Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Education Law
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The Lexington school district superintendent dismissed Mark Zagaeski, a Lexington high school teacher, from his position for conduct unbecoming a teacher. Zagaeski timely filed an appeal from the school district’s dismissal decision, which resulted in arbitration proceedings. The arbitrator (1) concluded that the school district carried its burden to show facts amounting to conduct unbecoming a teacher but that Zagaeski’s conduct only “nominally” constituted a basis for dismissal; and (2) reinstated Zagaeski as a teacher on the basis of “the best interests of the pupils.” The superior court confirmed the arbitrator’s award. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the decision of the superior court judge and vacated the arbitration award, holding that, under the facts of this case, the arbitrator exceeded the scope of his authority by awarding Zagaeski's reinstatement. View "Sch. Comm. of Lexington v. Zagaeski" on Justia Law

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A school librarian having professional teacher status was suspended for conduct deemed to be unbecoming a teacher. An arbitrator considered the merits of the suspension. Applying a “just cause” standard, the arbitrator overturned the suspension, concluding that the school district failed to meet its burden of proof. A superior court judge confirmed the arbitrator’s award. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the arbitrator did not exceed his authority by reviewing the merits of the librarian’s twenty-day suspension and concluding that the school district had not met its burden of proving the alleged just cause for the suspension. View "Superintendent-Dir. of Assabet Valley Reg’l Sch. Dist. v. Speicher" on Justia Law

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The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) filed a grievance against the University Laboratory School (ULS), alleging that the ULS refused to implement the proper salary placement for teachers as agreed to in a supplemental agreement negotiated by the HSTA and the Hawaii Board of Education. The ULS argued that the step placement chart the HSTA sought to enforce had never been agreed upon or incorporated into the agreement. The HSTA subsequently filed a grievance and a motion to compel arbitration of its grievance. The circuit court denied the HSTA’s motion to compel arbitration. The intermediate court of appeals concluded that the circuit court did not err in denying HSTA’s motion, determining that the Hawaii Labor Relations Board had primary jurisdiction over the issues raised in the HSTA’s grievance and that the HSTA’s motion to compel arbitration was premature. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA’s judgment, holding that because the parties agreed to leave questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator, the circuit court erred in refusing to grant the HSTA’s motion to compel arbitration after concluding that an arbitration agreement existed. Remanded.View "Haw. State Teachers Ass’n v. Univ. Lab. Sch." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action suit on behalf of current and former students, alleging that Corinthian engaged in a deceptive scheme to entice the enrollment of prospective students in violation of California law. Corinthian moved to compel arbitration pursuant to arbitration clauses in plaintiffs' enrollment agreements. The court concluded that the Broughton-Cruz rule, which exempted claims for "public injunctive relief" from arbitration, was preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 2. In the alternative, the court concluded that plaintiffs' claims were within the scope of their arbitration agreements and plaintiffs were required to arbitrate their public injunction claims. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's order denying Corinthian's motion to compel arbitration and remanded. View "Ferguson, et al. v. Corinthian Colleges, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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The trial court denied defendant Virginia College's motion to compel arbitration. Because the plaintiffs failed to allege sufficient facts to support a claim that they were fraudulently induced to agree to the arbitration provision, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Virginia College, LLC v. Blackmon" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought suit against Defendant, the Cranston School Department, seeking grievance arbitration of adverse actions taken against them as to their respective coaching positions at Cranston West High School. Plaintiffs, both of whom were teachers at Cranston West, separately filed grievances against Defendant in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that was in place between the Cranston Teacher's Alliance and the school department. Defendant responded that the CBA did not apply to Plaintiffs in their capacity as coaches, and it refused to submit to arbitration. Plaintiffs filed suit, seeking a declaratory judgment that they were entitled to binding arbitration as guaranteed by the CBA. The superior court ruled in favor of Defendant, determining that Plaintiffs, in their capacity as coaches, were not entitled to avail themselves of the CBA's grievance procedures. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice was correct in determining that Plaintiffs' coaching positions were contractually distinct from their teaching positions and did not constitute professional employment; and (2) Plaintiffs in their coaching capacities had no right to pursue relief based on the rights bargained for by the alliance on behalf of its teacher-members and as contained in the CBA. View "Sacco v. Cranston Sch. Dep't" on Justia Law

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After a school district (District) approved the conversion of an existing public school into a charter school, a union (UTLA) claimed that the District failed to comply with collective bargaining agreement provisions (CBPs) concerning charter school conversion. UTLA petitioned to compel arbitration pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement. The trial court denied the petition, finding that the collective bargaining provisions (CBPs) regulating charter school conversion were unlawful because they conflicted with the Education Code, and therefore, arbitration of those unlawful provisions should not be compelled. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the court's function in adjudicating a petition to compel arbitration was limited to determining whether there was a valid arbitration agreement that had not been waived. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a court faced with a petition to compel arbitration to enforce CBPs between a union and a school district should deny the petition if the CBPs at issue directly conflict with provisions of the Education Code; and (2) because UTLA had not identified with sufficient specificity which CBPs the District allegedly violated, the case was remanded for identification of those specific provisions and to address whether the provisions conflicted with the Education Code. View "United Teachers of L.A. v. L.A. Unified Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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This case arose when plaintiff filed a putative class action in Texas state court alleging that defendants had violated certain provisions of the Texas Education Code by soliciting students in Texas without the appropriate certifications. Defendants subsequently appealed the district court's confirmation of an arbitral award that required them to submit to class arbitration. They contended that the district court, not the arbitrator, should have decided whether the parties' agreement provided for class arbitration, and that the district court should have vacated the arbitrator's class arbitration award. Because the parties agreed that the arbitrator should decide the class arbitration issue, the court concluded that the district court correctly referred that issue to the arbitrator. The district court erred, however, in confirming the award because the arbitrator exceeded his powers. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Reed v. Florida Metro University, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a teacher with professional teacher status, was dismissed by the superintendent of the school district for multiple instances of conduct unbecoming a teacher. On appeal, plaintiff argued that G.L.c. 71, section 42, which compelled arbitration of a wrongful dismissal claim made by a public school teacher with professional teacher status, violated art. 30 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights because it impermissibly delegated to a private individual (an arbitrator) a judicial function and denied meaningful judicial review. The court concluded that this statute's provision authorizing arbitration of a principal or superintendent's dismissal decision did not interfere with core judicial functions and that the scope of judicial review set forth in the statute did provide for meaning judicial review such that there was no art. 30 violation. Plaintiff also contended that, pursuant to G.L.c. 150C, section 11, the arbitration award should be vacated because the arbitrator acted in excess of her authority, engaged in misconduct, and exhibited bias against him. The court concluded that the judge properly concluded that the arbitrator did not exceed her authority or act in manifest disregard for the law. The court also rejected plaintiff's claims that the arbitrator engaged in misconduct and exhibited bias. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed. View "Atwater v. Commissioner of Education" on Justia Law

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Respondent, a 36-year-old tenured high school teacher, was the subject of disciplinary charges pursuant to Education Law 3020-a as a result of her improper conduct with respect to a 15-year-old male student. Petitioner commenced this proceeding pursuant to CPLR 7511 to vacate the arbitration award, arguing that the penalty imposed was irrational and contrary to the public policy of protecting children. The court held that the arbitration award did not violate public policy where the award, on it's face, was neither prohibited by statute nor common law. The court also held that the award was not arbitrary, capricious, or irrational where the hearing officer engaged in thorough analysis of the facts and circumstances, evaluated respondent's credibility, and arrived at a reasoned conclusion that a 90-day suspension and reassignment was the appropriate penalty. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed. View "City School Dist. of the City of New York v McGraham" on Justia Law