Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
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2008: Fitzgerald v. Barnstable
Does Title IX preempts additional, constitutional claims in sexual harassment cases?

Fitzgerald v. Barnstable

Oral Arguments: December 2nd, 2008

Question: Does Title IX preempts additional, constitutional claims in sexual harassment cases?

Background: The case was brought by the parents of Jacqueline Fitzgerald, a kindergartener who was repeatedly harassed by an older boy on the bus on the way to her public school.  When the school failed to sufficiently address the problem, Jacqueline's parents filed suit in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, alleging violations of Title IX, the U.S. Constitution, and Massachusetts state law.  The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit declined to consider the family's constitutional claims, reversing the lower court's decision to do so, on the grounds that Title IX preempts additional, constitutional claims.  Since Courts of Appeals have issued conflicting rulings on this question, the Supreme Court has agreed to consider this case and make an authoritative statement whether individuals who are experiencing sexual harassment can only file suit under Title IX or whether they can also claim constitutional protection. The ability to file constitutional claims would allow victims more choices for remedies, such as the ability to bring suit against an individual (Title IX only allows for suits against a school). 

Amicus Brief: The URJ signed onto a brief, submitted by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Women’s Law Center, in support of the petitioner, emphasizing that Congress intended Title IX to provide further protection for women experiencing discrimination based on their sex, not limit the protections that were already in place.

To read an entry on the RAC blog about this case, click here.

For the Reform Movement’s resolution on sexual harassment, click here.

For a complete listing of cases that the Supreme Court is considering this term, visit the SCOTUSBlog 2008 Case Index.

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