Articles Posted in Education Law

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Joshua Butcher defeated incumbent Judge William Douglas Witten for the open judicial seat in Division 1 of the Circuit Court of Logan County in the May 2016 nonpartisan election. Butcher was declared the winner after a recount. Judge Witten filed a notice of election contest requesting that a special court be convened to determine matters he challenged in the election and that he be declared the winner. After a hearing, a majority of the special court members found that there was no misconduct affecting the election results or rendering the election unfair. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Judge Witten’s allegations of voting irregularities in three Logan County precincts were unavailing. View "Witten v. Butcher" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law

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This dispute arose from the use of educational interventionists to assist elementary and middle school students in Monongalia County who need educational support beyond that provided by the regular classroom teacher. The interventionists utilized by the Monongalia County Board of Education (MCBOE) were obtained through a contract it has with its Regional Education Service Agency (RESA), were required to be certified teachers, and were employees of the West Virginia Board of Education. The circuit court concluded that an interventionist met the statutory definition of “classroom teacher” and, therefore, must be directly hired by MCBOE. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the statutory definition of “classroom teacher” is not intended to include within its meaning an “interventionist”; and (2) a county board of education may contract with its RESA to provide interventionist services to county students. View "Monongalia County Board of Education v. American Federation of Teachers" on Justia Law

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Petitioner has been employed by the Raleigh County Board of Education as a physical therapist since 1987. Her initial “Teacher’s Probationary Contract of Employment” provided that she would be paid an annual salary “for an annual employment term of 120 days.” In 1989, petitioner executed a “Continuing Contract of Employment,” which likewise provided that she was to be employed “for an employment term of 120 days.” She requested enrollment in the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS). Contributions on petitioner’s behalf were made to TRS continuously from 1987 through 1991, when she enrolled in the newly-created Teachers’ Defined Contribution System and froze her TRS contributions. In 1999, she transferred her TRS funds and service credit into TDC. In 2008, petitioner transferred back to the TRS. The Board ascertained that petitioner was ineligible to participate in either plan because she was only working 120 days a year and indicated that the money contributed would be returned to her and her employer. Petitioner testified that she believed that those working less than 200 days were not ineligible, but would merely receive fractional service credit for the year. The hearing examiner determined that West Virginia Code 18-7A-3 requires a 200-day contract before one may participate in TRS, but that there was no such 200-day requirement to participate in TDC. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court of Appeals affirmed, stating that it was “sympathetic," but could not confer statutory eligibility where none exists. View "Ringel-Williams v. W.V. Consol. Pub. Retirement Bd." on Justia Law

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Adams dropped out of school in the 11th grade, moved to West Virginia, and receives social security disability on the basis of severe hypertension, migraine headaches, and mild mental retardation with marginal illiteracy. In 2007, Adams began receiving calls from a collection agency regarding a $2,500 guaranteed student loan procured in her name in 1986, for the purpose of attending school in Florida. Adams denied entering into the loan agreement, executing an application or promissory note, or attending school, but, nonetheless entered into a “rehabilitation agreement,” and made about 30 payments of $86.00/month to remove the “default” status of the loan, which was then owned by the Department of Education as a federally guaranteed Stafford Loan. She claims the agency threatened to take her social security if she did not make payments. In 2010, she again disavowed the loan, claiming identity theft. An investigation was launched. Adams eventually agreed to assume responsibility again, but, in 2011, asserted that she was entitled to discharge because she was disabled. She submitted her social security award decision, but failed to produce a required physician’s report. She retained counsel, but the agency continued written and telephone contact. The circuit court entered summary judgment for the agency, holding that the debt collection activity is required by Federal Family Education Loan Program regulations promulgated under the Higher Education Act of 1965. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia affirmed, finding her state Consumer Credit and Protection Act claim preempted by federal law. View "Adams v. Pa. Higher Educ. Assistance Agency" on Justia Law

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After Respondent was terminated as Superintendent of Schools she challenged her termination from employment by filing suit in the circuit court, naming as Defendants the West Virginia Board of Education and its former president (collectively, Petitioners). Respondent alleged in her complaint that her due process rights under the state Constitution were violated and asserted claims for breach of contract, defamation, and false light. Petitioners filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that qualified immunity barred each of Respondent’s claims. The circuit court denied Petitioners’ motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed Respondent’s complaint, holding that Respondent’s complaint failed to allege a cause of action sufficient to overcome Petitioners’ discretion to terminate her, and therefore, qualified immunity barred each of Respondent’s claims. View "W. Va. Bd. of Educ. v. Marple" on Justia Law

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A student-athlete was ejected from a high school football game for allegedly committing a flagrant personal foul. Because the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (SSAC) does not allow participation in the game following an ejection, the student-athlete was suspended from playing in the next game. The SSAC refused to review the student-athlete’s administrative appeal, instead invoking its non-review of ejections rule. The student-athlete sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction from the circuit court, arguing that the SSAC’s non-review of ejections rule violated the Legislature's requirement that the SSAC provide a “proper review procedure.” The circuit court enjoined the SSAC from enforcing its penalty against the student-athlete, finding that that the SSAC violated the Legislature’s requirement that the SSAC provide a proper review procedure. The SSAC sought a writ of prohibition to halt enforcement of the circuit court’s order. The Supreme Court denied the requested writ, holding that the SSAC’s non-review of ejections rule violates the Legislature’s requirement that the SSAC provide a proper review procedure. View "State ex rel. W. Va. Secondary Sch. Activities Comm’n v. Circuit Court" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Donte Newsome, a university student, was the innocent victim of murder. In 2009, Newsome's mother, Angela Smith, submitted an application to the court of claims seeking reimbursement from the West Virginia Crime Victims Compensation Fund for medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, and student loans owed by Newsome at the time of his death. Smith was granted an award for medical expenses and funeral and burial costs but was denied compensation for the student loans. After a hearing, the court of claims denied Smith's request for reimbursement of her son's unpaid student loans pursuant to the West Virginia Crime Victims Compensation Act, concluding that student loans are contractual obligations that cannot be reimbursed under the Act. The Supreme Court denied Smith's petition for writ of certiorari, holding that Newsome's student loans were not subject to reimbursement under the Act because they were not loans that Newsome was unable to receive or use, in whole or in part, prior to his death. View "State ex rel. Smith v. W. Va. Crime Victims Comp. Fund" on Justia Law

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Petitioners were fifteen employees of the county Board of Education, who filed a grievance regarding changes made to the subsequent year's extracurricular coaching contracts, claiming they were entitled to receive notice and a hearing prior to the adoption of the changes and that they received neither. The ALJ and the circuit court denied the grievance. Petitioners appealed, contending that W. Va. Code 18A-2-7 gave them the right to receive a hearing before the Board could unilaterally alter the terms of the coaching contracts. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's denial of Petitioners' grievance, holding that the circuit court's decision was not clearly wrong nor was it arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or contrary to law. View "Martin v. Barbour County Bd. of Educ." on Justia Law