Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Law school not liable for alleged breach of contract, other causes of action

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit this morning affirmed a ruling by a trial court that granted summary judgment to the University of Dayton Law School on claims brought by a former law student for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, and various torts.

In that case, brought in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, a student had been suspended from the law school for at least three semesters for purported violations of the law school's honor code.

The plaintiff made multiple allegations, including that the law school's Honor Council denied him the opportunity to impeach the prosecution’s student-witnesses and that it misconstrued the Law School’s “Quiet Period” rule, applying terms explained in a school-wide email from the Registrar, rather than an alternate, oral explanation that
that a dean at the law school had given the student.

It is well-settled that a student-university relationship is contractual in nature. However, universities generally have the right to make policies affecting them. Courts therefore will not interfere with a private university’s right to make regulations, establish requirements, set scholastic standards, and enforce disciplinary rules absent “a clear abuse of discretion.” Schoppelrei v. Franklin Univ., 228 N.E.2d 334, 336 (Ohio Ct. App. 1967).

Here, the appellate court upheld the finding that the the university did not abuse its discretion and did not breach the contract. Similarly, the appeals court affirmed the decision of the trial court with respect to the other errors brought to it by the student.

Monday, July 18, 2011

College student properly dismissed, court rules

A college student who had been disciplined three different times was properly dismissed, an appeals court has ruled. In that case, the student had been provided a copy of the student handbook at the beginning of his enrollment at the college. Thereafter, he had been disciplined three times. Accordingly, and purportedly pursuant to college policy, the student was permenantly dismissed from the program. The student then brought a lawsuit, alleging a breach of contract. The appeals court reiterated Ohio law that that "it is well-settled that there is a contract established when a student enrolls, pays tuition, and attends classes at a school. This contract is typically found in a handbook, catalogue, or other guideline. Smith v. Ohio State Univ. (1990), 53 Ohio Misc.2d 11, 13; Elliot v. Univ. of Cincinnati (1999), 134 Ohio App.3d 203. Furthermore, when dealing with such a breach, the court is to defer to the decisions of the school unless it can find " "such a substantial departure from accepted academic norms as to demonstrate that the person or committee responsible did not actually exercise professional judgment.' " Bleicher v. Univ. of Cincinnati College of Med. (1992), 78 Ohio App.3d 302, 308; quoting Regents of the Univ. of Mich. v. Ewing (1985), 474 U.S. 214, 225, 106 S.Ct. 507. Here, however, the Court found that proper procedures were followed by the school in disciplining, and eventually removing appellant. These actions were spelled out in the contract (handbook) given to the student at the beginning of appellant's enrollment in the school," and were not a departure from any academic standards of which the Court was aware. Thus, the student's dismissal was proper, according to the court.

New study claims that Ohio schools show anti-gay bias

Although much attention has been focused on revision and enforcement of anti-bullying policies in Ohio, a new study claims that Ohio schools are doing a poor job at protecting GLBT students from bullying.

The study, done by Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, reports some unfortunate statistics. Among them:

• 1 in 4 sexual minority students said they were physically assaulted - either punched, kicked or injured with a weapon - in the prior school year because of sexual orientation or gender identity. That is a higher than the national average of 18.8 percent.

• 1 in 3 such students said they were physically harassed - pushed or shoved - because of their orientation. Nationally the average was 40.1 percent.

• 70 percent said they were otherwise sexually harassed, 61 percent said they were "cyber-bullied," and 57 percent had property taken, stolen or damaged - all because of sexual or gender orientation, comparable to national statistics.

The complete article can be found at the Cincinnati Enquirer's website at|topnews|text|News.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summit County appeals court reverses trial court in bus driver retaliation case

The Ninth District Court of Appeals, which covers Summit County, has reversed the decision of a Summit County Court of Common Pleas that excluded certain evidence in an employment discrimination case against Nordonia Hills School District.

In that case, a bus driver had been terminated in 1998, allegedly for refusing to park her bus where it would have blocked a handicap sidewalk cutout. She subsequently filed a lawsuit and won her case after a jury trial. However, the court of appeals reversed the judgment and granted the school district a new trial. Before the new trial could take place, though, the parties reached a settlement. The bus driver was subsequently reinstated to her position in 2000.

In 2005, the bus driver was terminated again. This time, the bus driver essentially alleged that the school district terminated her in 2005 in retaliation for the prior litigation. She argued that certain individuals within the school district resented the prior litigation and the settlement she obtained. Further, she asserted that those
individuals purposefully set out to construct a documented disciplinary record that could serve as a basis for termination, not because she was an unfit bus driver, but because they intended to retaliate against her for the 1998 litigation.

The trial court, however, excluded almost all evidence of the 1998 settlement. The court of appeals found that the bus driver should have been able to submit such evidence and thus reversed the court of appeals.