A principal of a local high school gives a boy a warning and after-school detention for leaving a sexually inappropriate note in a girl’s locker and for “accidentally” bumping into her in the hall. The girl’s mother is furious: why not expulsion? The boy’s mother is also furious: why detention? Two weeks later, the boy engages in more unwelcome behavior. Disciplinary measures are increased, but the girl remains uncomfortable. The mother files a claim for damages under a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination by schools and colleges that receive federal financial aid. Did the principal violate the law? The answer to this question will depend on how courts interpret and apply the Supreme Court’s most recent ruling on sexual harassment in the schools. On May 24, by a vote of 5-4, the court held that students harassed by fellow students may sue schools for money damages under Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments.
The plaintiff in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, No. 97-843, alleged that a fifth-grade boy taunted and touched her over a five-month period and that three teachers and the principal allegedly failed to assist her. Justice Sandra Day
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