Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Central Ohio school district bans PG-13, R-rated films

The Marysville School District has, at least temporarily, banned PG-13 and R rated movies from the school's curriculum. The ban is the result of complaints by parents that such films contain too mature of a content for high school students. Thus, historical films like "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan" will now be off limits to students within that district.

Generally, courts uphold the right of boards of education to make decisions like which course materials to use against the constitutional claims of students and teachers alike. However, the case may be different if these materials are held in the library where students may access them, and are being removed "simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to 'prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, and other matters of opinion.'"

However, showing the films in a classroom (as opposed to private student viewing) may be more likely to bear the school's 'imprimatur' and probably can, consistent with the First Amendment, be banned pursuant to school board policy. See e.g. Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

College may have violated the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, Court of Appeals rules

The Second District Court of Appeals held last week that there was enough evidence to proceed against a college for a violation of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, but not for breach of contract or fraud.

That case involved two former college students who were not granted degrees based on the fact that neither of them successfully completed externships at the end of their programs. However, the students successfully argued that the College had not provided the full surgical technology program during their regular term of
enrollment. Moreover, the College made the students wait a number of months after they had completed the "academic" portion of their program before providing them externships despite the fact that the college had represented to incoming students that it would provide them with a course of study culminating in a required externship during the final term.

The Court found that, as viewed from the perspective of the students, this could amount to a violation of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, as it could be unfair and deceptive. In so doing, the Court reiterated its previous precedent that requiring a consumer to wait for performance under a contract could amount to a violation of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Supreme Court rejects "public duty" defense for public employees

In a 6-1 opinion last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the “public duty rule” does not immunize employees of a political subdivision from personal liability for injuries they cause in the performance of their official duties in cases where the injured party alleges that the employee engaged in “wanton or reckless conduct.”

In that case, the estate of the a woman killed by a drunk driver brought a lawsuit against police officers employed by a city. The suit alleged that the police officers allowed the drunk driver, who had been arrested the day before, to improperly obtain his vehicle. After improperly obtaining his vehicle, the day after his arrest, the drunk driver killed the woman in a head-on collission. Her estate alleged that the police officers acted wantonly and recklessly in allowing the drunk driver to obtain his vehicle the day after his arrest. The police officers alleged that the common law "public duty doctrine" applied. That doctrine provides immunity from civil liability in cases where a public employee causes injury to a third party through the breach of a “public duty,” i.e., by failing to perform a general duty owed to the public as a whole, as opposed to an individualized duty owed to the specific person seeking damages.

The Supreme Court refused to apply the "public duty" doctrine to the matter.

The relevance to educators is that despite the public duty doctrine, they may still be held liable for actions that are deemed to be "wanton or reckless."