Civil Rights – Equal protection – schools
Where a school district promptly acted when it became aware of ethnic and sexual harassment of a student, the district is not liable.
“Although Doe’s classmates’ actions were inexcusable, the undisputed evidence shows that the defendants are not legally responsible for those actions. Keeping in mind how thoughtless and even cruel children can be to one another, the Supreme Court has interpreted both Title VI and Title IX to impose a demanding standard for holding schools and school officials legally responsible for one student’s mistreatment of another. School officials must have had ‘actual knowledge’ of harassment ‘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.’ Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, 526 U.S. 629, 650 (1999). To have actual knowledge of an incident, school officials must have witnessed it or received a report of it. Gabrielle M. v. Park Forest-Chicago Heights, Illinois School Dist. 163, 315 F.3d 817, 823–24 (7th Cir. 2003). To impose liability, school officials’ response to known harassment also must have been ‘clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances.’ Davis, 526 U.S. at 648.”
“In this case—even assuming Doe’s harassers were motivated by her sex or ethnicity—once the defendants gained actual notice of behavior that could qualify as severe and pervasive, they took action against the wrongdoers that fell well within their broad discretion. In other words, the defendants were not deliberately indifferent to the harassment of Doe. That conclusion also defeats Doe’s equal protection claim.”
13-2551 Doe v. Galster
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Gorence, Mag. J., Hamilton, J.