Justia North Carolina Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Education Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the trial court and remanded this case for further remand to the superior court with instructions to reinstate its earlier order granting summary judgment in favor of the Attorney General, holding that the New Hanover County Board of Education's amended complaint did not suffice to support a claim pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 147-76.1.This case arose from the Board of Education's challenge to the Attorney General administration of an environmental enhancement grant program funded by payments made by Smithfield Foods, Inc. and its subsidiaries pursuant to an agreement between the companies and the Attorney General. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Attorney General and dismissed the Board of Education's allegations that the payments received from the Smithfield companies under the agreement constituted civil penalties that should have been made available to public schools pursuant to N.C. Const. Art. IX, 7. The Supreme Court upheld the trial court's judgment, holding that the court of appeals erred by concluding that the Board of Education’s complaint sufficed to support a claim for relief pursuant to section 147-76.1. View "New Hanover County Board of Education v. Stein" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that North Carolina charter schools are not state agencies and are, consequently, precluded from asserting a defense of sovereign immunity, and charter schools are not "persons" as defined in N.C. Gen. Stat. 1-607.The State pled claims under the False Claims Act against a non-profit corporation that operated as a charter school (the Academy) and a corporate officer. The Academy filed a motion to dismiss the False Claims Act claim, which the trial court denied. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Academy was entitled to sovereign immunity and that it did not qualify as a "person" for purposes of the False Claims Act. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the court of appeal erred by concluding that charter schools are entitled to a defense of sovereign immunity and are not "persons" for purposes of the Act; and (2) the State adequately stated a claim for relief against the Academy and its officer under the Act. View "State v. Kinston Charter Academy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Education Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the order of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss, holding that governmental immunity did not bar Plaintiff's claim under the North Carolina Constitution for a school board's deliberate indifference to continual student harassment.Plaintiffs alleged that the school board's indifference denied students their constitutionally-guaranteed right to the opportunity to receive a sound basis education under N.C. Const. art. I, 15. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing in part that the claim under the North Carolina Constitution was barred by the defense of sovereign or governmental immunity. The trial court denied the motion in part and allowed the constitutional claim to proceed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that abuse or an abusive classroom environment does not violate a constitutional right to education. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that where a government entity with control over the school is deliberately indifferent to ongoing harassment that prevents a student from accessing his constitutionally guaranteed right to a sound basic education, the student has a colorable claim under the state Constitution. View "Deminski v. State Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that officials of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (University) are required to release, as public records, disciplinary records of its students who have been found to have violated the University's sexual assault policy, holding that the University did not have discretion to withhold the information sought.Plaintiffs, news organizations, brought this action for alleged violations of the North Carolina Public Records Act. Defendants argued that they were prohibited from complying with the Public Records Act in light of applicable provisions of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The trial court determined that Defendants were not required to produce the student records requested by Plaintiffs, concluding that the doctrines of field preemption and conflict preemption operated to implicitly preempt, by force of federal law, any required disclosure by the Public Records Act of the requested records. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the information sought in this case was authorized by and specified in the FERPA as subject to release; and (2) therefore, as an agency of the state, the University must comply with the Public Records Act and allow Plaintiff access to the information. View "DTH Media Corp. v. Folt" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the superior court’s order dismissing this complaint under N.C. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), holding that the State, and not a board of county commissioners, is solely responsible for preserving the right of every child in North Carolina to receive a sound basic education pursuant to the North Carolina Constitution.Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant’s continued support and maintenance of a tripartite school district system and its refusal to manage and distribute resources efficiently among the school districts resulted in Defendant’s failure to provide the students of Halifax County an opportunity to receive a sound basic education. The trial court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim, concluding that a board of county commissioners is absolved of any constitutional duty to provide its students the opportunity to receive a sound basic education. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, along with the State, a board of county commissioners is not required to provide the opportunity for North Carolina children to receive a sound basic education. View "Silver v. Halifax County Board of Commissioners" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s car was struck by a school activity bus transporting students and school staff to an extracurricular event. Plaintiff brought this action before the North Carolina Industrial Commission pursuant to the Tort Claims Act to recover for alleged negligence by Randall Long, the bus driver and an employee of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. The Commission granted the Board’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that the Commission lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claim because the claim did not fall within the parameters of N.C. Gen. Stat. 143-300.1, which confers jurisdiction upon the Commission to hear claims for the negligent operation of “school buses” and “school transportation service vehicles” when certain criteria are met. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that school activity buses are plainly excluded from section 143-300.1, and therefore, the Commission did not have jurisdiction in this case. View "Irving v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bd. of Educ." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, twenty-five taxpayers, filed a complaint challenging the Opportunity Scholarship Program, which allows a small number of students in lower-income families to receive scholarships from the State to attend private school. The trial court declared the Opportunity Scholarship Program legislation unconstitutional on its face and permanently enjoined further implementation and enforcement of the legislation, including the disbursement of public funds. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order and final judgment and dissolved the injunction, holding that no prohibition in the Constitution or in precedent foreclosed the General Assembly’s enactment of the challenged legislation in this case. View "Hart v. State" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sought a judicial determination that the 2011 legislative changes made to North Carolina's pre-kindergarten program failed to comply with the state's constitutional obligations recognized in Leandro v. State and Hoke County Board of Education v. State. After a hearing, the trial court found that some of the changes violated the State Constitution and mandating that the State not deny any eligible at-risk four-year-old admission to the North Carolina pre-kindergarten program. While the State's appeal was pending, the General Assembly amended the challenged statutory provisions. The court of appeals subsequently affirmed the trial court in part and dismissed the appeal in part. The Supreme Court dismissed the State's appeal as moot because the 2012 amendments constituted material and substantial changes to the provisions that the trial court found unconstitutional, and thus the questions originally in controversy between the parties were no longer at issue. View "Hoke Cnty. Bd. of Educ. v State" on Justia Law