New Cases and Developments

NACUA's Legal Resources staff summarizes current higher education cases and developments and provides the full text of selected cases to members. New cases and developments are archived here for up to 12 months.  Cases provided by Fastcase, Inc.

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Disaster Planning & Response; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management; Government Relations; Authorizations & Regulations

Department of Education Guidance for Helping Title IV Participants Affected by a Major Disaster (August 29, 2017)

Guidance issued from the Department of Education’s Postsecondary Education Office regarding the impact of a “major disaster” on the administration of Title IV student assistance programs. The letter provides guidance for regulatory relief to all recipients of Title IV financial aid and their families who reside at, are employed, or attend institutions located in a federally declared disaster area in the United States, as well as financial lenders and related institutions in affected areas. Affected participants of Title IV should refer to the attachment prepared by the Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education for additional information.

Authorizations & Regulations; Government Relations; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management; Disaster Planning & Response

Department of Education Activates Emergency Response Contact Center (August 29, 2017)

Announcement from the Department of Education noting that the Department has activated its emergency response contact center in reaction to Hurricane Harvey. In light of the federally declared “major disaster,” the Department seeks to assist school districts and higher education institutions in their recovery efforts. Institutions in the affected region should refer to the guidance letter prepared by the Federal Student Aid Chief Operating Officer for local assistance and resources. 

Search & Seizure; Campus Police & Relationships with Local Law Enforcement; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management

Mortazavi v. Samford University (N.D. Ala. July 20, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff was practicing the piano at Samford University when an unnamed campus security officer confronted him, ordered him to leave the room “using threatening, derogatory, and offensive language,” seized Plaintiff’s driver's license, and held Plaintiff for approximately thirty minutes while dispatch confirmed Plaintiff’s information. Plaintiff sued Samford and two University officials under a theory of respondeat superior, in addition to asserting conspiracy claims against three University employees. Because Plaintiff failed to identify an official policy by Samford that caused his alleged injuries, the court dismissed his claims against the University. The court also dismissed Plaintiff’s allegation of a conspiracy “to terrorize and frighten” him because a corporate entity cannot conspire with its employees, and its employees cannot conspire among themselves when acting within the scope of their employment.

Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management; Campus Police & Relationships with Local Law Enforcement; Search & Seizure

Smith v. Susquehanna University (3d Cir. July 13, 2017)

Non-precedential Opinion affirming the district court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of Defendant-Appellees. Two Public Safety Officers testified that they recovered several drugs and drug paraphernalia from a Susquehanna University student’s dormitory after receiving a report of marijuana odor coming from the room, though the student denied that he possessed any of these items and claimed that the Officers forced their way into his room. During his state criminal prosecution, Plaintiff moved to suppress the evidence as violating the Fourth Amendment, but the judge determined that no state action was involved and that the search was grounded in reasonable belief that illegal activity was being conducted in the room. The student then filed a federal suit against Susquehanna University and the Officers, alleging that the search of his room violated the Fourth Amendment. The Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s conclusion that Plaintiff was precluded from relitigating the question of whether the Officers were state actors in conducting a search of his dormitory room.

First Amendment & Free Speech; Guns on Campus; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management; Constitutional Issues

Glass v. Paxton (W.D. Tex. July 6, 2017)

Opinion and Order dismissing Plaintiffs’ claims. In 2015, the Texas Legislature passed, and the Governor signed, a Campus Carry Law allowing concealed carry of handguns on college and university campuses. Three Professors at the University of Texas at Austin filed suit claiming that the Campus Carry Law and the University’s policy promulgated under the law would unleash a chilling effect on classroom speech. Calling the effects of the law and policy a “self-imposed censoring of classroom discussions” caused by Plaintiffs’ “mere conjecture about possible” violence by individuals not named in the suit, the court determined that Plaintiffs had not demonstrated the requisite injury-in-fact to establish standing and failed to allege that the injury was traceable to Defendants’ conduct. 

Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Students; Title IX; Campus Police & Relationships with Local Law Enforcement; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

Ross v. University of Tulsa (10th Cir. June 20, 2017)

Opinion affirming the district court’s award of summary judgment to the University of Tulsa. A female student reported that she was the victim of sexual misconduct by a male student at the University. She later learned that two student athletes had informed campus-security officers of alleged sexual misconduct by the same student, but the officers dropped the investigation at the request of the alleged victim. Plaintiff sued the University under Title IX, claiming that the University acted with deliberate indifference when it failed to investigate a prior report of sexual misconduct and when it excluded evidence of that report from the student conduct hearing held in response to Plaintiff’s report. The Tenth Circuit determined that both claims failed as a matter of law. Although the Court acknowledged that a reasonable fact-finder could conclude that dropping the previous investigation was clearly unreasonable, it found that the officers did not have the authority to take corrective action in response to the report. Regarding Plaintiff’s second claim, the University excluded prior reports of sexual harassment based on a reasonable application of university policy, and therefore had not acted with deliberate indifference in doing so. 

Disability Discrimination; Campus Police & Relationships with Local Law Enforcement; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management

Meehan v. Loyola University of Chicago (N.D. Ill. June 5, 2017)

Opinion and Order granting in part and denying in part Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, worked as a curator for Loyola University of Chicago. During two separate incidents, Defendant police officers escorted Plaintiff off Loyola's campus and then arrested her for criminal trespass and battery. Plaintiff filed suit against Loyola for alleged disability discrimination and creation of a hostile work environment in violation of federal and state law, as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). She also brought various state tort law claims against Loyola and the two police officers involved in the incidents, and an independent respondeat superior claim against Loyola. On Motion to Dismiss the IIED, state tort law, and respondeat superior claims, the court found that Plaintiff had sufficiently alleged outrageous conduct to allow that claim to proceed to discovery, rejected Defendants’ one-year statute of limitations defense to Plaintiff’s intrusion of seclusion claim because such claims do not involve publication, and dismissed Plaintiff’s respondeat superior claim as barred by state law.

Cybersecurity; Technology; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management; Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity: FBI Public Service Announcement on Fraud Schemes Targeting Universities (May 5, 2017)

Public Service Announcement issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warning of a fraud schemes targeting universities and their students. The Announcement identifies and summarizes the different schemes that scammers have used since July 2016—including a vendor bank account update scam, the fake “education tax” scam, a phishing scheme requesting W-2 tax information, and a phishing scheme involving payroll fraud—and offers tips on how universities and students can protect themselves.