School & University Law

  • Employment Discrimination
  • Substantive and Procedural Due Process
  • Equal Protection
  • Wrongful Termination and Denial of Tenure
  • Bullying and Harassment
  • Breach of Collective Bargaining Agreements
  • Internal Investigations, including Sexual Harassment and Discrimination
  • Standardized Test Grading Irregularities

SOKOLOFF STERN OBTAINS VOLUNTARY DISMISSAL OF FORMER STUDENT’S LAWSUIT

A former student of the Roosevelt Union Free School District claimed inaccuracies in his academic transcript prevented him from graduating from a school district in which he subsequently enrolled. Sokoloff Stern moved to dismiss all claims at the outset of the case. Rather than respond to the motion, plaintiff abandoned the lawsuit and stipulated to dismiss the entire action.

Adam Kleinberg and Cooper Binsky defended the school district.

 

SOKOLOFF STERN OBTAINS VOLUNTARY DISMISSAL OF FORMER STUDENT’S LAWSUIT

A former student of the Roosevelt Union Free School District claimed inaccuracies in his academic transcript prevented him from graduating from a school district in which he subsequently enrolled. Sokoloff Stern moved to dismiss all claims at the outset of the case. Rather than respond to the motion, plaintiff abandoned the lawsuit and stipulated to dismiss the entire action.

Adam Kleinberg and Cooper Binsky defended the school district.

 

FEDERAL COURT DISMISSES LAWSUIT REGARDING STUDENT DISCIPLINE

In A.F. v. Kings Park Central School District, two plaintiffs alleged they were unfairly disciplined in violation of their due process and First Amendment rights in connection with their receipt of an inappropriate video of another student. United States District Judge Arthur D. Spatt granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion to dismiss the case. For the due process claims, Judge Spatt held the school’s disciplinary code was not unconstitutionally vague, and he declined to second-guess the decision of school administrators. He rejected the First Amendment claims by finding plaintiffs were not chilled in the exercise of their rights or threatened with future harm. 

Steven C. Stern drafted the successful motion to dismiss.

 

SECOND CIRCUIT REJECTS AGE DISCRIMINATION CHALLENGE TO TEACHER RETIREMENT INCENTIVE

In twin cases Abramson and Pine v. Middle Country CSD and Loucks v. Middle Country CSD, plaintiffs were retirees who had opted out of a collectively bargained retirement incentive. They claimed that the incentive, which provided for lifetime medical benefits for retirees who retired by a certain age, discriminated against them under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion to dismiss the case on statute of limitations grounds. Specifically, Judge Feuerstein held that, unlike a discriminatory pay scheme, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act does not reset the statute of limitations each time retirees make a payment towards their health benefits. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed on other grounds, holding that the retirement incentive plan was “consistent with the ADEA” and therefore did not discriminate against the retirees on account of their age.

Steven C. Stern and Adam I. Kleinberg drafted the successful motion.

 

SOKOLOFF STERN WINS LANDMARK APPELLATE DECISION FOR SCHOOL DISTRICTS IN DASA LITIGATION

In Eskenazi-McGibney v. Connetquot, the Appellate Division, Second Department held that the Dignity for All Students Act (“DASA”) does not give rise to a private right of action against a school district. This decision reversed the lower court’s determination and established the law within the Second Department that individuals may not sue in a court of law for DASA violations. Click here for decision

Adam Kleinberg and Alexander Eleftherakis handled the appeal.

REVOCATION OF ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT’S TENURE UPHELD BY STATE SUPREME COURT

In Camhi v. Glen Cove City School District, an Assistant Superintendent sued the school district and its board members asserting various claims in connection with the revocation of her tenure.  Initially, Sokoloff Stern removed the case to federal court, where is successfully argued for the dismissal of plaintiff’s federal due process claims before District Judge Arthur D. Spatt.  Then, in a case of first impression, Nassau County Justice Norman Janowitz granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion to dismiss the remaining claims.  Justice Janowitz agreed that the original grant of tenure was illegal and ultra vires and therefore void, as the Education Law does not permit city school districts to grant tenure to assistant superintendents.

Steven C. Stern drafted the successful motions to dismiss.

 

COURT DISMISSES BULLYING CLAIM AGAINST SCHOOL DISTRICT

In HB v. Monroe Woodbury Central School District, a high school student and her parents brought a federal race and gender discrimination lawsuit, claiming the District did not adequately protect the student from peer bullying in school and on Facebook. The Court granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion for summary judgment, holding that plaintiff did not show that bullies targeted her because of her race or gender, or that the District was deliberately indifferent to the bullying.

Adam I. Kleinberg and Leo Dorfman drafted the successful motion.

 

NINE YEAR LITIGATION ENDS IN DISMISSAL OF NATIVE AMERICAN FAMILY’S DISCRIMINATION CLAIMS AGAINST SCHOOL DISTRICT

In J.E. ex rel. Edwards v. Center Moriches Union Free School District, four sibling students were suspended from school for engaging in melee on school grounds.  The four – all African-American/Native Americans who live on an Indian reservation – sued for a host of federal and state discrimination and civil rights claims.  The Honorable Roslyn R. Mauskopf granted defendants’ comprehensive motion for summary judgment, dismissing the case in its entirety.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed, ending nine years of litigation.

Steven C. Stern and Leo Dorfman drafted the successful motions and appellate brief.

 

SECOND CIRCUIT AFFIRMS DISMISSAL OF CONSTITUTIONAL CLAIMS BY FORMER COACH ALLEGED TO HAVE ENGAGED IN INAPPROPRIATE SEXUAL CONTACT WITH STUDENTS

In Jones v. Bay Shore UFSD, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of claims for First Amendment retaliation, and violations of Equal Protection and Due Process arising from the school district’s restrictions of a former employee from campus and, in particular, a school board meeting. The three-judge panel held, “No rational jury could conclude that the defendants were motivated by retaliatory animus rather than by legitimate concerns about student safety”; that appellant failed to show others similarly situated who were given preferential treatment; and appellant’s interest in attending board meetings without providing advance notice was de minimis.

Steven C. Stern and Kaitlyn R. McKenna handled the appeal and underlying litigation.

 

FEDERAL COURT DENIES REQUEST FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

In K.F. v. Monroe Woodbury Central School District, a student and her parents filed a peer harassment lawsuit under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. They simultaneously filed an order to show cause before Judge Edgardo Ramos, asking the federal court to require the immediate placement of the student in another local public school district. After briefing and a lengthy oral argument that the court convened to consider the issue, Judge Ramos denied the motion, finding both that plaintiffs’ claim of irreparable harm was speculative and that they had not established a likelihood of success on the merits.

Mark A. Radi drafted and successfully argued the motion.

 

FEDERAL COURT DISMISSES TEACHER’S FIRST AMENDMENT LAWSUIT

In Kelly v. Huntington UFSD, plaintiff pulled and gathered elementary students from their classes to suggest that they tell their parents to complain to the Board of Education about the downsizing of a gifted program.  After she was charged with misconduct, she filed suit in federal court alleging a violation of her First Amendment rights.  Eastern District Judge Joseph F. Bianco granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion for summary judgment, finding that plaintiff’s discussion with the students was not protected by the First Amendment.

Steven C. Stern and Mark Radi drafted the successful motion for summary judgment.

 

FEDERAL COURT DISMISSES CONSTITUTIONAL CLAIMS PREMISED ON DENIAL OF SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES

In LK v. Sewanhaka Central High School District, two sibling student plaintiffs and their mother brought a federal lawsuit against the school district and a number of school officials, alleging a host of federal claims in connection with their claim they were denied special education services for their chronic fatigue syndrome.  Judge Hurley granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion in its entirety, finding that plaintiffs’ claims were either time-barred or subject to exhaustion under state administrative procedures.

Mark Radi and Steven Stern drafted the successful motion to dismiss.

 

FEDERAL COURT REJECTS STUDENT PRIVACY CLAIM

In Magnoni v. Plainedge Union Free School District, plaintiff alleged that providing certain student information to a student’s non-custodial relative violated the student’s and parents’ rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”). U.S. District Judge Denis R. Hurley granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion to dismiss, finding FERPA does not provide a private right of action, and the information provided was “directory information” not protected by either Act.

Steven C. Stern drafted the successful motion.

 

FEDERAL COURT DISMISSES LAWSUIT ALLEGING A FALSE REPORT OF CHILD NEGLECT

In McCaul v. Ardsley UFSD, a parent alleged that school district staff members provided false information to New York State Child Protective Services, which then brought a proceeding against the parent for child abuse and neglect.  Following the dismissal of a Family Court petition, the parent sued the school district and several of its staff members.  Judge Vincent L. Briccetti of the Southern District of New York granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion to dismiss, finding that there was no deprivation of custody to support the parent’s due process claims.

Adam I. Kleinberg and Mark Radi defended the case and drafted the successful motion.

 

COURT FINDS NO NEGLIGENT SUPERVISION IN CONNECTION WITH LOCKER ROOM FIGHT

In Shelters v. Massapequa Union Free School District, plaintiff, a high school student, was involved in a physical altercation with another student in the boys’ locker room.  Plaintiff alleged that the District provided inadequate supervision in the locker room.  Justice Thomas P. Phelan granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the District did not negligently supervise its students.

Steven C. Stern and Melissa L. Holtzer drafted the successful motion.

 

SOKOLOFF STERN DEFEATS STUDENT’S FIRST AMENDMENT CASE REGARDING SCHOOL VARIETY SHOW

In Vetrano v. Miller Place Union Free School District, a high school senior was banned from the second day’s performance of the school variety show, after he violated the rules by ad-libbing a disparaging remark about the Superintendent. United States District Judge Arthur D. Spatt held the student’s speech was not protected because the variety show bore the imprimatur of the school subject to restrictions related to legitimate pedagogical concerns; the decision to discipline the student was based on the plaintiff’s failure to abide by the rules; and the disciplinary penalty was de minimis and therefore not a constitutional violation. The Court also dismissed plaintiff’s due process and void for vagueness claims regarding the school’s code of conduct.

Steven C. Stern and Chelsea Weisbord defended the school district and several administrators named in the case.