Articles Posted in Education Law

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New Public School District #8 appealed a judgment affirming the State Board of Public School Education's decision approving annexation of certain real properties to the Williston School District. New Public School District argued the State Board erred in approving the petition for annexation because the property to be annexed was not contiguous to the Williston School District before the petition was heard. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Public Sch. Dist. #8 v. North Dakota Bd. of Public Sch. Edu." on Justia Law

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The Williston Education Association ("WEA") sued the Williston Public School District No. 1 ("District") on behalf of Williston middle school teachers. The WEA claimed the District owed teachers compensation for extra classes they taught during the 2012-2013 school year. The underlying dispute was whether prime time constituted a "class period" under the terms of the Agreement. If the court interpreted "class period" to include prime time, the District would owe teachers additional compensation because they taught six or more class periods plus prime time during the 2012-2013 school year. If prime time was not a "class period," the majority of teachers only taught six class periods; the District would not owe them extra compensation. The district court interpreted "class period" to include prime time. It awarded summary judgment in favor of the WEA and ordered the District pay damages to the teachers. The District filed a timely appeal. When a trial court can reasonably draw conflicting inferences from undisputed facts, summary judgment is improper. The Supreme Court concluded the district court erred when it granted the WEA's motion for summary judgment, finding there were multiple issues of fact from which "differing reasonable inferences could be drawn." The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the trial court to resolve these issues of fact. View "Williston Education Association v. Williston Public School Dist. No. 1" on Justia Law

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Before the 2013-2014 school year, the Dickinson Education Association and the Dickinson Public School District conducted negotiations and developed and agreed upon a series of negotiated master agreements that contained the terms and conditions of employment between the certified staff and the District. Between December 2012 and May 2013, the Association and the Dickinson Board of Education held collaborative bargaining team meetings for purposes of formulating a negotiated agreement. The Association and the District's negotiations covered various provisions for both the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years, but the parties were ultimately unable to come to a resolution on all issues. In May 2013, after declaring an impasse, the parties sought the involvement of an education fact-finding commission. The Commission's report recommended: (1) a two-year contract; (2) that all items previously agreed to remain in the agreement; (3) the Board's final offer on salary in year one and year two of the two-year contract; and (4) the addition of one professional development day in year two of the contract. In late-July 2013, with the parties still unable to reach an agreement, the District unilaterally issued contracts based on the Commission's recommendations, containing provisions for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years. In August 2013, the Association petitioned the district court for a writ of mandamus and also filed an application for temporary restraining order and other supporting documents. The district court granted an alternate writ of mandamus, suspending the continuing contract offers made by the Board for the 2013-2014 school year, prohibiting the District from requiring the contract offers be returned until further court order, and ordering the District to execute a negotiated agreement for only the 2013-2014 school year. Later, district court issued an order quashing the alternate writ of mandamus and ordering that individual teaching contracts for the 2013-2014 school year based on the Board's final offer were due September 13, 2013. The Association's petition for writ of mandamus remained pending, and the parties agreed the issue before the court was whether the District could unilaterally issue contracts for the 2014-2015 school year based on the negotiation process. In October 2013, the district court granted the petition, concluding the unilateral offer of a two-year negotiated agreement was not lawful in North Dakota and the Association was entitled to an order of mandamus requiring the District to offer the Association a one-year negotiated agreement for the 2013-2014 school year. The District appealed. Finding no abuse of discretion or reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Dickinson Education Association v. Dickinson Public School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Danni Lynch appealed a district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing her action against The New Public School District No. 8 for breach of contract, damage to professional reputation, intentional infliction of emotional harm and negligent infliction of emotional harm. Appellant had taught fifth grade classes at Stony Creek school for eighteen years. In 2008, she was informed she would be transferred to Round Prairie school to teach second grade. She sent a letter to the District's superintendent asking why she was being transferred. The District responded that the decision to transfer her was made "to promote the best interests of the students" and that the decision would not be changed. Appellant did not show on the first day she was to teach second grade; the District construed Appellant's letter explaining why she was a no-show as a resignation. Appellant then filed suit against the District. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that: (1) Appellant was not entitled to a notice of nonrenewal; (2) the District did not violate its grievance procedures; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant's motion to compel discovery. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Lynch v. The New Public School District No. 8" on Justia Law

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Defendant Christian Antonio Alaniz, Jr., appealed an order deferring imposition of sentence entered after he conditionally pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Defendant argued the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence because there was not probable cause to justify the search of his person and the exception to the probable cause requirement for warrantless searches by school officials did not apply. Troy Vanyo was a police officer with the Grand Forks Police Department and was assigned to work as a school resource officer at a high school in Grand Forks. Vanyo had received information about possible drug use involving students in an area approximately a block and a half from the high school. One of the students was later identified as Defendant. The students walked to a town square area and Vanyo followed in his patrol car. Vanyo testified the students were seated when they saw him, stood up, and quickly walked toward a stage area in the town square. Later, Vanyo observed Defendant waiting to talk to the attendance secretary and he informed the school principal that Defendant was the other individual he observed in the town square and suspected was involved in drug activity. The principal took Defendant into a detention room and Vanyo followed them. Vanyo testified the principal questioned Defendant, Vanyo testified he told Defendant something like "if you have anything on you, you need to lay it on the table now." Defendant emptied his pockets, which contained a glass pipe and synthetic marijuana. In moving to suppress the evidence, Defendant argued the police failed to advise him of his rights under "Miranda v. Arizona," (384 U.S. 436 (1966)), there was not probable cause justifying the search of his person, and the exception to the probable cause requirement for searches by school officials did not apply. The district court denied the motion, ruling the reasonableness standard for searches by school officials applied and the search was reasonable. Defendant then entered a conditional guilty plea and reserved his right to appeal the court's denial of his suppression motion. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the search was not excessively intrusive in light of Defendant's age, gender, and nature of the suspicion. View "North Dakota v. Alaniz" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Thomas Moore appealed a judgment that dismissed his claim for medical expenses incurred by his son, M.M., in their personal injury action against Fargo Public School District No. 1 and Eugenia Hart. In May 2004, M.M., a 15-year-old student at Discovery Middle School in Fargo, was seriously injured while practicing a bike stunt in the school auditorium in preparation for '60s Day, part of the curriculum for Hart's history class. Moore and M.M. brought a personal injury action against the District and Hart. The district court dismissed the action against the District as a matter of law, and a jury returned a verdict in favor of Hart. The Supreme Court concluded the court erred in ruling the recreational use immunity statutes barred the action against the District and erred in excluding certain evidence from the jury in the action against Hart, and we reversed and remanded for a new trial. On remand, Hart settled, and the case was tried to the jury only against the District. At the close of the evidence, the district court rejected the District's request to include a line on the special verdict form for apportioning fault to Petitioner, concluding there was no evidence from which a jury could find him was at fault. The jury returned a verdict allocating 30 percent fault to "Eugenia Hart and any other employee of the Fargo Public School District" and 70 percent fault to M.M. The jury awarded Petitioner $285,000 for past economic damages based on M.M.'s medical expenses incurred while he was a minor. Because M.M.'s fault was greater than the fault of the District, the court entered judgment dismissing the action and awarding costs in favor of the District. The court also denied Moore's request to have judgment entered in his favor for $85,500, representing 30 percent of the $285,000 awarded by the jury for M.M.'s past medical expenses. Following the majority rule, the court concluded "a child's negligence should be considered in determining the extent of a parent's recovery against a third party for medical expenses paid." Because Petitioner's claim for past economic damages derived from M.M.'s injuries, and M.M. was denied recovery under North Dakota's modified comparative fault laws, the Supreme Court concluded the district court correctly dismissed Petitioner's claim for medical expenses. View "M.M. v. Fargo Public School Dist. #1" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Attorney General, representing the State Board of Higher Education, petitioned the Supreme Court to exercise its original jurisdiction and enjoin Secretary of State from placing a referendum measure on the June 2012 primary election ballot regarding 2011 N.D. Sess. Laws ch. 580 ("Senate Bill 2370"). The submission of the referendum measure to the Secretary of State reinstated N.D.C.C. 15-10-46, which requires the University of North Dakota (UND) to use the "Fighting Sioux" nickname and logo for its intercollegiate athletic teams. A majority of the Court would have exercised its discretionary original jurisdiction and consider the underlying constitutional issue about the Board's authority over UND; two members of the Court concluded this was not an appropriate case in which to exercise its discretionary original jurisdiction. As a result, there were not enough members willing to decide the constitutional issue. The Court therefore did not address the constitutional issue presented, and declined to enjoin the Secretary of State from placing the referendum measure on the ballot. View "N.D. State Board of Higher Education v. Jaeger" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Lee Brandvold, Steve Bigelow, Dwight Johnson, Nikki Johansen, and Bruce Peterson (collectively "Brandvold") appealed a district court judgment dismissing their petition for declaratory and injunctive relief. In 2009, the school board of the District voted to close the elementary school located in Ryder as part of an overarching reorganization plan. In February 2010, Brandvold filed a petition in district court alleging that the reorganization process had been tainted by fraud because the Berthold Public School District had not disclosed during its reorganization process information about certain outstanding debts it owed on lease-purchase transactions. Brandvold sought a declaration that the reorganization was invalid and that the District be dissolved and the former districts be reinstated. Brandvold also sought an injunction prohibiting the District from closing any school within the District. The District moved for judgment on the pleadings for Brandvold's failing to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The district court granted the motion, and judgment was entered dismissing the petition. On appeal, Brandvold challenged only the dismissal of the request for declaratory relief, not the dismissal of the request for injunctive relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not err in granting judgment on the pleadings dismissing the petition for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because the alleged irregularities in the reorganization process were rendered moot by the completion of a District-wide election: "[c]onstruing the petition in the light most favorable to Brandvold and accepting the allegations in the petition as true, we conclude no justiciable controversy was presented and the district court did not err in dismissing the petition ." View "Brandvold v. Lewis &Clark Public Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Kathleen Godon appealed the district court's judgment dismissing her complaint for breach of contract against the Defendant-Appellee Kindred Public School District. Plaintiff entered into a teaching contract with the School District for the 2008-2009 school year. In addition to the teaching contract, Plaintiff’s employment was subject to a professional negotiation agreement between the Kindred School Board and the Kindred Education Association. This more extensive agreement provides other terms of employment, including the base salary for a teacher in the District and the types and amounts of leave a teacher receives. The agreement did not provide for unpaid leave, but before the start of the school year, Plaintiff asked the District administration to allow her to take a week off work for travel. The District approved her request but required that she take unpaid leave for the days she could not apply personal leave. Plaintiff agreed to these terms. When school was not scheduled to be in session because of spring break, the District held school to make up for a storm day cancellation. Plaintiff did not work that day. While Plaintiff was away, the District cancelled school to allow employees and students to respond to imminent flooding in the Red River and Sheyenne River valleys. The District paid all teachers who did not request leave for this period as if school had been in session. Of four teachers who had previously requested and were granted leave during the flood cancellation period, only Plaintiff challenged the District's decision and filed a grievance. She claimed she should have been paid like all other teachers in the District who did not teach during the flood period. The District denied her grievance. Plaintiff brought suit in district court, alleging the District breached her teaching contract and violated her equal protection rights under the North Dakota Constitution. The district court ruled in favor of the District, finding that Plaintiff’s teaching contract was amended when the District granted her request for leave to travel. Upon review, the Supreme Court held Plaintiff's arguments as without merit. The Court affirmed the District and the district court's decisions.