Several Oklahoma taxpayers filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a permanent injunction against Defendants, Joy Hofmeister, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Oklahoma State Department of Education; and the Oklahoma State Board of Education, (the "State") to enjoin the payment of tuition to private sectarian schools alleging the "Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Act" (or "Scholarship Program") violated several articles of the Oklahoma Constitution. Both parties filed for summary judgment. The trial court granted in part and denied in part the parties' motions, finding the Act was constitutional on all challenged grounds except for one. The trial court entered a narrow Order ruling the Act violated the Oklahoma Constitution, Article II, Section 5, only to the extent it authorized public funds to pay the cost for students to attend private sectarian schools. This provision of the Constitution has been referred to as the "no aid" clause, prohibiting public money from being used for the benefit or support of religion. An injunction was issued to prevent payment to private religious schools, with no impact on the payment to private non-sectarian schools. The State appealed, arguing: (1) the payment to a sectarian school was permitted because it was for a valid public purpose and in exchange for consideration; and (2) the district court's construction of the Act created a religiosity distinction violating the U.S. Constitution's freedom of religion clause. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed the district court's decision in part and found the Act did not violate the "no aid" clause. The Court did not reach defendants' second issue, and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Oliver v. Hofmeister" on Justia Law
Initiative Petition No. 403 sought to amend the Oklahoma Constitution by adding a new Article 13-C. The proposed article would create the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund, designed to provide for the improvement of public education in Oklahoma through an additional one-cent sales and use tax. Funds generated by the one-cent tax would be distributed to public school districts, higher education institutions, career and technology centers, and early childhood education providers for certain educational purposes outlined in the proposed article. Additionally, a percentage of the funds would be used to provide a $5,000.00 pay raise to all public school teachers. Opponents challenged the initiative, arguing it violated the one general subject rule of Art. 24, sec. 1 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that Initiative Petition No. 403 did not violate the one general subject rule and was legally sufficient for submission to the people of Oklahoma. View "IN RE INITIATIVE PETITION NO. 403 STATE QUESTION NO. 779" on Justia Law
A student athlete asked for a permanent injunction against the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) to block it from enforcing its sanctions against the athlete following its determination that the student athlete, school, and others violated the OSSAA's rules and policies. The athlete appealed, challenging the applicable standard of review and alleging that the OSSAA's actions were arbitrary and capricious. In 2012, the OSSAA received a copy of a newspaper article concerning the school's successes attracting the attention of college football recruiters. Based on comments made in the article, the OSSAA became concerned that the school might have violated what the OSSAA considered to be its long-standing prohibition on member schools paying for their student-athletes to attend individual athletic camps. The OSSAA notified the school of its concerns and asked for confirmation as to whether it had paid for selected students to attend individual camps. The OSSAA alleges it received no response prior. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court applied the incorrect standard of review, and that under any standard, the OSSAA's actions were arbitrary and capricious. View "Scott v. Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Ass'n" on Justia Law
The dispositive issue in this appeal was whether the trial judge erred in issuing a temporary injunction. The substantive issue in this appeal was whether the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) acted in an unreasonable and arbitrary manner when he imposed a forfeiture penalty against Wright City Public School (Wright City) for violation of OSSAA's 22-game limit baseball rule. On April 30, 2013, the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association determined that the Wright City Public School violated the Association's rules when the varsity baseball team played the Idabel junior varsity team and the Valliant varsity team. The Executive Director imposed the penalty, requiring the Wright City team to forfeit the next two games. The penalty eliminated Wright City from the 2013 Class A state tournament scheduled for May 2 and 3, 2013. On May 1, the district court entered a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction. The Supreme Court concluded "[a]ll the players in this controversy" erred: (1) the Executive Director should not have decided the alleged rule violation with Wright City's request for reconsideration pending and without allowing Wright City a meeting with the investigator; (2) Wright City should not have sought district court relief before the OSSAA Board of Directors denied it any relief; and (3) the district court should not have entertained the petition for injunctive relief before it had proof that the OSSAA Board of Directors refused to rule on the alleged rule violation and refused to extend the baseball season to allow Wright City to exercise its rights under the due process procedure in the OSSAA Constitution. Accordingly, the Supreme Court dissolved the district court's temporary injunction and remanded the case to the district court with directions to stay this proceeding until Wright City had an opportunity to challenge the allegations of rule violation before the OSSAA Board of Directors pursuant to OSSAA's Constitution. View "Wright City Public Schools v. Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Assn." on Justia Law
Posted in: Constitutional Law, Education Law, Entertainment & Sports Law, Government & Administrative Law
Frank George, a student at the University of Oklahoma, was charged by the University with violating five provisions of the University's student code. The Campus Disciplinary Board (CDB) found that he was guilty of violating three provisions of the Code: 16.4 (Failing to Comply with Directions of Institutional Officials), 16.65 (Public Drunkenness), and 16.25 (Violating Applicable Local, State, or Federal Laws). He appealed to the University's Campus Disciplinary Council (CDC) and alleged that the evidence was insufficient for the administrative decisions that the student code had been violated. The CDC reviewed the statements of the witnesses and the student, and in its written decision concluded that the student had failed to meet his burden to show that the evidence against him was insufficient. The decision of the CDB was sustained by the CDC. George "appealed" the decision to the district court. The University filed a motion to dismiss the petition and argued that the Oklahoma Administrative Procedures Act did not authorize appellate jurisdiction in the District Court. The court denied the motion to dismiss, stayed proceedings, and certified the court's order for interlocutory certiorari review on the issue of the appellate jurisdiction exercised pursuant to the Oklahoma Administrative Procedures Act. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that: (1) 75 O.S. 250.4(B)(12) does not expressly provide for application of Article II of the Administrative Procedures Act when a student is subject to discipline less than expulsion for an institutional rule infraction; (2) the remedy of an independent District Court civil action is an adequate remedy for an alleged violation by the University of a student's rights to due process in a University disciplinary proceeding; (3) the possibility of a subsequent institutional offense that is subject to Article II of the Administrative Procedures Act having an enhanced punishment because of former offenses does not require the former offenses to be also subject to Article II of the Administrative Procedures Act; and (4) absent unusual circumstances not present here, the Court declined in a supervisory writ proceeding to adjudicate constitutional arguments that were not adjudicated in the District Court. View "Oklahoma ex rel. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Oklahoma v. Lucas" on Justia Law
If funds are available, the Educational Leadership Oklahoma Act (Act) provides for bonuses to eligible teachers who attain national certification. In the past, the State Board of Education provided the full amount of bonuses and any additional amounts necessary to cover the payroll withholding taxes on the bonuses. In 2010, the Board didnât pay the withholding taxes. Teachers filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that the Board should have paid the withholding taxes on their bonuses. The trial court found that because the School District was not liable for the bonus payments under the Act, the State Department of Education was, and payment of the bonuses was conditioned on the availability of funds to pay them from State. The court determined that the School District was required to use some of the allocated bonus money from the State to fund the Districtâs tax obligations. Furthermore, the court concluded that the Teachers sued the wrong party by suing the School District, so that it could not enter a judgment in their favor. Accordingly, district court dismissed the action for lack of jurisdiction. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that because the Teachers were State employees, and State was responsible for paying employer withholding taxes for the bonuses, the School District had to pay them. However, the Court found that the State did not have enough money to pay both the bonuses and the withholding taxâit only had enough to pay the bonuses. The Court affirmed the lower courtâs decision to dismiss the case.
Posted in: Education Law, Government & Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law, Oklahoma Supreme Court