Mar. 30, 2005 – In a vote of five to four, the US Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a 1972 law prohibiting gender discrimination at schools does protect the rights of whistleblowers who experience retaliation for reporting discriminatory conduct. This decision essentially widens the scope of the law, known as Title IX, which states that "no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."
The judgment came in response to the case Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education, in which Roderick Jackson alleged that in May 2001 he was removed as the girlsâ€™ basketball coach at Ensley High School in Alabama because he complained to his superiors that his team was not receiving the same funding or treatment as the boysâ€™ team.
The Supreme Court decision reverses earlier rulings by the lower courts, which all agreed that a whistleblower who has not been the direct recipient of sex discrimination is not protected by Title IX.
According to the Supreme Courtâ€™s majority opinion, written by Justice Sandra Day Oâ€™Connor, "We conclude that when a funding recipient retaliates against a person because he complains of sex discrimination, this constitutes intentional â€˜discriminationâ€™ â€˜on the basis of sex,â€™ in violation of Title IX." Oâ€™Connor also wrote that "without protection from retaliation, individuals who witness discrimination would likely not report it, indifference claims would be short-circuited, and the underlying discrimination would go unremedied."