Press Release on Issue Brief by YLC Board Member

January 28, 2008

Restoring Effective Protections for Students Against Sexual Harassment in Schools: Moving Beyond the Gebser and Davis Standards

ACS is pleased to distribute an issue brief by Fatima Goss Graves, Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, entitled, Restoring Effective Protections for Students Against Sexual Harassment in Schools: Moving Beyond the Gebser and Davis Standards. In this issue brief, Goss Graves notes the prevalence of sexual harassment in the schools, and explains that the Supreme Court has established legal standards in two cases that impose crippling burdens on students who attempt to recover damages under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for harassment suffered at the hands of their teachers or fellow students – Gebser v. Lago Vista Ind. Sch. Dist and Davis v. Monroe County Bd of Educ. Goss Graves points out that although students often are more vulnerable to harassment than adults, under Gebser and Davis it is harder for students to prevail in Title IX sexual harassment cases than it is for employees to recover for sexual harassment in the workplace. She then identifies two avenues for reform. First, she urges enactment of The Civil Rights Act of 2008, introduced last week in Congress. This legislation, which addresses a number of Supreme Court decisions that undermine the civil rights laws, will remove the inequities created by Gebser and Davis and provide meaningful incentives for schools to prevent sexual harassment and address it when it occurs. Second, Goss Graves argues that a recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision provides a model for applying state anti-discrimination laws to improve student protections against discrimination. She concludes that both a federal legislative fix and state approaches like New Jersey’s hold promise for addressing this pervasive problem.

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) is one of the nation’s leading progressive legal organizations. Founded in 2001, ACS is a rapidly growing network of lawyers, law students, scholars, judges, policymakers and other concerned individuals. Our mission is to ensure that fundamental principles of human dignity, individual rights and liberties, genuine equality, and access to justice enjoy their rightful, central place in American law. For more information about the organization, which has established student chapters at over 157 law schools around the country and lawyer chapters in over 25 cities, www.ACSLaw.org.

The views of the authors are their own and should not be attributed to ACS. This issue brief is available online at http://www.acslaw.org/node/6068.

Fatima Goss Graves is a Youth Law Center Board Member