Articles Posted in Education Law

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The Mississippi Supreme Court found that Tunica County failed to meet its burden of proof that Chapter Number 920, Local and Private Laws of 2004 (“House Bill 1002”) unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful. Tunica County sought review of a Circuit Court’s summary-judgment ruling that the law, which required the County to distribute portions of a revenue based gaming fee to the Town of Tunica and the Tunica County School District, was constitutional. Specifically, the County argued: House Bill 1002 deprived it of its property interest in the casino fees without due process of law; the distributions required by House Bill 1002 constituted an unlawful donation of public funds; House Bill 1002 impermissibly suspended certain general statutes and provided improper support for a common school; alternatively, the County alleged that House Bill 1002 violated Mississippi common law and that the current Board of Supervisors could not be bound by the decisions of prior Boards to comply with the law. The County asked the circuit court to declare House Bill 1002 unconstitutional and issue an injunction against the continued enforcement of the statute. The Supreme Court concluded the County lacked standing to challenge House Bill 1002 on due process grounds; notwithstanding, the County’s argument was without merit because its authority to impose the 3.2 percent gaming fee came from the Legislature, not the constitution. The Court concluded the arguments made with respect to the other issues the County raised on appeal were without merit. The Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment, but vacated on the award of attorney’s fees. The case was remanded for a determination of whether there was a legal basis for the award of fees, and if so, whether the requested amounts were reasonable. View "Tunica County v. Town of Tunica" on Justia Law

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After a year of bullying and intimidation by a small group of students, Yahenacy Smith was beaten and severely injured while riding the school bus home. Smith sued the Leake County School District, alleging negligence and negligence per se. The circuit court found that the school district was entitled to discretionary-function immunity and granted the school district’s motion for summary judgment. Smith appealed. Finding that the broad governmental function of the school district here was ministerial, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment and remanded the case to the circuit court for Smith to proceed with her claims. View "Smith v. Leake County School District" on Justia Law

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Hattiesburg High School (“HHS”) filed a complaint for injunctive relief against the Mississippi High School Activities Association (“MHSAA”), alleging that its decision to declare one of HHS’s students ineligible to participate in athletics was arbitrary and capricious. The Forrest County Chancery Court agreed, and it vacated the penalties that MHSAA had imposed against HHS. MHSAA appealed. Because the Supreme Court found that HHS failed to state a legally cognizable claim or cause of action, we vacate the decisions of the Forrest County Chancery Court. View "Mississippi High School Activities Association, Inc., v. Hattiesburg High School" on Justia Law

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The DeSoto County School District entered into a contract with a private entity called the Mississippi High School Activities Association (“MHSAA”). The terms of the contract allowed MHSAA to decide whether School District students were eligible to play high school sports. In making its decisions, MHSAA applied its own rules and regulations, and neither the School District nor its school board had input into the process. In 2012, R.T. was a star quarterback for Wynne Public School in Wynne, Arkansas. His parents, the Trails, decided that a change of school districts would be in R.T.’s best interests, so in January 2013 they bought a house in Olive Branch and enrolled R.T. in Olive Branch High School. Their daughter was to remain in Wynne until the school year ended. MHSAA determined that R.T. was eligible to compete in spring sports and allowed R.T. to play baseball. MHSAA conditioned R.T.’s continuing eligibility on the Trails’ daughter also enrolling in the School District at the start of the 2013-2014 school year. But, because the Trails’ daughter did not want to leave her friends behind in Arkansas, the family decided that one parent would stay in Arkansas with their daughter, as they had done during the spring semester, and the other parent would move to Mississippi and remain with R.T. On the eve of the 2013 football season, MHSAA notified the school and R.T. that, under its interpretation of its rules and regulations, R.T. was ineligible to play because it had determined that his family had not made a bona fide move to the School District. Neither the School District nor Olive Branch High School appealed through MHSAA’s internal procedure, so the Trails immediately filed a petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction in the DeSoto County Chancery Court. The chancellor signed an ex-parte order granting the TRO and revoking MHSAA’s adverse eligibility determination. "While it generally is true that high school students have no legally protected right to participate in high school athletics,25 once a school decides to create a sports program and establish eligibility rules, the school—or as in this case, MHSAA—has a duty to follow those rules; and it may be held accountable when it does not do so. . . . And where, as here, the school delegates its authority to control student eligibility through a contract with a private entity, we hold that students directly affected by the contract are third-party beneficiaries of that contract. For us to say otherwise would run contrary to the very reason for extracurricular activities, which is to enrich the educational experience of the students." R.T. had standing to challenge MHSAA's eligibility decision that prevented him from playing high school sports. The Court affirmed the chancery court in this case, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Mississippi High School Activities Association, Inc. v. R.T." on Justia Law

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The trial court denied defendant Virginia College's motion to compel arbitration. Because the plaintiffs failed to allege sufficient facts to support a claim that they were fraudulently induced to agree to the arbitration provision, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Virginia College, LLC v. Blackmon" on Justia Law

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The daughter of Mark Fails and Laura Fails transferred from Jefferson Davis County School District to Lamar County School District, after obtaining consent from the school boards of both districts. Four years later, the School Board passed a resolution that Jefferson Davis County residents would no longer be permitted to transfer to other school districts. The following year, the Superintendent of Education for the School District published an announcement in the local newspaper informing parents of Jefferson Davis County School District students that all transfers had been revoked. Although three of the School Board members represented to Mark Fails that this did not affect his daughter's transfer status, an interim conservator, appointed by the governor to oversee Jefferson Davis County Schools, represented to Mark Fails that it was the intent of the School Board to revoke all previously granted transfer petitions. Mark Fails attended a School Board meeting to appeal the revocation of his daughter's petition for transfer. However, the conservator prohibited the School Board from voting on the child's petition for transfer. Prior to the School Board meeting, the Failses had obtained Lamar County residency, and the student had continued to attend Lamar County Schools legally, and without interruption. Despite this fact, the Failses appealed the School Board's decision to the Circuit Court of Jefferson Davis County. The circuit court and the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed the School Board's decision. Given that the Failses have represented to the circuit court and the Supreme Court that they have since moved into the Lamar County School District, and that fact was not disputed the issue of revocation was considered moot. View "Fails v. Jefferson Davis County Public School Board" on Justia Law

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The Pascagoula School District (which contains a Chevron crude oil refinery and a Gulf liquified natural gas terminal) brought suit, seeking a declaration that a new law that mandated that revenue the District collected from ad valorem taxes levied on liquified natural gas terminals and crude oil refineries be distributed to all school districts in the county where the terminals and refineries were located was unconstitutional and requesting injunctive relief. All parties filed for summary judgment. After a hearing, the trial judge ruled that the law was constitutional, and the plaintiffs appealed that decision. Because the Supreme Court found the contested statute violated the constitutional mandate that a school district's taxes be used to maintain "its schools," it reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Pascagoula School District v. Tucker" on Justia Law