Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Education Law
Honors Academy, Inc. v. Texas Education Agency
The court of appeals properly vacated the temporary injunctions granted by the district court forestalling the Commissioner of Education’s revocation of two open-enrollment charter schools’ charters and dismissed the schools’ suit seeking judicial review of the Commissioner’s revocation on the grounds that sovereign immunity barred the schools’ claims. In their petitions for judicial review, the two open-enrollment schools challenged the validity of the Commissioner’s decision to revoke their respective charters, raising both constitutional and ultra vires complaints. The district court issued two orders temporarily enjoining the Commissioner from proceeding with the revocations. The court of appeals vacated the temporary injunctions and dismissed the schools’ underlying claims, concluding that all claims were barred by sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the enabling statutes precluded judicial review of the Commissioner’s executive decisions at issue here, and no basis otherwise existed to invoke the district court’s inherent authority. View "Honors Academy, Inc. v. Texas Education Agency" on Justia Law
Neighborhood Centers Inc. v. Walker
The Texas Whistleblower Act (WBA) does not apply to open-enrollment charter schools operated by a tax-exempt entity. Petitioner operated an open-enrollment charter school that provided tuition-free public education to students on multiple campuses. Respondent, a teacher for the school, sued the school for violating the WBA by retaliating against her. The trial court denied the school’s plea to the jurisdiction asserting immunity from suit. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the WBA contains no specific statement that it applies to open-enrollment charter schools, see section 12.1058(c) of the Texas Charter Schools Act, it does not apply to open-enrollment charter schools. View "Neighborhood Centers Inc. v. Walker" on Justia Law
University of the Incarnate Word v. Redus
At issue was whether a private university that operates a state-authorized police department is a “governmental unit” for purposes of Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 51.014(a)(8), which provides for an interlocutory appeal from an order that “grants or denies a plea to the jurisdiction by a governmental unit.” The private university in this case was the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW), and the case arose from an UIW officer’s use of deadly force following a traffic stop. The parents of the UIW student killed in the incident sued UIW for their son’s death. UIW raised governmental immunity as a defense and asked the trial court to dismiss the suit in a plea to the jurisdiction. The trial court denied the plea. UIW took an interlocutory appeal under section 51.014(a)(8). The court of appeals dismissed the appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that UIW is a governmental unit for purposes of law enforcement and is therefore entitled to pursue an interlocutory appeal under section 51.014(a)(8). View "University of the Incarnate Word v. Redus" on Justia Law
Hall v. McRaven
Wallace Hall, a regent for The University of Texas System, filed suit against William McRaven in his official capacity as the System’s Chancellor, for McRaven’s refusal to grant Hall complete access to records containing student-admissions information. Hall sought a declaratory judgment that McRaven acted ultra vires in refusing to provide the unredacted information. The trial court granted McRaven’s plea to the jurisdiction and dismissed the case with prejudice, concluding that McRaven’s conduct was not ultra vires and that sovereign immunity required dismissal. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that McRaven did not exceed his authority, and therefore, Hall’s case was properly dismissed. View "Hall v. McRaven" on Justia Law
Posted in: Education Law
McIntyre v. El Paso Indep. Sch. Dist.
Michael and Laura McIntyre, along with their children that were homeschooled, were criminally charged with contributing to truancy and failure to attend school. The McIntyres sued the District and its attendance officer, alleging that Defendants violated the McIntyres’ rights under both the Texas Constitution and United States Constitution. The District filed pleas, exceptions, and motions arguing that the McIntyres failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. The attendance officer invoked qualified immunity. The trial court denied relief. The court of appeals reversed in part and (1) dismissed the McIntyres’ state-law claims against the District and its attendance officer for the McIntyres’ failure to “exhaust their administrative remedies, and (2) dismissed the federal-law claims against the attendance officer based on qualified immunity. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals to the extent it dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims based on qualified immunity; but (2) reversed the judgment insofar as it dismissed the McIntyres’ claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, holding the Texas Education Code does not require administrative appeals when a person is allegedly aggrieved by violations of laws other than the state’s school laws, such as the state and federal Constitutions. View "McIntyre v. El Paso Indep. Sch. Dist." on Justia Law
Morath v. Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition
More than half of the State’s school districts and various entities and individuals brought this school funding challenge arguing, among other things, that the current school finance system violates the adequacy and suitability requirements of Tex. Const. art. VII, 1. The trial court declared the school system constitutionally inadequate, unsuitable and financially inefficient in violation of Article VII, section 1, that the system is unconstitutional as a statewide ad valorem tax in violation of Tex. Const. art. VIII, 1(e), and that the system does not meet constitutional adequacy and suitability requirements for two subgroups of students. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the current school funding regime meets minimum constitutional requirements, despite its imperfections. View "Morath v. Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition" on Justia Law
Clint Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Marquez
Three parents of children who attend schools within the Clint Independent School District filed suit alleging that the District unconstitutionally distributes its funds among the schools within the District. The trial court dismissed the suit, concluding that the Parents failed to exhaust their administrative remedies before filing suit. The court reversed, concluding that Texas law did not require the Parents to exhaust administrative remedies because their claims were solely for violations of their children’s state constitutional rights. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the suit for lack of jurisdiction, holding that Tex. Educ. Code Ann. 7.057(a) requires the Parents to exhaust their administrative remedies before they can seek relief in the courts. View "Clint Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Marquez" on Justia Law
Matthews v. Kountze Indep. Sch. Dist.
Middle school and high school cheerleaders, through their parents, sued Kountze Independent School District after the District prohibited them from displaying banners at school-sponsored events containing religious messages or signs. The District filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting mootness in light of its subsequent adoption of a resolution providing that the District was not required to prohibit religious messages on school banners. The trial court denied the District’s plea. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiffs’ claims for declaratory and injunctive relief were moot because the District voluntarily discontinued its prohibition on the display of banners containing religious messages or signs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the resolution only states that the District is not required to prohibit the cheerleaders from displaying religious messages on school banners and reserves to the District discretion in regulating those banners, this case was not moot, as the challenged conduct might reasonably be expected to recur. Remanded. View "Matthews v. Kountze Indep. Sch. Dist." on Justia Law
Tex. Student Housing Auth. v. Brazos County Appraisal Dist.
The Texas Student Housing Authority (TSHA) had title to the Cambridge at College Station, a student-residential facility near two college campuses. In the summers of 2005 to 2008, TSHA provided lodging at the Cambridge to non-college students attending university-sponsored instructional programs. The Brazos County Appraisal District (BCAD) voided TSHA’s property-tax-exempt status for the years 2005 to 2008 and assessed millions of dollars of back taxes. The trial court affirmed, concluding that TSHA forfeited the exemption once the Cambridge hosted people who were not students, faculty or staff members of an institution of higher learning. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that TSHA did not forfeit its exemption under Tex. Educ. Code Ann. 53.46 by housing summer program participants at the Cambridge because the statute imposes no conditions but rather declares the property-tax exemption in absolute terms. View "Tex. Student Housing Auth. v. Brazos County Appraisal Dist." on Justia Law
Univ. of Houston v. Barth
Plaintiff, a professor at the University of Houston, sued the University under the Texas Whistleblower Act. Plaintiff alleged that the University retaliated against him for reporting that his supervisor violated state civil and criminal law and internal administrative policies located in the University's System administrative Memorandum (SAM). The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Plaintiff. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court had subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claim because the SAM's administrative policies constitute "law" under the Whistleblower Act. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, holding (1) the SAM's administrative rules do not fall within the definition of "law" under the Whistleblower Act because there is no evidence the University's Board of Regents enacted the SAM's administrative rules pursuant to authority granted to it in the Texas Education Code; (2) there was no evidence that Plaintiff had an objectively reasonable belief that his reports of the alleged violations of state civil and criminal law were made to an appropriate law enforcement authority; and (3) therefore, the University's sovereign immunity was not waived in this case. View "Univ. of Houston v. Barth" on Justia Law