Subj: ALERT! NEW U.S. SUPREME COURT
Date: 5/25/99 8:34:01 AM Pacific Daylight Time
ALERT! U. S. SUPREME COURT SAYS SCHOOLS MAY BE LIABLE FOR SEXUAL HARASSMENT
On May 24, 1999, the U. S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Davis v. Monroe Board of Education.
In Davis, the Justices grappled with sexual harassment by peers. In the split 5-4 decision, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote the decision for the majority. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the dissent.
The Washington Post reported that Justice Kennedy "broke tradition by reading portions of his dissenting opinion from the court's mahogany bench."
"The majority seems oblivious to the fact that almost every child, at some point, has trouble in school because he or she is being teased by his or her peers," he wrote. "After today, Johnny will find that the routine problems of adolescence are to be resolved by invoking a federal
right to demand assignment to a desk two rows away."
The court ruled that schools that receive federal funds can be liable when they know about and are "deliberately indifferent" to sexual harassment. The misconduct must be "so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive the victims of access to the
educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school.''
Although the Davis case is about money damages (not special education), the key words "severe," "pervasive," deprivation of "access to education " will probably become the standard in Section 504 special education "damages" cases.
This new Supreme Court decision is in the Wrightslaw Law Library at