Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Education Law
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In February 2017, students at Rubidoux High School (RHS) participated in a protest; approximately one quarter of the student body boycotted school for a day. Plaintiff-appellant, Patricia Crawford, a guidance counselor at RHS, criticized the students who boycotted in an e-mail to a colleague and by leaving several comments on a RHS teacher’s public Facebook post that was similarly critical of the boycotting students. Some students and others considered the post and Crawford’s comments on the post to be offensive. The Facebook post “went viral,” and a public outcry against Crawford and other RHS teachers’ comments ensued, resulting in nationwide media attention, a RHS student protest against the teachers, and a flurry of e-mails to RHS administration from the public. Real party in interest, Jurupa Unified School District (the District), dismissed Crawford on the grounds that her conduct was “immoral” and showed that she was “evidently unfit for service” under Education Code section 44932. Defendant-respondent, the Commission on Public Competence of the Jurupa Unified School District (CPC), upheld Crawford’s dismissal, as did the trial court. On appeal, Crawford suggested there were three fixed categories of conduct that constituted "immoral conduct" as a matter of law, and her conduct did not fit into any of them. To this, the Court of Appeal disagreed: "A teacher’s conduct is therefore 'immoral' under [Education Code] section 44932 (a)(1) when it negatively affects the school community in a way that demonstrates the teacher is 'unfit to teach.'" The Court affirmed the trial court's finding that the weight of the evidence supported CPC's finding that Crawford engaged in immoral conduct and was evidently unfit to serve. View "Crawford v. Comm. on Prof. Competence etc." on Justia Law

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The California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code 21000; CEQA) requires public universities to mitigate the environmental impacts of their growth and development, including student enrollment increases. To ensure that the University of California “sufficiently mitigate significant off-campus impacts related to campus growth and development,” the University is required periodically to develop a comprehensive, long-range development plan for each campus, based on the academic goals and projected enrollment. (Ed. Code 67504(a)(1).) The plan must be analyzed in an environmental impact report (EIR). A 2005 EIR that analyzed a development plan and projected enrollment increases for the U.C. Berkeley campus. Opponents claimed the University violated CEQA by increasing enrollment well beyond the growth projected in the 2005 EIR without conducting any further environmental review. The trial court ruled in favor of the University. The court of appeal reversed. Section 21080.09 does not shield public universities from complying with CEQA when they make discretionary decisions to increase enrollment levels. Opponents adequately pled that respondents made substantial changes to the original project that trigger the need for a subsequent or supplemental EIR. The court stated that its decision did not constitute an enrollment “cap.” View "Save Berkeley's Neighborhoods v. Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law

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The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) granted University Professional and Technical Employees' (UPTE's) petition for unit modification to add a new classification, systems administrators, into a preexisting bargaining unit. The University of California refused to bargain over the terms and conditions of employment for systems administrators. PERB granted UPTE's unfair practice charge against the University. The University appealed, arguing that the systems administrator classification did not share a community of interest with the existing bargaining unit as required under the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act (Gov. Code 3560) and that PERB erred in not requiring proof of majority support by the unrepresented systems administrators subject to the unit modification petition.The court of appeal denied the petition. PERB’s finding that a community of interest exists is supported by substantial evidence. The job descriptions reflect a similarity in “common skills” and “job duties” between systems administrators and employees in the unit. The University fails to cite any evidence suggesting a disparity between the job descriptions and the employees’ actual skill sets. PERB properly counted the number of systems administrators at the time the petition was filed; PERB’s holding that it lacked the discretion to require proof of majority support from UPTE was not clearly erroneous. View "Regents of the University of California v. Public Employment Relations Board" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was expelled from USC for committing intimate partner violence against Jane Roe, he petitioned for writ of administrative mandate to set aside the expulsion.The Court of Appeal reversed the superior court's denial of plaintiff's petition, holding that USC's disciplinary procedures at the time were unfair because they denied plaintiff a meaningful opportunity to cross-examine critical witnesses at an in-person hearing. The court explained that, at bottom, this case rests on witness credibility. Given the conflicting statements, the court could not say that the record contains such overwhelming evidence as to render harmless the errors identified in this case. Therefore, the court remanded with directions to the superior court to grant the petition for writ of administrative mandate. View "Boermeester v. Carry" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law
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This case involved claims for subvention by community college districts pertaining to 27 Education Code sections and 141 regulations. The regulations includes “minimum conditions” that, if satisfied, entitles the community college districts to receive state financial support. As to the minimum conditions, the Commission on State Mandates generally determined that reimbursement from the state qA not required because, among other things, the state did not compel the community college districts to comply with the minimum conditions. Coast Community College District, North Orange County Community College District, San Mateo County Community College District, Santa Monica Community College District, and State Center Community College District (the Community Colleges) filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the Commission’s decision. The trial court denied the petition and entered judgment, and the Community Colleges appealed. The Court of Appeal concluded the minimum condition regulations imposed requirements on a community college district in connection with underlying programs legally compelled by the state. The Court surmised the Commission was. Suggesting the minimum conditions were not legally compelled because the Community Colleges were free to decline state aid, but the Court concluded that argument was inconsistent with the statutory scheme and the appellate record. Based on a detailed review of the statutes and regulations at issue, the Court reversed judgment with regard to Cal. Code Regs., tit. 5, regs. 51000, 51006, 51014, 51016, 51018, 51020, 51025, 54626, subdivision (a), 55825 through 55831, regulation 55760 in cases involving mistake, fraud, bad faith or incompetency, and the Handbook of Accreditation and Policy Manual. The Court affirmed as to Education code sections 66738, subdivision (b), 66741, 66743, 78210 through 78218, paragraphs 2, 4 and 5 of section 66740, the portion of regulation 51008 dealing with education master plans, regulations 51024, 54626, subdivisions (b) and (c), 55005, 55100, 51012, 55130, 55150, 55170, 55182, 55205 through 55219, 55300, 55316, 55316.5, 55320 through 55322, 55340, 55350, 55500 through 55534, 55600, 55602, 55602.5, 55603, 55605, 55607, 55620, 55630, 55752, 55753, 55753.5, 55758.5, 55761, 55764, 55800.5, 55805, 55806, 55807, 55808, 55809, 58102, 58107, 58108, 59404, the portion of regulation 55000 et seq. relating to community service classes, and pages A-1 to A-54 of the Chancellor’s Program and Course Approval Handbook. The matter was remanded for further further proceedings on additional challenges. View "Coast Community College Dist. v. Com. on State Mandates" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the Assessor and others, seeking a refund of property taxes and special assessments, and for declaratory relief. The Court of Appeal found no support in statutory or case law for plaintiffs' claim that a nonprofit charter school should be treated as a public school district for purposes of applying the implied exemption, which plaintiffs contend exempts public schools from having to pay both taxes and special assessments.The court explained that the Legislature has specified precisely how, and to what extent, and under which statutory provisions charter schools are deemed to be part of the system of public schools, or deemed to be a school district. Notably absent is any suggestion that charters schools are to be treated like school districts for taxation purposes. The court rejected plaintiffs' claims to the contrary. View "Los Angeles Leadership Academy, Inc. v. Prang" on Justia Law

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This proceeding stemmed from a minor’s collapse during football try-outs at Lincoln High School in Stockton in 2017. Respondent Shynelle Jones presented a timely claim on behalf of her son, Jayden, to the Lincoln Unified School District under the Government Claims Act. About four months later, Jones submitted an application to the school district for leave to present a late claim on her own behalf based on her allegedly newfound realization of the severity of her son’s injuries, their impact on her own life, and her right to file her own claim. She declared that up until that point she had been able to attend to her own interests. After the application was denied, Jones filed a petition for relief from the claim presentation requirement in the superior court based on the same facts. At the hearing on her petition, her counsel, Kenneth Meleyco, presented a new explanation for the delay in submitting Jones’s claim: the day after Jones presented a claim on her son’s behalf, she retained Meleyco on her own behalf, and an error in the handling of Meleyco’s dictated memo within his office prevented the earlier preparation of Jones’s claim. The superior court granted Jones’s petition, despite noting “legitimate concerns regarding [her] credibility” because it “determined based on the directives provided in case law, to provide relief from technical rules, that [Jones] has met her burden of proof to demonstrate that her neglect was excusable.” The Court of Appeal found this ruling was an abuse of the trial court’s discretion. "[T]he general policy favoring trial on the merits cannot justify the approval of a petition that is not credible and that does not demonstrate a right to relief by a preponderance of the evidence." The Court issued a writ of mandate compelling the superior court to vacate its order and enter a new order denying Jones relief from the claim presentation requirement. View "Lincoln Unified School Dist. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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In December 2018, E.F. (minor) and L.S. were ninth graders enrolled in the same art class in high school. For unknown reasons, minor offered L.S. a Cup of Noodles, microwaved it, and handed it to him. When L.S. went to drink the broth, it smelled of bleach and he threw it out. The juvenile court entered a temporary restraining order (TRO) and, subsequently, a three-year restraining order against E.F., charged with poisoning one of her high school classmates. Among other things, this appeal presents the following question: Is a prosecutor seeking a TRO under Welfare and Institutions Code section 213.5 required to give advance notice of her intent to do so (or is notice at the hearing where the TRO is requested sufficient)? The court in In re L.W., 44 Cal.App.5th 44 (2020) held that advance notice is required. The Court of Appeal disagreed, holding that express language in section 213.5 authorized courts to authorize TROs without notice in advance of the hearing. “The minor appearing at the arraignment with counsel is still notified of the prosecutor’s TRO application and has the opportunity to oppose the application. Because due process guarantees notice and the opportunity to be heard, the issuance of TROs under section 213.5 accords with due process and thus provides no basis to read section 213.5 in a counter- textual manner to avoid possible constitutional infirmity.” View "In re E.F." on Justia Law

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Real party in interest filed suit against the school district and two individuals for, inter alia, retaliation in violation of the Reporting by School Employees of Improper Governmental Activities Act. The trial court subsequently denied the school district's motion to strike the punitive damages allegations from the complaint and held that the Act supersedes Government Code section 818.The Court of Appeal held that Government Code section 818 prohibits the imposition of punitive damages against school districts sued under the Act, and the trial court therefore erred in denying the motion to strike the punitive damage allegations as to the school district from the complaint. Accordingly, the court directed the trial court to strike the punitive damage allegations as to the school district from the complaint. View "Visalia Unified School District v. Superior Court of Tulare County" on Justia Law

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Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (Physicians Committee) filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking to prohibit local educational agencies Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and Poway Unified School District (PUSD) from serving processed meats in their schools, and directing them to modify wellness policies to reflect the goal of reducing or eliminating processed meats. The local educational agencies demurred, arguing they were under no statutory obligation to reduce or eliminate processed meat from schools. The trial court granted the demurrers. Physicians Committee appealed, contending the local educational agencies' failure to reduce or eliminate processed meat from schools abused their discretion in developing statutorily-mandated, local wellness policies. After review, the Court of Appeal disagreed and affirmed the judgment. View "Physicians Com. for Responsible etc. v. L.A. Unified School Dist." on Justia Law