Failed Cheerleader Does Not Make Squad, Sues

Thanks to Aaron Weems of Fox Rothschild's litigation (family law) division for noticing this item detailed in the Dallas Observer's blog. In truth, even though it is from the 5th Circuit, it is quite a good discussion of foundational requirements to prove student on student Sexual Harassment in school.  The cases it cites are almost exclusively from the U.S. Supreme Court rather than 5th Circuit matters.

So what was the case about? To quote Circuit Judge Smith:

[r]educed to its essentials, this is nothing more than a dispute, fueled by a disgruntled cheerleader mom, over whether her daughter should have made the squad. It is a petty squabble, masquerading as a civil rights matter, that has no place in federal court or any other court.

Hear, hear! You tell them Judge Smith!

The case, Sanches v. Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, can be read in full here.

Title IX: pay for better girls sports or pay their attorneys

Out of California comes a cautionary tale about fighting lawsuits and gender equity.  According to this article in the San Diego Times, the now cash-strapped school district is having troubles paying the girls' attorneys' fees. 

Many of the familiar federal mandate and remedial laws, including Title IX (as well as Title VI, IDEA, Section 504 and others) provide for fee shifting.  That is, if the school losses some part of the case, the plaintiffs are entitled to a "prevailing party" attorney fee.  Often, the plaintiffs only need to prevail on some part of their claims, not all claims, in order to recoup attorney fees.  This risk is one that schools need to consider when assessing their litigation strategies and choices.

So the bad news for the school district is that it not only is paying for a new softball field (which in fairness is something that likely should have been done before), but also the attorneys.  The good news is that the girls are reported to be thrilled with their new field. 

TItle IX, gender discrimination, and money damages

The question of money damages under various anti-discrimination / inclusion education statutes seems to be a hot subject recently. The recent en banc Third Circuit Court decision in A.W. v. The Jersey City Public Schools, 341 F.3d 234 (3d Cir. 2007), discussed in another entry, ruled that there is no cause of action under Section 1983 for money damages based on a violation of IDEA and or Section 504.  

A recent federal district court case from Puerto Rico, Frechel Rodriguez v. Puerto Rico Dept. of Educ., 478 F. Supp. 2d 191 (D. Puerto Rico 2007) (unfortunately, I have not found a public domain copy), reached a similar outcome in a Title IX-based claim of gender discrimination. Specifically, the issue was whether a plaintiff has a right of action under § 1983 to redress violations of Title IX.  According to the case, the Sixth and Eighth Circuits have held such a right exists, but the Second, Third, and Seventh Circuits have ruled such a § 1983 claim is barred under the Sea Clammers doctrine announced in Middlesex County Sewerage Authority v. National Sea Clammers Association, 453 U.S. 1 (1981).  The Frechel Rodriguez decision dismissed the Title IX-based § 1983 claims.

So what does this trial court case from Puerto Rico mean for us? 

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