Doe v. University of Illinois

Jane Doe attended University High School in Urbana, Illinois. Although University High was a public school, it was affiliated with the University of Illinois, which had the responsibility for overseeing the school’s administration. From January 1993 through May 1994, while a student at University High, Jane was a victim of an ongoing campaign of verbal and physical 13 perpetrated by a group of male students at the school. Doe and her parents complained on numerous occasions to officials of both the high school and the University of Illinois. The school officials suspended a few of the students and transferred one out of Doe’s biology class, but did nothing else to prevent further instances. Some administrators even suggested that it was Doe’s fault. In 1995, Doe and her parents filed suit against the University of Illinois and other individual officials of University High and the University of Illinois, alleging a violation of, among other things, Title IX. The United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois dismissed Doe’s Title IX claim. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit remanded the case, holding that Jane Doe alleged a valid claim under Title IX, and that a Title IX recipient may be held liable for its failure to take prompt, appropriate action in response to student-on-student 13, as was the case here. The court reasoned that Title IX prohibits discriminatory government conduct on the basis of sex when it occurs in the context of State-run, federally funded educational programs and institutions. In particular, Title IX provides that no person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. Prior to this case, it was well settled that 13 of a student in a federally funded educational program or activity, if it is perpetrated by a teacher or other employee of the funding recipient, can render the recipient liable for damages under Title IX. What was less clear was whether a school can be liable for failing to take prompt, appropriate action to remedy known 13 of one student by other students. Although inconsistent with three other circuits, the court ultimately held that a Title IX fund recipient may be held liable for its failure to take prompt, appropriate action in response to student-on-student 13 that takes place while students are involved in school activities or otherwise under the supervision of school employees, provided the recipient’s responsible officials actually knew that the harassment was taking place. The failure to promptly take appropriate steps in response to known 13 is itself intentional discrimination on the basis of sex. Since Jane Doe alleged such a failure, she properly alleged the sort of intentional discrimination against which Title IX protects. Doe’s case was then remanded to the district court for further proceedings consistent with the court’s opinion.



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