the legal issues decided by the circuit court. Here, the circuit court sustained the Attorney General’s challenge to Governor Matthew Bevin’s authority under Ky. Rev. Stat. 12.028 to abolish and reorganize the University of Louisville Board of Trustees and permanently enjoined the Governor from implementing executive orders issued in connection with his effort. The Supreme Court dismissed the Governor’s appeal and remanded the case to the circuit court with directions to dismiss the complaint with prejudice, holding that newly enacted Senate Bill 107 controls over section 12.028. The case is moot because Senate Bill 107 provides a specific statutory path for a governor to disband and reconstitute a university’s governing board and creates a process for the removal of individual members of a university’s governing board. View "Bevin v. Beshear" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order rejecting the Board of Trustees of the Kentucky Schools Boards Insurance Trust’s (KSBIT) claim of governmental immunity and thus denying its motion for summary judgment. In this complaint filed by the Deputy Rehabilitator of the Kentucky School Boards Trust Workers’ Compensation Self-Insurance Fund and of the Kentucky School Boards Insurance Trust Property and Liability Self Insurance Fund against the KSBIT Board for, inter alia, negligence, the KSBIT Board asserted a defense of governmental immunity and moved for summary judgment. The circuit court determined that the KSBIT Board was not entitled to governmental immunity because its “parent” entity was not an agency of state government that enjoyed governmental immunity and because it did not perform a function that was integral to state government. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because the KSBIT Board is not the offspring of local public school boards, it does not have the governmental immunity accorded to those governmental bodies; and (2) the KSBIT Board does not serve a function integral to state government. View "Board of Trustees of Kentucky School Boards Insurance Trust v. Pope" on Justia Law

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In 2016, the Governor ordered a 4.5 percent budget reduction in the fourth quarter of the 2015-2016 fiscal year that extended to the state’s nine institutions of high education (collectively, the Universities). That same year, the Governor revised the allotments to each institution so that eight institutions’ budget reductions were amended to two percent. The Attorney General filed a declaratory-judgment action against the Governor, the State Budget Director, the Secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet, and the State Treasurer, challenging this action. Three members of the House of Representatives joined as intervening plaintiffs. The Governor moved to dismiss the case claiming that the Attorney General and legislators lacked standing and that his actions were legal. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the Governor, concluding (1) the Attorney General had standing, and (2) the Governor had statutory authority to revise downward the Universities’ allotments. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Attorney General had standing the challenge the Governor’s actions, but the individual legislators did not; and (2) the Governor’s reduction of the allotments of the Universities exceeded his statutory authority to revise allotments and to withhold allotments. View "Commonwealth ex rel. Beshear v. Commonweath Office of the Gov. ex rel. Bevin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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After the foreign language taught at Knott County Central High School was switched from French to Spanish, Grace Patton, the high school's French teacher, lost her job. Patton brought suit against Appellants - the Knott County Board of Education, individual Board members, the high school principal, the superintendent, and individual members of the school's Site-Based Decision-Making Council. Appellant's complaint did not specifically identify any particular claim or cause of action. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellants. The court of appeals reversed on the grounds that (1) Patton's complaint had stated a claim against the school board under the whistleblower statute, and the evidence precluded summary judgment; and (2) the individual Appellants were not subject to qualified official immunity because the actions taken to Patton's detriment were ministerial, not discretionary. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Patton did not state a claim under the whistleblower act and had no claim under the act under the facts as alleged; and (2) the individual Appellants were engaged in the performance of discretionary duties covered by the qualified official immunity doctrine.View "Knott County Bd. of Educ. v. Patton" on Justia Law

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A former teacher, Terum Hopper, filed a wrongful termination action against the Jefferson County Board of Education. The Board moved for summary judgment, arguing that Hopper’s tort claims were barred by governmental immunity and that Hopper was required to pursue the administrative remedies set forth in Ky. Rev. Stat. 161.790 to challenge the termination of his employment contract. The trial court granted the summary judgment motion as to the governmental immunity claims but denied the motion as to the breach of contract claims, declaring that Hopper was entitled to file suit on these claims rather than pursue administrative remedies. The Board sought a writ prohibiting the lower court from trying Hopper’s breach of contract claims. The court of appeals denied the writ, concluding that the circuit court had subject matter jurisdiction over the claims and that the Board had an adequate remedy. The Supreme Court reversed and granted the writ, holding that because Hopper filed an action in the circuit court without first exhausting the administrative remedies provided in section 161.790, the circuit court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear his claim. View "Jefferson County Bd. of Educ. v. Hon. Brian C. Edwards" on Justia Law

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In 2010, the Kentucky Board of Nursing placed the Sullivan University System’s (Spencerian) Applied Science in Nursing (ADN) program on probationary status. Spencerian filed suit, alleging that the Board’s decision was erroneous because it retroactively applied newly-enacted 2009 regulatory amendments to Spencerian. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the Board. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Board improperly applied the amended administrative regulations to Spencerian’s conduct that predated the amendments. During the pendency of this appeal, Spencerian instituted numerous changes to its ADN program, which resulted in the Board placing the ADN program on full approval status. Therefore, under the circumstances, the Supreme Court dismissed the Board’s appeal as moot and vacated the rulings of the lower courts. View "Commonwealth, Ky. Bd. of Nursing v. Sullivan Univ. Sys., Inc." on Justia Law

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After an administrative hearing by a Fayette County Public Schools tribunal, Appellee, an elementary school teacher of twenty-two years, was found guilty of "conduct unbecoming a teacher" and was suspended without pay from her employment for a period of time. The circuit court reversed. Appellants, the superintendent of the Fayette County Public Schools and the County Board of Education, appealed, arguing that the circuit court exceeded the scope of its authority by substituting its own judgment of the facts for the tribunal's findings. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the charge of "conduct unbecoming a teacher" lodged against Appellee was not sustained by the evidence and was not supported by the tribunal's findings; and (2) remand to the tribunal for further adjudication was not appropriate where the Court accepted in full the facts found by the tribunal. View "Bd. of Educ. of Fayette County v. Hurley-Richards" on Justia Law

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The parents of fourteen Jefferson County schoolchildren brought this action claiming Ky. Rev. Stat. 159.070 grants their children a statutory right to attend the public school nearest their home. The Jefferson County Board of Education and the Kentucky School Boards Association asserted the student assignment within a school district in Kentucky was a matter that the legislature has committed to the sound discretion of the local school board. The circuit court agreed and dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated the ruling of the circuit court, holding that Kentucky public school students have no statutory right to attend a particular school. View "Jefferson County Bd. of Educ." on Justia Law

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After serving eighteen months as the superintendent of Bourbon County public schools, Appellant Arnold Carter transferred into the position of consultant to the school district pursuant to an "exit strategy." The details of Carter's resignation and consulting contract were discussed and determined in a closed session during a meeting of the Bourbon County Board of Education. Appellee Jamie Smith, a parent and concerned citizen, challenged the Board's actions as violative of Kentucky's Open Meetings Act. The circuit court found Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.801(1)(f) permitted the Board's closed session discussion of Carter's resignation but not its discussion of Carter's consulting contract and consequently voided the consulting contract. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the Board violated the Act when it discussed Carter's resignation and consulting contract in closed session; and (2) Carter's consulting contract was voidable as a matter of law and was properly voided by the circuit court. View "Carter v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Appellee Brooke Nelson brought suit against elementary public school teacher Dianne Turner after allegations that Nelson's five-year-old daughter had been sexually assaulted by another student. The complaint alleged, among other causes of action, that Turner failed to report to enforcement officials the alleged sexual assault. The circuit court entered summary judgment in favor of Turner, concluding that Turner was entitled to qualified official immunity because her action, i.e., determining whether the facts constituted abuse, was discretionary in nature. The court of appeals reversed and remanded with directions to reconsider the mandatory abuse reporting obligation of Kan. Rev. Stat. 620.030. On remand, the trial court again found qualified official immunity applicable. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the reporting requirement of the statute was mandatory and therefore ministerial, obviating any application for qualified official immunity. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals, holding that the trial court properly granted Turner's motion for summary judgment because Turner's actions were discretionary in nature rather than ministerial and, therefore, she was entitled to the defense of qualified official immunity under law. View "Turner v. Nelson" on Justia Law