Articles Posted in Education Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for felony deceptive practices, following a jury trial. The court held (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion and correctly applied the law by admitting evidence of Defendant’s prior investigations and convictions for fraudulent deceptive practices; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing an expert witness to testify over Defendant’s objection that the State’s notification was late; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to give Defendant’s proposed jury instruction for misdemeanor theft. View "State v. Reopelle" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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Jon Krakauer, a journalist and resident of Colorado, published a book chronicling instances of alleged sexual misconduct on or near the Missoula campus of the University of Montana. This case involved Krakauer’s request for release of certain student records related to one instance of allegations of sexual assault. The Commissioner of Higher Education denied Krakauer’s request, and Krakauer filed a petition in the district court citing the right to know under the Montana Constitution. The district court granted summary judgment to Krakauer and ordered the Commissioner to make available for inspection the requested records. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) and state statute provide an exception for release of information pursuant to a lawfully issued court order; and (2) the records at issue in this case appear to fall under the “personally identifiable information” protection granted by FERPA. Remanded for further proceedings. View "Krakauer v. Comm’n of Higher Educ." on Justia Law

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In 2013, Vaughn School District received a petition requesting the transfer of a specific portion of territory from Vaughn School District to the Power School District. A panel of three county school superintendents dismissed the school territory transfer petition on the ground that the transfer territory was located within three miles of an operating school - the Hillcrest Hutterite Colony Attendance Center. Power School District petitioned for judicial review of the superintendent panel’s decision. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly held that the superintendent panel (1) did not act unreasonably in concluding that the attendance center operates as any public school in the state of Montana; and (2) did not abuse its discretion or err as a matter of law in interpreting the governing statutes. View "In re Vaughn Elementary School Petition" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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In 2013, Froid Elementary School District No. 65 petitioned the Roosevelt County Superintendent of Schools to transfer territory from the Poplar Elementary School District No. 9 to the Froid School District. Poplar opposed the transfer. The deputy superintendent appointed for the purpose of hearing and deciding the petition approved the territory transfer. Poplar appealed. The district court awarded summary judgment to Poplar and vacated the order transferring territory to Froid on the basis that the territory transfer statute required statements to be made under oath and that the deputy superintendent’s failure to administrator oaths was an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Poplar failed to preserve its statutory issue concerning the necessity of sworn testimony and it was error for the district court to reach the merits of the question. Remanded. View "In re Petition to Transfer Territory from Poplar Elementary Sch. to Froid Elementary Sch." on Justia Law

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Valerie Addis left her position as supervisor of food services with the Missoula County Public Schools (Schools) after the Schools conducted an investigation of Addis into whether she had engaged in fraudulent or illegal financial transactions. Certain media organizations (Respondents) requested that the Schools release documents related to Addis’ termination. The Schools, in order to avoid being sued by either the media outlets or Addis, commenced the present action in district court seeking an in camera review of the Addis documents and a determination as to whether they should be released. After conducting an in camera examination of the Schools’ records, the district court concluded (1) Addis had a right of privacy in some of the documents and they, therefore, should not be released; but (2) six documents relating to misuse of public money, misuse of public facilities, and careless management practices should be released. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly determined that the six disputed documents should be released. View "Missoula County Pub. Schs. v. Addis" on Justia Law

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C.S., who turned eighteen in March 2012, received special education services from the Butte School District until June 2013. In January 2013, the Montana Office of Public Instruction directed the School District to obtain appointment of a surrogate parent for C.S., who lived with his Foster Father, for educational purposes. The district court subsequently appointed Mary Jo Mahoney as C.S.’s surrogate parent. In March 2013, C.S. filed a motion to vacate the appointment of Mahoney and to substitute Foster Father as his surrogate parent. The court denied the request. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court’s refusal to vacate its appointment of Mahoney was not mooted even though C.S. no longer qualified for special education services from the School District; and (2) the district court erred when it refused to remove Mahoney and appoint Foster Father as C.S.’s surrogate parent for educational purposes. View "In re C.S." on Justia Law

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The Boulder Monitor, which regularly attended meetings of the full Jefferson County High School Board, sued Jefferson High School District No. 1, claiming that a meeting of the Board’s budget subcommittee violated statutory open meeting and public participation requirements because there was a quorum of the Board present at the subcommittee meeting, the meeting discussed personnel matters in addition to the 2012-2013 budget, that all Board members present participated in the discussion, and that the public notice of the subcommittee meeting was inadequate. The district court granted summary judgment to the Monitor, concluding that the Board violated Montana law in the manner in which the budget subcommittee meeting was conducted. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that summary judgment in this case was improper because contested issues of fact existed that may not be resolved on summary judgment. Remanded. View "Boulder Monitor v. Jefferson High Sch. Dist. No. 1" on Justia Law

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While attending Wolf Point High School, Dalton Gourneau committed suicide in his home. Roxanne Gourneau, acting individually and on behalf of Dalton, filed a complaint against Wolf Point, the State, and the District Superintendent, alleging that Dalton's death was the direct and proximate result of Wolf Point's negligence. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Wolf Point. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the record did not substantiate Roxanne's speculation that Wolf Point reasonably should have known Dalton's state of mind or that its conduct created a reasonable possibility of harm, and thus, Wolf Point owed no legal duty because Dalton's suicide was unforeseeable by Wolf Point. View "Gourneau v. Wolf Point Sch. Bd." on Justia Law

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Norma Jean King worked for the Hays/Lodge Pole School District for more than thirty-five years, holding positions of elementary school teacher, elementary school principal, and high school principal. After serving as the high school principal for three years, the school district board of trustees reassigned her to an elementary school teaching position. On appeal, the county superintendent and, subsequently, the state superintendent affirmed the board's reassignment decision. The district court reversed the state superintendent's ruling, holding that the state superintendent erred in ruling that a principal position was comparable to a teaching position. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court, holding that the district court erred in concluding that the positions of teacher and principal were not comparable positions of employment under the applicable statutes. Remanded.

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In the fall of 2008 William Hartford, a high school science teacher, was fired after his Montana teaching certificate expired by his inadvertence in failing to renew it. Hartford sought to file a grievance, alleging that he had been terminated without just cause in violation of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) entered into between Kalispell School District (District) and the Kalispell Education Association (KEA). The district superintendent, and later the board of trustees, denied Hartford's request, claiming the matter did not constitute a valid grievance under the CBA on grounds that Hartford was not a member of the bargaining unit at any point during his employment in the fall of 2008 and that he was not a "teacher" as defined under Montana law during his employment in the fall of 2008. Hartford and the KEA filed a petition in the district court to compel arbitration as provided in the CBA. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Hartford and the KEA and ordered the matter submitted to arbitration. The Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that the questions raised by the matter were properly submitted to arbitration.