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Supreme Court Backs Broad Reading of Title IX

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that Title IX does not bar victims of sex discrimination in schools from pursuing claims under an older federal civil rights law.

The decision in Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee (Case No. 07-1125) is a victory for parents of a Massachusetts student who as a kindergartner was subject to sexual harassment by an older student on her bus.

The parents can now pursue claims under the federal statute known as Section 1983, a Reconstruction-era law that allows plaintiffs to sue any individual who violates their civil rights under color of law. In some cases, the statute may offer wider protections than Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bars sex discrimination in federally funded education programs.

"We conclude that Title IX was not meant to be an exclusive mechanism for addressing gender discrimination in schools, or as a substitute for Section 1983 suits as a means of enforcing constitutional rights," Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote for the court today.

My coverage of the oral arguments in this case is here. I'll have more on this decision later on Education Week's Web site, and I'll provide a link here.

Update: My fuller story on edweek.org is now available here.

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