Articles Posted in Education Law

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Defendant Glenn Ciripompa was a tenured high school math teacher in the Bound Brook School District. Defendant's behavior came under the scrutiny of the Bound Brook Board of Education (Board) after the Board received copies of student Twitter posts alleging "Mr. C" was electronically transmitting nude photographs. An investigation uncovered defendant's pervasive misuse of his District-issued laptop and iPad, as well as evidence of inappropriate behavior toward female colleagues, often in the presence of students. The results of the investigation spurred the Board to seek defendant's termination from his tenured position and served as the substantive allegations of the two-count tenure complaint against defendant. In this appeal, the issue presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on whether an arbitrator exceeded his authority by applying the standard for proving a hostile-work-environment, sexual-harassment claim in a law against discrimination (LAD) case to a claim of unbecoming conduct in the teacher disciplinary hearing. After review, the Supreme Court found that the arbitrator impermissibly converted the second charge of unbecoming conduct into one of sexual harassment. The arbitrator's review was not consonant with the matter submitted; rather, he imperfectly executed his powers as well as exceeded his authority by failing to decide whether Count II stated a successful claim of unbecoming conduct in support of termination. The arbitrator's award was therefore ruled invalid. View "Bound Brook Bd. of Edu. v. Ciripompa" on Justia Law

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The Washington Township Education Association was the major union representative for employees of the Robbinsville Township Board of Education. Relevant to the events in this matter, the Board and the Association were bound by a collective negotiation agreement during the period of July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2011. According to Article 5.3 of the Agreement, the teachers salaries were based on the number of school-year work days, which contract negotiations established to be 188 days for new teachers and 185 days for all other teachers. On March 17, 2010, during a time of declared fiscal emergency, the State notified the Board that State education funding to the district would be reduced by fifty-eight percent for the upcoming 2010-2011 school year. Reeling from that significant funding reduction, the Board took action: it revised its budget for the next school year by cutting educational programs, freezing salaries, and laying off approximately thirteen teaching and staff positions. Because those attempts were insufficient to balance the school district's budget, on March 19, 2010, the Board asked the Association to re-open contract negotiations for the 2010-2011 school year. The Association, citing its members best interests, declined to re-open discussions mid-contract. The Association also did not respond to the Board s subsequent request on April 13 to reconsider re-opening negotiations. The Board announced a decision to impose involuntary furlough days on teachers, knowing that the furloughed days would impact the affected employees' wages. An unfair labor charge was filed with the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC). The Appellate Division granted summary judgment in favor of the Board. But the Supreme Court reversed, finding that the Appellate Division's decision was based on an overly broad and mistaken reading of the controlling case-law for this matter. View "In the Matter of Robbinsville Twp. Bd. of Education v. Washington Township Education Assn." on Justia Law

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In 2013, the State Board of Nursing invoked N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.3(c)(2) to deny accreditation to the Licensed Practical Nurse to Registered Nurse Bridge Program (Bridge Program), a nursing program instituted by Eastwick College (Eastwick). Interpreting the term graduating class in N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.3(c)(2) to include all graduates of the program who took the licensing examination during a given calendar year, regardless of the year a particular student graduated from the program, the Board found that Eastwick's Bridge Program's first and second graduating classes failed to achieve the 75% pass rate mandated by the regulation. Eastwick appealed the Board's determination, challenging the methodology used by the Board to calculate the pass rate of the Bridge Program's graduates on the licensing examination. Eastwick contended that only students who graduated during a specific calendar year and took the licensing examination in that year should be included in that year's graduating class. Using that methodology, Eastwick argued that its second graduating class had a pass rate in excess of 75%, and that the Board improperly declined to accredit its nursing program. An Appellate Division panel affirmed the Board's determination denying accreditation. Based on the plain language of N.J.A.C. 13:37-1.3(c)(2), the New Jersey Supreme Court concluded that the Board's construction of its regulation was plainly unreasonable, and accordingly held that the Board improperly denied accreditation to Eastwick's Bridge Program. The Court therefore reversed the Appellate Division's judgment affirming the Board's action, and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "In the Matter of the Revocation or the Suspension of the Provisional Accreditation of and/or the Imposition of Probation on Eastwick College LPN-to-RN Bridge Program" on Justia Law

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In May 2013, plaintiffs Annemarie Morgan and Tiffany Dever filed suit against defendants Sanford Brown Institute, its parent company, Career Education Corporation, and Sanford Brown's chief executive officer, admission and financial aid officers, and clinical director. Sanford Brown was a private, for-profit educational institution with a campus in Trevose, Pennsylvania, that offered medical-related training programs. In the complaint, plaintiffs claimed that defendants misrepresented the value of the school's ultrasound technician program and the quality of its instructors, instructed students on outdated equipment and with inadequate teaching materials, provided insufficient career-service counseling, and conveyed inaccurate information about Sanford Brown's accreditation status. The complaint further alleged that Sanford Brown employed high-pressure and deceptive business tactics that resulted in plaintiffs financing their education with high-interest loans, passing up the study of ultrasound at a reputable college, and losing career advancement opportunities. The Sanford Brown enrollment agreement included payment terms for tuition and fees, disclaimers, and an arbitration provision. Without answering the complaint, defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration and to dismiss plaintiffs' claims. The Appellate Division found the parties clearly and unmistakably agreed an arbitrator would determine issues of arbitrability and that plaintiffs failed to specifically attack the delegation clause. The panel therefore determined that arbitrability [was] for the arbitrator to decide. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that the Appellate Division and trial court did not have the benefit of "Atalese v. U.S. Legal Servs. Grp.," (219 N.J. 430, 436 (2014), cert. denied, __ U.S. __, 135 S. Ct. 2804, 192 L. Ed.2d 847 (2015)) at the time they rendered their decisions. The New Jersey Court held in "Atalese" that an arbitration provision in a consumer contract that fails to explain in some minimal way that arbitration is a substitute for a consumer s right to pursue relief in a court of law was unenforceable. This case was therefore remanded for further proceedings in light of Atalese. View "Morgan v. Sanford Brown Institute" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue before the Supreme Court centered on whether three teachers employed by the Board of Education of the Bridgewater-Raritan School District (Board) appropriately were denied tenure as a matter of law or equity under circumstances , implicating the interplay of N.J.S.A.18A:28-5, which establishes the general rule by which teachers obtain tenure, and N.J.S.A.18A:16-1.1, which creates an exception to that general rule. The Bridgewater-Raritan Education Association filed a petition of appeal on behalf of the teachers with the Commissioner. The matter was referred to the Office of Administrative Law as a contested case, and the Board moved for summary judgment. The Association maintained that the teachers were entitled to tenure as a matter of law and under the equitable principles of apparent authority and equitable estoppel. An administrative law judge (ALJ) granted the Board s motion, finding that none of the teachers met the statutory requirement for tenure because they each had served as temporary replacements for other tenured teachers. The ALJ rejected the Association's equitable arguments and concluded that the Board was not required to notify teachers of their status as replacement teachers under N.J.S.A.18A:16-1.1. The Commissioner affirmed the ALJ s decision. The Association appealed, and the Appellate Division affirmed in an unpublished decision. The Supreme Court, after review, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The Court found that N.J.S.A.18A:16-1.1 required a board of education to give an employee notice of his or her designation as a replacement. With respect to the claim of Tamara Manzur, a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding whether she was provided such notice as to her status during the 2007-08 school year. The Court agreed with the Appellate Division that equitable principles were inapplicable. View "Bridgewater-Raritan Education Association v. Board of Education of the Bridgewater-Raritan School District" on Justia Law

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In 2007, the Legislature passed a series of reform measures designed to lower property taxes. Among other issues, the reforms attempted to address the problem of excessive benefits for high-level school administrators. The following year, the Commissioner of Education issued various regulations to implement the new laws. The regulations limited certain benefits in new contracts for high-level administrators, and also capped payments for accumulated unused sick leave. In 2008, Plaintiffs-Respondents the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, Dr. Terry Van Zoeren, Dr. Simon Bosco, Joseph Abate, Jr., and John Golden filed a complaint seeking to enjoin the use of the regulations, as well as other provisions in N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-3.1(e) on federal constitutional and state law grounds. The court denied the application for a preliminary injunction and dismissed the lawsuit. The court declined to exercise jurisdiction under the doctrine known as "Burford" abstention, to allow the state courts the opportunity to determine important questions of state law. The Appellate Division held that the challenged regulations impermissibly reduced the compensation of tenured assistant superintendents, in violation of the tenure statute, and improperly deprived certain administrators of vested rights. The Appellate Division also concluded that the challenge to the sick leave cap was partially mooted by a newly enacted law. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the Legislature had the authority to modify terms and conditions for future contracts for public employment in a manner that did not raise constitutional concerns. Furthermore, the Legislature properly exercised its power when it directed the Commissioner to issue regulations for new contracts for superintendents and assistant superintendents. The regulations that followed were consistent with their respective enabling statutes and advanced the Legislature's goals. They also protected benefits that employees had already accumulated. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Division. View "N.J. Association of Sch. Administrators v. Schundler" on Justia Law