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Proposed Bible class sparks debate at Delaware school board meeting

The Cape Gazette reports that a proposed Bible study class for Cape Henlopen High School is causing quite a stir within the Cape Henlopen community.   Some Cape school board members who recently attended a school board convention in San Diego came back with the idea after listening to a seminar there on the Bible Literacy Project.  “It’s basically a textbook for the academic study of the Bible,” said board member Jen Burton.  “I think this would be great to have … It provides students with important history.”

Vice President Spencer Brittingham and board member Sandi Minard also supported adding an elective class for high school students.  The curriculum includes a textbook; Cape was offered a discount on the cost if the district makes a decision soon.  Others weren’t so supportive.

Board member Roni Posner said she is concerned with how the course would be taught and from what perspective.  “To me, attempting to teach ‘bible literacy,’ whatever that actually means, in public school classrooms, outside of houses of worship, is outlandish as … well, a talking snake – out of context,” she said.

Audience members who spoke at the meeting were split.  Those who supported the Bible class said the course teaches history and shows how major biblical characters such as Noah, Adam and Eve, and Moses have been referenced in major literary and art throughout the ages.  “Since so much of our history and world history is entwined in the Bible it’s something that students need to know,” said community resident Kit Kennedy.

Resident Betty Deacon said the district is setting itself up for a lawsuit if it proceeds with the Bible class.  “I don’t want my tax dollars paying to defend the separation of church and state,” she said.  Resident Judith Nicholas agreed that she does not want taxpayer money to pay for the new Bible curriculum. “I’m all for Bible literacy but just not in the classroom,” she said.  “Don’t ask the taxpayer to pick up the tab.”

Superintendent Robert Fulton was visibly irate that board members brought up a curriculum change for discussion in a board meeting bypassing normal district channels for curriculum approval.  “We won’t be implementing this next year,” he said.  “I’m a little concerned with the approach … We don’t rush to make decisions for money reasons.”  Fulton said Director of Curriculum and Instruction Michael Kelley would review the Bible Literacy Project and determine if it would be an appropriate addition to the high school’s social studies electives.

Board President Andy Lewis said a World Religion class could be another option to include most major religions.  “I would like our curriculum committee to look at it and study it,” he said.

Source: Cape Gazette, 5/21/13, By Melissa Steele

[Editor's Note: While some board members and residents of Cape Henlopen are excited about adding Bible classes to the high school curriculum, some parents in Encinitas Union School District in San Diego County, CA don't share the same feelings about yoga classes. In February 2013 Legal Clips summarized a San Diego Union-Tribune report that the National Center for Law & Policy had filed suit on behalf of parents against the Encinitas Union School District claiming that its yoga program is based on religion and violates the California Constitution’s religious freedom provisions.

In May 2013 Legal Clips summarized a report from WAFB on a lawsuit filed against a Mississippi school district alleging that one of its high schools was conducting mandatory student assemblies where Christian messages were presented in violation of the separation of church and state. 

The Bible Literacy Project website states:

The Bible Literacy Project, Inc., is a non-partisan, non-profit endeavor to encourage and facilitate the academic study of the Bible in public schools. Founded in 2001 by Chuck Stetson and Richard Scurry, we believe that failure to teach about the Bible leaves students in ignorance and cultural illiteracy.]

Three more states receive NCLB waivers from U.S. Dep’t of ED

According to the Washington Post, Alaska, Hawaii, and West Virginia have joined 37 other states and the District of Columbia in obtaining waivers freeing them from many of the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The states have received the waivers in exchange for agreeing to make changes in education policy endorsed by the Obama administration.  They have agreed to prepare students for college and career, better focus aid on the neediest students, and boost effective teaching and school leadership, according to the administration.

Eight other states, Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming, in addition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Puerto Rico, have also requested waivers and are waiting for a decision. California, Montana, and Nebraska have not yet requested waivers, while North Dakota and Vermont sought waivers but then withdrew their requests.

Although the U.S. Congress was due to reauthorize NCLB in 2007, there has been little progress despite broad, bipartisan agreement that the law needs an overhaul.  Governors, school administrators, and teachers across the country clamoured for relief from the law, which they said was outdated and punitive.  In response, the Obama administration began in 2011 issuing waivers to free states from some of the law’s toughest requirements, including that schools prepare every student to be proficient in math and reading by 2014 or risk escalating sanctions.

Source: Washington Post, 5/20/13, By Lyndsey Layton

[Editor's Note: In March 2013, Legal Clips summarized an article in Education Week reporting that even though 34 states and the D.C. had obtained NCLB waivers, many of them are still negotiating with the U.S. Department of Education (ED) over their teacher-evaluation systems – a crucial component if they want to keep their new-found flexibility.  More than six months after waiver recipients turned in their guidelines to ED, only 12 waiver states had gotten the green light for their evaluation systems.] 

GAO Reports Suspected Cheating on School Tests in 40 States

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that in the past two school years, 40 states detected potential cheating on standardized exams given to public school students in grades 3 to 12, according to an article in The Washington Post.   Of those states, 33 confirmed at least one instance of cheating, and 32 states canceled or invalidated test results from individual students, schools or districts as a result of either suspected or confirmed cheating, the GAO found. The GAO collected data from the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 academic years.

Since 2002, the Department of Education has given more than $2 billion to states to develop and administer standardized math and reading tests that are given annually in grades 3 through 8, and at least once in grades 10 through 12.  Students must also be tested in science at least once during grades 3 through 5, 6 through 9 and 10 through 12.

The issue of standardized testing has become more prevalent as the Obama administration has encouraged states to tie student performance to teacher evaluations and amid high-profile cheating scandals in Atlanta.

The GAO study also warns that as schools transition to digital exams, districts should be aware of and prepared to handle new security risks, such as computer hacking and other digital threats.

Source: The Washington Post, 5/17/13, by Lyndsey Layton

[Editor’s Note: The GAO study was administered through an online survey between November 2012 and January 2013, which received a 100 percent response rate.  The Department of Education has since released a report detailing best practices in test security, which a majority of states stated “would be very or extremely useful.”

In April 2013, Legal Clips summarized an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, which reported that a Fulton County grand jury issued a 65-count indictment of 35 Atlanta Public School officials for their alleged role in falsifying standardized test scores.]

Family files $8.3 million suit against Virginia district for bullying incident, citing a national “Pandemic”

The Times-Virginian reports that a family has filed suit in federal court seeking damages as a result of injuries to a student from a bus bullying incident. Defendants Division Superintendent Dorinda Grasty, Appomattox County School Board, division transportation supervisor Matt Lair, and former school bus driver Nancy Davis are being sued for alleged gross negligence by Roxanne Haskins, the mother of  Cequan Morris, who was bullied by two students on a school bus driven by Davis in May 2011.

The suit alleges that the parties were aware of the bullying on the bus prior to May 5, 2011, but did nothing to stop or prevent the May incident.  To support the allegations, a written account of what happened on the bus based on surveillance footage from the vehicle is included in the court documents.  The transcribed version of surveillance video includes the students hitting Morris, yelling and using racial slurs as well as Davis’ response to their conduct. Haskins’ attorney Mark Dix said, “I think that any jury that sees the egregious conduct would be moved by it, and that is why it is in there.”

In a section of the suit referred to as “Bullying Pandemic in America”, the filing also highlights other bully incidents around the nation that resulted in the victims committing violence or suicide.  Cases highlighted include the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, four students who took their own lives in 2007 and 2008 at a school in Ohio after being bullied, and 15-year-old bullied victim Phoebe Prince, who committed suicide in 2010 in Massachusetts.  Dix said that information in the court filing about other bulling cases is included to show that bullying is not just isolated to Morris or Appomattox.  “It is a problem that has been on the radar,” said Dix.

The lawsuit alleges that Haskins approached Davis on at least two occasions prior to May 5, 2011 to voice concerns about the bullying of her son, and also spoke with Lair about the matter.  The filing further states: “Davis’ recorded statement also confirms that she approached Lair prior to May 5, 2011 to discuss the problems she (was) experiencing on the Bus 11, her inability to handle Bus 11, and her request for additional assistance with the children on Bus 11 including the presence of sheriff’s deputies.  Nevertheless, Davis took no action herself to address or resolve the issues before May 5, 2011.”

Originally, a $31.5 million lawsuit was filed in Appomattox County Circuit Court against the parties along with the Appomattox County Board of Supervisors. However, Appomattox County’s Board of Supervisors was dropped from the suit earlier this year because the locality is a separate entity from the school board and does not have control over it.  The new suit of $8.3 million is for compensatory and punitive damages.

The bullying incident occurred while Davis was transporting students to Appomattox County from the Lynchburg-based Rivermont School, a facility for students with emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities.  Upon school official’s investigation of the matter, Davis was  terminated.  Davis had been charged with felony child neglect, however, a jury found her not guilt in February 2012.

Source: Times – Virginian, 5/22/13, By Stephanie A. James

[Editor's Note: In September 2012, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Beaufort Gazette reporting that the mother of two students, who she claims have been bullied, is suing Beaufort County School District (BCSD) and Durham School Services, the bus company, charging they have not done enough to protect her children.  Christina Chandler, who had petitioned BCSD to put cameras on school buses, says she will now look to the courts to keep her children from being bullied.]

Teachers’ union hits Chicago’s school board with two suits opposing proposed school closings

The Chicago Tribune reports the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has filed two lawsuits, on behalf of parents and their special needs children, to try to stop the city from closing 53 elementary schools.  The suits claim the proposed school closings are unfair, will harm students with disabilities and are discriminatory because almost all the students affected are African-American. One lawsuit asks for a delay of at least a year before any schools are closed; the other asks for a permanent injunction on closings.  The Board of Education is expected to vote on the school closings proposal on May 22, 2013.

A CTU-backed lawsuit last year sought to block closings on behalf of local school council members, alleging that closings disproportionately affected African-Americans.  That case was tossed out by a Cook County Court judge, but is still under appeal.

The lawsuits question the economic impact of school closings, which the district says are necessary to address underused buildings and save money. “If the board and (schools chief) Barbara Byrd-Bennett and the mayor of the city of Chicago want to save costs, they ought to find another way of doing so than singling out African-American children over and over,” said Tom Geoghegan, lead attorney in the suits.

One lawsuit alleges that the district is violating Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act in its plan to close schools because it “does not permit a timely and orderly process” for review and revision of individualized education programs, or IEPs, for children with special needs.  The other lawsuit, seeking a permanent injunction, says the district’s plan will destabilize thousands of children in special education programs.  It also claims racial discrimination, both in the current plan and in past school closings.

“For the 72 schools that defendants have closed to date, African-American children make up more than 90 percent of the displaced children; and in currently proposed closings, they make up more than 80 percent of the displaced children,” the suit says.  “Yet African-American children constitute only 42 percent of the children in public schools.”

The school system, which has been expecting a lawsuit for months, did not respond to the legal arguments in the case.  Instead, a statement was released from Byrd-Bennett, who said: “These lawsuits demonstrate that union leadership is committed to a status quo that is failing too many of our kids.  Thousands of children in underutilized schools are being cheated out of the resources they need to succeed.”

The filings come a week after the release of reports by retired judges serving as hearing officers, which were critical of many of the proposed closings and opposed 13 of them.  One of the hearing officers, retired federal judge David Coar, was critical of the closing of Mahalia Jackson Elementary, which serves a large population of deaf students.  Coar’s report, which noted the lack of a safety plan for the school’s students in moving to a new school, was cited in the lawsuits.

Geoghegan said Coar’s opinion “ought to be given great weight” and he hoped  filings wound lead board members “to read these two complaints before they vote on the closings.”

Source: Chicago Tribune, 5/15/13, By Noreen Ahmed-Ullah

[Editor's Note: In January 2013, Legal Clips summarized an article on globalpost.com reporting CTU sued the Chicago school district, saying the city’s campaign to reform or close under-performing public schools discriminates against black teachers.]

Washington state school board includes morality clause in superintendent’s contract

In addition to the provisions that spell out pay, health benefits, and require him to perform his job legally and ethically, the Tri-City Herald reports that Richland School District’s (RSD) new superintendent’s contract includes a provision requiring the superintendent to do his job morally.  The so-called “morality clause” is reportedly similar to the one cited by the school board in January 2013 when it fired Superintendent Jim Busey.

While some other districts in Washington have similar contract provisions, others rely instead on the state’s code of professional conduct and their own district code.  Busey claims he did nothing wrong when he had a consensual relationship with a school district employee and is suing the district for $1 million for discrimination.

Despite the controversy, Richland School Board Chairman Rick Jansons said the board intends to hold its new superintendent, Rick Schulte, to the same moral standards.  “It was (our attorney’s) advice, and I agree with his advice, that it needs to be in there,” Jansons said.  However, some education officials question how to define moral conduct and how to enforce it. They say morality can be a subjective term in a legal document, and that there already are established codes of conduct to follow as part of their jobs.

Phil Gore, director of leadership development for the state School Directors Association, said superintendent contracts typically include sections governing their conduct.  A model contract offered by the association includes references to the importance of ethics.  Those concerns also are why the state code is in place.  “Boards have a clear responsibility to protect a district, including the reputation of it,” Gore said.  But, he said, specific sections on doing a job in a moral manner are not common.

Any certificated educator, including teachers and principals, must comply with the state’s code or face disciplinary actions, which could include losing their ability to teach in the state.  Washington law doesn’t require school district superintendents to be certificated, but those who are also must comply with the code.  The code covers a variety of behaviors and actions that could be grounds for discipline.  They range from being under the influence of drugs or alcohol on the job to hiring an unqualified person for a job.  It also requires educators to have “good moral character and personal fitness.”

Richland School Board members said they fired Busey for having an affair with a district employee and pursuing a romantic relationship with a district consultant, using district-provided equipment to conduct the affair, and disrupting the school where one employee worked, among other allegations. Board members said Busey’s actions violated this clause of his contract: “Superintendent shall fulfill all aspects of this contract in a legal, ethical and moral manner, any exception thereto being by mutual written consent of the Board and Superintendent.  Failure to fulfill the obligations agreed to in this contract will be good and just cause for discharge as noted above, and will be reported by the board to the appropriate state educational authorities.”

The contract for the new superintendent is not final, but Jansons said he reviewed the clause in the draft document with the school district’s law firm, Stevens Clay Manix of Spokane, before it was sent to Schulte last week.  “I think that clause matches the character and expectations of our community,” Jansons said.

Busey’s lawsuit could be damaging to RSD.  A court could order the district to pay him for any time left on his contract, or about $400,000, if the district is found to have wrongly fired him.  Busey’s lawsuit specifically seeks $1 million in damages, though documents have indicated that is a preliminary figure. Regardless of the outcome, the Richland board is taking precautions against a similar situation in the future.  Schulte’s draft contract includes language that limits the amount of money he could receive from the district if he was removed before the contract expires.

Source: Tri-City Herald, 5/18/13, By Ty Beaver

[Editor's Note: In July 2010, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Toledo Blade reporting that a Bellevue, OH school board had authorized up to $15,000 to defend itself and a former board member against a federal lawsuit filed by the former Superintendent. The federal court suit against the president of the board, the board’s former vice president, and the Bellevue Board of Education claimed the board violated the former superintendent's First Amendment rights and libeled him by releasing to the public allegations about his conduct.]

Complaint filed with OCR charges NYC high school admissions’ policies discriminate against African-American and Hispanic students

According to a complaint filed with the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR), reports the Business Standard, New York City high school admissions policies are racially biased against African-American and Hispanic students. The OCR complaint, filed by the Education Law Center (ELC) on behalf of parents of minority students, calls for a federal investigation and overhaul of a system that they claim concentrates minority students in struggling high schools that are packed with high-needs pupils.

ELC attorney Wendy Lecker said that the city is sending African-American and Hispanic students to schools where they are much less likely to earn a diploma.  In 2011, 59% of Hispanic students and 60% of African-American students graduated from city high schools in four years, compared with 79% of white students and 83% of Asian students, the report said.  That year, 13% of African-American students and 15% of Hispanic students met college readiness standards, compared with 29% of students overall.

New York City high schools admit students on the basis of academic records, state test scores, attendance, student preference, available space and other factors.

This is the second civil rights case filed against city schools in the last year.

Source: Business Standard, 5/21/13, By Staff

[Editor's Note: Although the Business standard refers to ELC's complaint as a lawsuit, it is actually an administrative complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education's (ED) Office for Civil Rights (OCR).  ELC's press release, announcing the filing of the complaint, states:

"This is the largest federal civil rights complaint of its kind against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s DOE.  It reveals that black and Latino students are more likely than white students to end up in high schools with high concentrations of high-needs students (overage/under-credited students or students with low proficiency levels)."

The complaint was filed pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race and national origin.  The OCR complaint states:

"As detailed in the Factual Allegations below, the New York City high school admissions process, and the lack of controls thereon, as administered by the Chancellor and the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York, results in African American and Latino high school students having a lesser chance than their white peers to attend and benefit from an education in a school that is not affected with high concentrations of students with high needs.  As shown below, African American and Latino high school students are more likely than their white peers to attend a school with a high concentration of students with high needs, a prima facie disparate impact."

In May 2013 Legal Clips summarized Spurlock v. Fox, a decision in which the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals noted that intent is an element in disparate impact claims.  A similar conclusion was reached in Smith v. Henderson, a District of Columbia federal district court decision summarized in a May 2013 Legal Clips.

In September 2012, Legal Clips summarized a Rueters article in the Huffington Post reporting that the NAACP had lodged a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education charging that the admissions test for New York City’s specialized high schools discriminates against African-American and Latino students. According to the NAACP, the highly competitive, 2 ½-hour, multiple-choice Specialized High School Admissions Test is at fault.]

School district reaches $85k settlement with teacher recommended for dismissal after stomping on the U.S. flag in class

KCTV 5 News reports that the District 5 school district in Lexington and Richland Counties, South Carolina (District 5) has reached a settlement agreement with 12-year English teacher Scott Compton.  Compton made national headlines after stomping on an American flag in front of his classes and facing dismissal charges as a result.  In the settlement agreement, the school district will pay Compton $85k and furnish him with a letter of recommendation, after his resignation goes into effect on June 7, 2013.

During three honors English classes in December, 2012, Compton stomped on an American flag.  His attorney, Darryl Smalls characterized the event as “a lesson on symbolism as part of a unit on All Quiet on the Western Front and ‘nothing more’” and emphasized that “[a]t no point and in no way, shape or form was this lesson a negative commentary on America.”  Parents, however, disagreed and described the lesson as disrespectful and unpatriotic.  Because of the parent’s complaints, Compton was placed on paid administrative leave starting December 13, 2012, pending an investigation.  On January 10, 2013 Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hefner recommended that the school board fire Compton.  Compton appealed, but the hearing was delayed several times and never took place.  In late March, Compton resigned for “personal and family reasons.”

Compton later notified the school district that he had prepared a complaint to file in federal court.  The district then notified the insurance carrier, who made the decision to make a monetary payment.  The insurance company made this decision “[b]ased on financial considerations related to anticipated legal fees to defend such a suit.”  The district has paid $31,400 in legal fees related to the Compton case since January 1, 2013.

Commenting on the settlement, District 5 spokesman Mark Bounds stated, “We are glad the issue is resolved.  The resolution is in the best interest of the district, our teachers and the children we serve.”

Source: KCTV 5 NEWS, 05/07/2013, by Jason Old

[Editor's Note: In May 2013, Legal Clips summarized a Times Record News report that Muldrow School District’s school board elected to remove plaques in every classroom displaying the Ten Commandments, rather than risk a lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, after the district's insurance company declined to cover litigation expenses.]

Federal appeals court rules Michigan law prohibiting school systems alone from collecting union dues via payroll deduction is constitutional

Bailey v. Callaghan et al, No. 12-1803 (6th Cir. May 9, 2013)

Abstract: A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (MI, OH, KY, TN), in a 2-1 split, has ruled that Michigan’s Public Act 53, which prohibits public schools from collecting union dues from its employees, does not violate the rights of teachers or their unions under the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause.

The panel concluded that Act 53 did not violate the union’s First Amendment free speech rights because “Public Act 53 does not restrict speech; it does not discriminate against or even mention viewpoint; and it has nothing to do with a forum of any kind.”  The panel also rejected the union’s equal protection claim.  Applying the rational basis test, the panel concluded that the Legislature “could have concluded that it is more important for the public schools to conserve their limited resources for their core mission than it is for other state and local employers.”

Facts/Issues:  In 2012, Michigan passed Act 53, which regulates a public school’s ability to collect union fees:

“A public school employer’s use of public school resources to assist a labor organization in collecting dues or service fees from wages of public school employees is a prohibited contribution to the administration of the labor organization.”

As a result, unions must collect their own membership dues from public school employees.  The Act does not preclude any other public employer from collecting union dues from their employees through payroll deductions, only public school boards.  A number of unions and union members sued, claiming the Act violated their rights under the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause, and seeking an injunction barring enforcement of Public Act 53.  The district court granted a preliminary injunction against Public Act 53 and the State appealed.

The unions offered four arguments describing how Act 53 violates their First Amendment rights.  First, the unions alleged that the law is unconstitutional on its face, because it hampers the union’s ability to collect dues and, by extension, diminishes their ability to engage in speech on behalf of their members.  Second, the unions described the payroll-deduction process as a “nonpublic forum”, and thus their exclusion was impermissible.  Next, they claimed that Act 53 engages in viewpoint discrimination since it only applies to unions who represent public school employees.  Finally, the unions suggested that the real purpose of the law is to inhibit the speech of the teachers unions. The unions also claimed that the statute violated the Equal Protection Clause, because it creates a separate classification of unions that represent school employees.

The district court found that Act 53 violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause, and entered a preliminary injunction to bar enforcement of the act.  The State of Michigan then appealed to the Sixth Circuit.

Ruling/Rationale:  The Sixth Circuit panel reversed the order granting the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, and remanded the case for further proceedings.  The panel first referenced the requirements for granting a preliminary injunction, focusing on “whether the movant has a strong likelihood of success on the merits.”  The panel determined that the outcome of the case depended on the “likelihood-of-success factor,” and not on the other elements required to grant the injunction.

The panel rejected the facial challenge to Act 53, relying on the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Ysursa v. Pocatello Educ. Ass’n, 555 U.S. 353, 355 (2009):

“The First Amendment prohibits government from ‘abridging the freedom of speech’; it does not confer an affirmative right to use government payroll mechanisms for the purpose of obtaining funds for expression.”

The Sixth Circuit panel explained that “Public Act 53 does not restrict the unions’ speech at all, and they remain free to speak about whatever they wish.”  The panel punctuated its rejection of the plaintiffs’ argument with the conclusion that “Seldom is precedent more binding than Ysursa is in this case.”

The panel quickly dismissed the unions’ argument that the payroll deduction process is a “nonpublic forum”.   It noted that deducting a sum from an employee’s paycheck is a ministerial act.  “The administrative process, in which that [payroll] deduction occurs, therefore, is not a forum of any kind.”  The panel also cited Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., 473 U.S. 788, 797 (1985) as holding that payroll deductions are not considered a form of speech.

The unions also challenged Act 53 on the grounds that it was viewpoint-discriminatory in a way that distinguished it from the Ysursa case.  In Ysursa, the statute banning payroll contributions applied to all unions in the state, while the unions stated that Act 53 only applies to unions that represent school employees.  The panel, however, did not agree and stated that Act 53 did not “grant certain unions access to the payroll deduction process, and deny others, based on whether a union supports or opposes a particular policy question.  To the contrary, the Act says nothing about speech of any kind.  The Act is therefore facially neutral as to viewpoint, which goes a long ways towards defeating the plaintiffs’ facial challenge.”

The unions responded that the Act denies access to the payroll-deduction process based upon who the speaker is—i.e., it denies access to certain unions—creating a proxy for viewpoint discrimination.  The panel saw it differently:

“Public Act 53 bars public-school employers from using their resources to collect membership dues on behalf of any union.  The particular union to which an employee belongs to, is irrelevant to whether a public employer can collect the employee’s membership dues.  What matters, instead, is who the employer is.  And thus—even if one accepts the plaintiffs’ speaker-as-proxy-for-viewpoint theory—the Act is as neutral to speaker identity as it is to viewpoint.

The unions suggested that the real purpose of Act 53 was to suppress speech by teachers unions, but the panel rejected the argument as a valid legal claim based on United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367, 383 (1968) (“It is a familiar principle of Constitutional law that this Court will not strike down an otherwise constitutional statute on the basis of an alleged illicit legislative motive.”).

Finally, the panel addressed and rejected the plaintiffs’ Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim.  The panel determined that the Legislature had a rational basis for creating a separate classification, as “the Legislature could have concluded that it is more important for the public schools to conserve their limited resources for their core mission than it is for other state and local employers.”

The dissent found that Michigan had engaged in viewpoint discrimination in passing Act 53.  It stated that the court’s job is to decide if a law is “impermissibly motivated by a desire to suppress a particular point of view.”  In applying that standard to this case, the dissent was convinced that “Act 53 is motivated by a desire to suppress the school unions’ viewpoint”, and that “Michigan cannot ‘prove the links in its chain of reasoning’ to dispel this claim.”

Bailey v. Callaghan et al, No. 12-1803 (6th  Cir. May 9, 2013)

[Editor’s Note: In February, 2013 Legal Clips summarized a report in the Courier-Journal that described a new law in Indiana that prohibits payroll deductions of union fees in public schools.  The legislature believed that a government entity should not be used to collect dues, while the teachers unions saw the bill as an attack on teachers.

The Michigan teachers unions are also facing a lawsuit from their member teachers.  Legal Clips summarized an article published by the News-Herald describing the lawsuit.  The teachers claim that the security clause requiring teachers to join the union violates Michigan’s right to work law.]

Lawsuit charges California district with physical abuse and racial profiling of Latinos

According to the Los Angeles Times, a group of parents and students have filed a federal lawsuit against the Compton school district alleging a pattern of abuse and racial profiling of Latinos by school police.  The suit alleges that police used excessive force against students and parents who protested against district policies and complained that English as a Second Language programs were underfunded.

School officers allegedly beat, pepper sprayed, and used a choke hold on a bystander who was taking video of an arrest on his iPod, and erased cellphone videos taken by students.  The lawsuit seeks $41.4 million in damages.  It was filed on behalf of three parents, one student, and the witness who took the iPod video against the Compton Unified School District and its police department, school police Chief Hourie Taylor, the district superintendent and board of trustees, and multiple individual school police officers and security guards.

Lack of Latino political representation has become a hot-button issue in Compton, where Latinos now make up a majority of the population but a minority of eligible voters.  The city of Compton and Compton Community College District have both been hit with lawsuits in recent years alleging that they were violating the voting rights of Latinos.  The student body of the Compton Unified School District is nearly 80% Latino, but the school board and most of the school administrators are black.

Source: Los Angeles Times, 5/13/13, By Abby Sewell

[Editor's Note: In February 2013, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Los Angeles Times reporting that the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California had reached settlements with the city of Glendale and the Glendale Unified School District on behalf of eight Latino students who alleged that officials engaged in racial profiling and illegal searches during a 2010 incident at Hoover High School.  The suit alleged that more than 50 Latino students were detained by Glendale and Los Angeles police officers who questioned them about possible gang affiliations.]

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