Supreme Court Ruling Strengthens Title IX, Protects Whistle-Blowers

The US Supreme Court ruled today that those who are the victims of retaliation for drawing attention to Title IX violations can sue under the 1972 federal law prohibiting sex discrimination at institutions receiving federal financial assistance for education programs and activities. The court ruled 5-4 in favor of Roderick Jackson, a basketball coach in Alabama who claims that he was fired for complaining that the girls’ basketball team was forced to use substandard facilities and equipment and was denied funding equal to that received by the boys’ basketball team. Jackson’s case was dismissed by lower federal courts, including the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that Title IX does not allow any specific right to sue over alleged retaliation, only over direct discrimination.

“Without protection from retaliation, individuals who witness discrimination would likely not report it, indifference claims would be short-circuited, and the underlying discrimination would go unremedied,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote for the majority opinion. O’Connor also stated that retaliation against someone who complained about sex discrimination amounted to intentional discrimination on the basis of sex, Reuters reports.

The Department of Justice filed a brief in support of Jackson last year. “Teachers and coaches are often in a much better position to identify sex discrimination and express opposition to it than are the students who are denied equal educational opportunities,” wrote US Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson in the brief.

The participation of girls in high school athletics has increased by 847 percent since Title IX took effect in 1972, and the participation of women in college sports has increased 400 percent.

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Supreme Court decision 3/29/05; Associated Press 3/29/05; Reuters 3/29/05; Bloomberg 3/29/05; Feminist Daily News Wire 6/14/04, 11/30/04

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