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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Title IX; Due Process; Student Athlete Issues; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Constitutional Issues; Athletics & Sports

John Doe v. Wright State University (S.D. Ohio August 24, 2017)

Order sustaining Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss and overruling as moot Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Proceed Anonymously, but granting Plaintiff Limited Leave to Amend. Plaintiff is a former member of the Wright Student University (WSU) Men’s Varsity Tennis Team and alleged that Defendants, the Chair of the Student Appeals Panel and WSU Administrators, as well as WSU, violated his due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment, as well as the Ohio Constitution, when it removed Plaintiff from the tennis team and expelled him from WSU for sexual misconduct, verbal harassment, and hazing of his fellow teammates. The court found that Plaintiff did not raise claims against any government officials, nor against any individual defendants acting on behalf of the U.S. government, and therefore, his Fifth Amendment claims were dismissed with prejudice. The court also dismissed Plaintiff’s procedural due process claim because he had sufficient notice and opportunity to defend against the charged allegations.  The court denied as moot Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Proceed Anonymously, as all his claims were dismissed, though the court granted Plaintiff limited leave to amend his complaint within twenty-one days as to his right to call exculpatory witnesses, instances of prejudice he experienced as a result of being prevented from doing so, and whether WSU’s hearing was effected by animus, prejudice, or impermissible stake in the outcome by WSU officials. 

Title IX; Minors on Campus; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Student Athlete Issues; Athletics & Sports

K.T. v. Culver-Stockton College (8th Cir. Aug. 1, 2017)

Opinion and Order affirming the district court’s grant of Culver-Stockton College’s (CSC) Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff-Appellant, a sixteen-year-old junior in high school who was invited to visit Culver-Stockton as a potential recruit to the women’s soccer team, claimed that she was physically and sexually assaulted by a fraternity member at an on-campus fraternity during her visit. The district court granted CSC’s Motion to Dismiss, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed. Even assuming that Plaintiff-Appellant's status as a non-student did not preclude her from asserting a Title IX harassment claim, the Eighth Circuit found that Plaintiff failed to plausibly allege that CSC had actual knowledge of discrimination, since actual knowledge requires institutions to have “more than after-the-fact notice of a single instance in which the plaintiff experienced sexual assault.” Moreover, she failed to plausibly plead deliberate indifference or that the College's response to her report had a systemic effect such that she was denied equal access to educational opportunities provided by the College.

Student Athlete Issues; Athletics Compliance (NCAA & more)

McCants v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (M.D.N.C. Apr. 26, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion and Order remanding the case to state court. Plaintiffs filed a putative class action in state court against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill), contending that the University steered them and other student athletes into courses that lacked rigor to ensure continued academic eligibility under NCAA rules. The NCAA removed the case to federal court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), and UNC-Chapel Hill moved to dismiss on Eleventh Amendment grounds. The court concluded that the University did not waive sovereign immunity because the NCAA, not UNC-Chapel Hill, unilaterally invoked federal jurisdiction. Because UNC’s defense of Eleventh Amendment immunity barred federal courts from asserting jurisdiction over UNC in the case, the court found that it was required remand the case back to state court.
Student Athlete Issues; Athletics & Sports

Feleccia v. Lackawanna College (Pa. Super. Ct., Feb. 24, 2017)

Opinion and order reversing the entry of summary judgment and remanding for trial. Two student athletes were injured during football practice at Lackawanna College. At the time, the two athletic trainers on duty were not certified as athletic trainers. The student athletes filed suit against the College alleging negligence, negligence per se, gross negligence, and recklessness. The trial court granted summary judgment to the College, concluding that the waiver Plaintiffs signed prior to participating in practice was enforceable and thus precluded liability on behalf of the College. The Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed. While the waiver’s exculpatory clause was valid, when applied to the facts of this case, its language was not “sufficiently particular and without ambiguity as to preclude liability” for the College’s own acts of negligence. Moreover, the trial court erred in failing to consider whether the College's failure to provide qualified medical personnel during practice was grossly negligent or reckless, and thus outside the scope of the waiver, or whether such conduct rendered the waiver unenforceable. 

Student Athlete Issues; Athletics & Sports; Collective Bargaining; Faculty & Staff

National Labor Relations Board Memo on Statutory Rights of University Faculty and Students in the Unfair Labor Practice Context (Jan. 31, 2017)

Memo sent by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Richard Griffin, Jr., to NLRB regional directors regarding the statutory rights of university faculty and students in the context of unfair labor practices. The memo summarizes three recent NLRB decisions—Pacific Lutheran University, Columbia University, and Northwestern University—and offers an explanation of how the NLRB Office of the General Counsel will apply these decisions to unfair labor practice charges. Notably, the memo states that scholarship football players in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision private-sector colleges and universities are employees under the National Labor Relations Act, and are thus are entitled to campaign for their interests as employees.

Student Athlete Issues; Athletics & Sports

Schmitz v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (Ohio App. Dec. 8, 2016)

Plaintiff filed suit against the University of Notre Dame and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), claiming that Defendants failed to warn him of the debilitating long-term dangers of repeated concussions. Schmitz was diagnosed in 2012 with severe cognitive decline, traumatic encephalopathy, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia as a result of repeated head injuries he suffered as a student athlete. The Court found that the discovery rule—which states that a cause of action does not arise until a plaintiff knows or should know of the defendant’s injurious conduct--applied in this case, thus allowing Plaintiff’s claims of negligence, fraudulent concealment, constructive fraud against the University, and loss of consortium, to proceed under the Ohio statute of limitations. However, the discovery rule did not apply to Plaintiff’s claims of breach of contract against both Defendants and constructive fraud against the NCAA.     

FLSA & Categorization of Employees; Student Athlete Issues; Faculty & Staff; Athletics & Sports

Berger v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (7th Cir. Dec. 5, 2016)

Several former student athletes at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) sued the University, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and over 120 other NCAA Division I universities, asserting that student athletes are employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and thus entitled to minimum wage. The District Court found that Appellants lacked standing to sue any of the Appellees aside from Penn and failed to state a claim against Penn. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Appellants’ connection to the NCAA and the institutions other than Penn was too tenuous to be considered an employment relationship. Moreover, the “extracurricular” nature of student athletics and the long tradition of amateurism in NCAA athletics foreclosed the possibility that the FLSA applied to student athletes.

Student Athlete Issues

NCAA releases Report on Mental Health Best Practices for Student-Athlete Mental Wellness

The Sports Science Institute at the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) published a Best Practices for Understanding and Supporting Student-Athlete Mental Wellness. The publication's Best Practices are designed to provide athletics and sports medicine departments with recommendations for supporting and promoting student-athlete mental health. Best practices identified in the report include protocol development for mental health emergencies with student-athletes, pre-participation mental health screening, and creating health–promoting environments that support mental well-being and resilience.