Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee- Supreme Court Allows Second Avenue for School Sex Harassment Suit –


U.S.Supreme Court

Supreme Court Allows Second Avenue for School Sex Harassment Suit

Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee.

Posted 1 hour, 24 minutes ago  Jan 21, 2009
By Debra Cassens Weiss

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Title IX is not the exclusive remedy in school sex harassment suits.

The unanimous opinion said suits may also be filed under Section 1983, the broader civil rights law, the Associated Press reports. The court ruled today in a suit brought by parents of a girl who claims she was sexually harassed on the school bus when she was 5 years old.

Lisa and Robert Fitzgerald had claimed an 8-year-old boy on the bus would force their daughter to lift her dress and pull down her underwear. Rather than taking action against the boy, the school offered to put the girl on a different bus, the suit alleges.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote the opinion (PDF posted by SCOTUSblog). He said Title IX, enacted in 1972, was not intended to preclude a Section 1983 suit, partly because the protections offered by the two laws are different.

Alito noted that Section 1983 suits may be brought against individuals, but Title IX has been interpreted as not authorizing suits against individual school teachers and schools officials. Standards of liability also differ under the laws, and Title IX contains several exemptions, he said.

The case is Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee.