United States Supreme Court Allows Parents to Sue School District Over Sexual Harassment of Their Daughter
The Fitzgeralds of Cape Cod filed a lawsuit, based on sexual harassment, against the Barnstable School Committee and former school Supt. Russell Dever in 2002 under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, which provides protections under the 14th Amendment's equal protections clause, and the 1972 law known as Title IX, a federal law requiring gender equality in schools. The Fitzgeralds alleged their 5-year-old daughter was sexually harassed by an older student on the school bus for a period of six months--which constitutes school sexual harassment. Additionally, they accused school officials of discriminating against their daughter in the schools response to the alleged incidents.
The United States Supreme Court ruling allows the case to proceed. The Court's decision does not address the facts of the underlying sexual harassment case, only that filing such cases under the Civil Rights Act of 1871 is valid.
According to Stacy Gallagher, director of Children's Cove, a Barnstable-based advocacy center for abused children
"The general feeling is that it doesn't happen in schools and it certainly does, It happens everywhere."
As reported in the Cape Cod Times, Fitzgerald said his daughter, now a middle school student, is relieved after the Supreme Court ruling. "She's extremely happy that there is a court that stood up for her position and affirmed it and affirmed it unanimously."