Articles Posted in Education Law

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The plaintiffs, including eight South Carolina school districts, claimed that the State has failed to meet the constitutional obligation that there be a system of free public schools that affords each student the opportunity to receive a minimally adequate education. The trial court held that the State's failure to address the effects of pervasive poverty on students within the plaintiffs' school districts prevented those students from receiving the required opportunity. The trial court performed a "thorough and cogent examination" of the issues of this case. While the South Carolina Supreme Court agreed with the trial court's conclusion regarding the adverse effects of poverty, the Record demonstrated that there were myriad other issues, under the State's control, working to prevent students within these districts from receiving the constitutionally required opportunity. Thus, the Court found in favor of the plaintiffs, and affirmed as modified. View "Abbeville County School District v. South Carolina" on Justia Law

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For about forty years, 100 and 200 children residing in the Mitford Community of Fairfield County have been attending Chester County School District (CCSD) schools in the Great Falls area of Chester County. The CCSD schools are closer to the Mitford Community than are any Fairfield County School District (FCSD) schools. The Mitford students have been attending CCSD schools at no cost to the students or their families. Mitford students' attendance at CCSD schools began as a result of a Federal 1970 desegregation order, which required the all African-American Mitford Elementary School be closed, and its students be given the choice of attending CCSD's Great Falls schools. The General Assembly passed Act No. 1236, consolidating the Mitford Community into CCSD. This Act was repealed the following year based on an agreement between FCSD and CCSD respecting the Mitford Community's students' enrollment in CCSD's schools. Under this agreement, FCSD paid CCSD $25,000 per year for educational expenses. This agreement ended in the 2009-10 school year when no agreement was reached for that year or thereafter. In light of the school districts' failure to reach an agreement for payment to CCSD for the cost of educating Mitford Community's students in CCSD's schools and FCSD's refusal to continue negotiations, the General Assembly passed Act No. 294 of 2010 in order to provide for a uniform arrangement between FCSD and CCSD. Pursuant to section 59-63-485(C), CCSD has invoiced the Fairfield County Treasurer for the expenses of educating the Mitford children for the past three school years. FCSD filed suit against the Respondents seeking a declaratory judgment that Act No. 294 was unconstitutional. CCSD, the State, and FCSD filed cross motions for summary judgment as to the constitutionality of Act No. 294. The circuit court issued an order denying FCSD's motion and granting CCSD and the State's motions for summary judgment, holding that Act No. 294 was constitutional special legislation, and FCSD appealed. In a direct appeal to the Supreme Court, the Board of Trustees for the FCSD appealed the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the State, CCSD, the Fairfield County Treasurer, and the State Department of Education. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Board of Trustees for the Fairfield County School District v. South Carolina" on Justia Law

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Appellants appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the respondents in this case. The case was dismissed after respondents moved for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c), SCRCP. Because the Supreme Court found issues of fact raised by the complaint that needed to be resolved before the constitutionality of 2009 Act No. 99 could be determined, the case was reversed and remanded for further proceedings. "The circuit court and respondents [relied] on a single sentence found in 'Bradley v. Cherokee School Dist. No. One,' [470 S.E.2d 570 (1996)]: A law that is special only in the sense that it imposes a lawful tax limited in application and incidence to persons or property within a certain school district does not contravene the provisions of Article III, section 34(IX)." In this case, the Supreme Court held that Appellant's complaint centered on an impact fee, not a tax, and one that is placed on only some persons and not others. Moreover, since 'Bradley' was decided, the Court clarified that all challenges to education-related special legislation were subject to the test set forth in 'Kizer v. Clark,'(600 S.E.2d 529 (2004)). The Supreme Court found that appellants' complaint alleged facts which, if resolved in their favor, would result in a declaration that the Act is unconstitutional. The order granting respondents' Rule 12(c) motion was therefore reversed.View "Home Builders Association v. School District No. 2 of Dorchester County" on Justia Law

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In a declaratory judgment action, the parties appealed the circuit court's order authorizing Storm M. H. ("Student"), who resided in Berkeley County, to enroll in the Academic Magnet High School ("AMHS") located in the Charleston County School District ("CCSD") provided she purchase real property in the CCSD with a tax-assessed value of $300 or more. Student resided with her parents in Berkeley County. In January 2010, she applied for admission to the 9th grade class at the AMHS for the following academic year. In her application, Student identified her Berkeley County address. Student was accepted by the AMHS and required to confirm her intention to enroll by January 28, 2010. The Confirmation Form requested a "Charleston County Residence Address." After seeing this request, Student's mother, Gayla S. L. McSwain ("Parent"), spoke with someone at the AMHS and explained that Student could not provide a Charleston County address because she did not "live in Charleston County yet." As a result of this conversation, Parent completed the Confirmation Form by indicating that she would "provide [a Charleston County residence address] prior to enrollment." The circuit court held that the CCSD's policy of requiring domicile for a child to attend a CCSD magnet school violated section 59-63-30(c) because "domicile" by a child and that child's parent or guardian was not required by the statute only property ownership. Both parties appealed the circuit court's order to the court of appeals. Subsequently, Student purchased real property in Charleston County and enrolled in the AMHS on August 18, 2010. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that CCSD's policy of excluding all non-resident children from attendance at its magnet schools was contrary to the plain language of section 59-6330, and the Student was entitled to continue attending AMHS. "We are not unsympathetic to the Board's argument that allowing non-resident children to attend its magnet schools displaces other qualified resident children. However, we are constrained to interpret the unambiguous language of section 59-63-30. . . . As the statute is written, the Board does not have the authority to unilaterally exclude children who qualify to attend its schools." View "Storm M. H. v. Charleston County Board of Trustees" on Justia Law

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Appellants, who are current and former certified educators employed by the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) in the Palmetto Unified School District (PUSD), collectively appealed the Administrative Law Court's (ALC's) order that affirmed the State Employee Grievance Committee's decision denying their grievances regarding the SCDC's Reduction-in-Force (RIF) implemented in 2003. On appeal, Appellants contended the ALC erred in failing to enforce: (1) the plain language of the RIF policy; (2) the controlling legislation applicable to the PUSD and the RIF policy; (3) Appellants' constitutional rights with respect to employment; and (4) Appellants' rights as "covered employees" with respect to the RIF policy. Based on these alleged errors, Appellants asserted they were entitled to reinstatement to employment as well as back pay and benefits. Because the RIF was deemed "procedurally correct," the Supreme Court concluded the ALC correctly affirmed the Committee's decision regarding the inclusion of the PUSD in the RIF. However the Court concluded that the SCDC violated statutory law in precluding Appellants from exercising their priority right to recall as to the positions vacated by retirees. Because the "Retirement Opportunity" offered by the SCDC required a fifteen-day break in service before rehiring, the Court found that "window" constituted a vacancy for which Appellants should have been offered the opportunity for employment. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded this case to the Committee to determine the appropriate relief. View "Bell v. SCDC" on Justia Law