Education

Here’s What Supreme Court’s Latest Postponement Means for Education Cases

By Mark Walsh — April 03, 2020 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday postponed indefinitely its April argument session because of coronavirus concerns, and for the first time said it was considering “a range of scheduling options and other alternatives if arguments cannot be held in the courtroom before the end of the term.”

The April sitting included two or three cases of interest to educators, including a case on exemptions to the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act for religious employers, which has been of interest to religious schools and colleges.

Already, the court had postponed arguments in two consolidated cases about whether religious schools are exempt from employment discrimination claims brought by lay teachers. Those cases, St. James School v. Biel (No. 19-348) and Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru (No. 19-267), were to be argued April 1, on the last day of the March session.

In its announcement, the court reiterated that it “will continue to proceed with the resolution of all cases argued this term” and announce those decisions on its website.

Among the argued cases that remain pending are those involving a Montana tax credit program for donations to private school scholarships; cases about whether federal civil rights laws cover gay and transgender employees; and a case about whether President Donald Trump’s administration properly rescinded the immigration program known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Opinions in those cases could come anytime between now and the end of June. This coming Monday, April 6, is the next day when opinions are expected.

The court said it will consider rescheduling “some” of the 20 cases from the March and April arguments “if circumstances permit in light of public health and safety guidance at that time.” Some legal observers have suggested that most of the cases from the March and April sittings present relatively non-urgent legal questions that could easily be pushed back to the court’s next term. But a few cases, including two involving efforts by congressional committees and New York state prosecutors to obtain President Donald Trump’s financial records, are more time-sensitive, and the court may be trying to figure out a way to hold arguments in those cases yet this term.

Many advocates have suggested the court should do what some lower federal courts and state courts are doing by holding arguments via some form of video or telephone conference. This is not something the nine-member court would be eager to do, given the likely technological challenges and the fact that some justices might consider those options to be a camel’s nose under the tent for televising arguments in the courtroom once the virus crisis subsides. But the court’s reference to “other alternatives” suggests it has not ruled anything out at this point.

Here are the cases from the April sitting that are of some interest to educators:

Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania (No. 19-431), consolidated with Trump v. Pennsylvania (No. 19-454): These are the latest in a long-running legal fight over the contraceptive-coverage mandate of the ACA, with several states challenging the Trump administration’s exemption for religious objectors.

The current exemption is broader than earlier versions, which had drawn distinctions that meant some Roman Catholic schools were exempt and others were not. In this case, several religious entities and the Trump administration are appealing a nationwide injunction that blocks the religious exemptions.

McGirt v. Oklahoma (No. 18-9526): In this case, the justices will again hear arguments about whether nearly half the state of Oklahoma is still an American Indian reservation, with implications for taxation, education, and criminal justice. The court heard arguments in a similar case last term, but did not reach a decision. The speculation is that with Justice Neil M. Gorsuch recused from that case, Carpenter v. Murphy, the other eight justices may have deadlocked.

The justices are reviewing an Oklahoma state court ruling in a criminal case that rejected the idea that under Supreme Court precedent some 3 million acres in eastern Oklahoma—including the city of Tulsa—are currently an Indian reservation of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, based on 1866 territorial boundaries of the tribe. Briefs filed in the case argue that a ruling that much of Oklahoma was still “Indian country” would disrupt public education and other government services as they are currently provide in the state.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Education California Requires Free Menstrual Products in Public Schools
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons, and other items.
1 min read
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Education Florida to Dock School District Salaries for Requiring Masks
Florida is set to dock salaries and withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates.
2 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Education More Than 120,000 U.S. Kids Had Caregivers Die During Pandemic
The toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans, a new study suggests.
3 min read
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 file photo, a funeral director arranges flowers on a casket before a service in Tampa, Fla. According to a study published Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, by the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be larger than previously estimated, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)