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Gebser v. Lago Vista Indep. Sch. Dist.

Supreme Court of the United States

March 25, 1998, Argued ; June 22, 1998, Decided

No. 96-1866

Opinion

 [*277]  [***283]  [**1993]    JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

 The question in this case is when a school district may be held liable  [***284]  in damages in an implied right of action under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 86 Stat. 373, as amended, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. (Title IX), for the sexual harassment of a student by one of the district's teachers. We conclude that damages may not be recovered in those circumstances unless an official of the school district who at a minimum has authority to institute corrective measures on the district's behalf has actual notice of, and is deliberately indifferent to, the teacher's misconduct.

In the spring of 1991, when petitioner [****8]  Alida Star Gebser was an eighth-grade student at a middle school in respondent Lago Vista Independent School District (Lago Vista), she joined a high school book discussion group led by Frank Waldrop, a teacher at Lago Vista's high school. Lago Vista received federal funds at all pertinent times. During the book discussion sessions, Waldrop often made sexually suggestive comments to the students. Gebser entered high school in the fall and was assigned to classes taught by Waldrop in both semesters. Waldrop continued to make inappropriate [*278]  remarks to the students, and he began to direct more of his suggestive comments toward Gebser, including during the substantial amount of time that the two were alone in his classroom. He initiated sexual contact with Gebser in the spring, when, while visiting her home ostensibly to give her a book, he kissed and fondled her. The two had sexual intercourse on a number of occasions during the remainder of the school year. Their relationship continued through the summer and into the following school year, and they often had intercourse during class time, although never on school property.

 Gebser did not report the relationship to school officials,  [****9]  testifying that while she realized Waldrop's conduct was improper, she was uncertain how to react and she wanted to continue having him as a teacher. In October 1992, the parents of two other students complained to the high school principal about Waldrop's comments in class. The principal arranged a meeting, at which, according to the principal, Waldrop indicated that he did not believe he had made offensive remarks but apologized to the parents and said it would not happen again. The principal also advised Waldrop to be careful about his classroom comments and told the school guidance counselor about the meeting, but he did not report the parents' complaint to Lago Vista's superintendent, who was the district's Title IX coordinator. A couple of months later, in January 1993, a police officer discovered Waldrop and Gebser engaging in sexual intercourse and arrested Waldrop. Lago Vista terminated his employment, and subsequently, the Texas Education Agency revoked his teaching license. During this time, the district had not promulgated or distributed an official grievance procedure for lodging sexual harassment complaints; nor had it issued a formal anti-harassment policy.

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524 U.S. 274 *; 118 S. Ct. 1989 **; 141 L. Ed. 2d 277 ***; 1998 U.S. LEXIS 4173 ****; 66 U.S.L.W. 4501; 98 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4745; 98 Daily Journal DAR 6719; 158 A.L.R. Fed. 751; 1998 Colo. J. C.A.R. 3181; 11 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 645

ALIDA STAR GEBSER AND ALIDA JEAN MCCULLOUGH, PETITIONERS v. LAGO VISTA INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT

Prior History:  [****1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT.

Disposition: 106 F.3d 1223, affirmed.

CORE TERMS

damages, school district, teacher, recipient, sexual harassment, harassment, funding, sexual, basis of sex, compliance, cases, damages remedy, actual notice, federal funds, discriminate, Rights, notice, constructive notice, regulations, principles, private right of action, federal funding, misconduct, terminate, Schools, corrective measures, grievance procedure, monetary damages, cause of action, comparable

Education Law, Gender & Sex Discrimination, Title IX, Protected Individuals, Scope of Title IX, Business & Corporate Compliance, Title VII Discrimination, Scope & Definitions, Employers, Labor & Employment Law, Employment Relationships, At Will Employment, Definition of Employers, Discrimination, Racial Discrimination, Scope & Definitions, Civil Procedure, Remedies, Damages, Monetary Damages, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Implied Causes of Action, Enforcement of Title IX, General Overview, Remedies, Proof of Discrimination, Discrimination in Schools, Sexual Harassment, Student Discipline, Misconduct, Sexual Misconduct, Appeals, Standards of Review, Federally Assisted Programs, Federal Assistance, Constitutional Law, Congressional Duties & Powers, Spending & Taxation, EEOC & State Actions