Title IX Applies to Private SchoolsOctober 12, 2010
Caitlin Russo, a student at Greensburg Central Catholic High School in Pennsylvania, was being harassed by a teacher. She complained to the school’s administrators, but they ignored her and suggested she was out to ruin the teacher’s reputation. She also complained to the Diocese of Greensburg, which runs the high school, but they also ignored her. So Russo sued the school and the diocese for violating her rights under Title IX, the law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding.
Though the law has been famously exercised to enforce equal access to sports participation, Title IX doesn’t only apply to student athletics. The law prohibits gender discrimination in all educational activities, covering everything from sexual harassment to opportunities in math and science.
In court, the school’s lawyers disputed Russo’s claims to Title IX protection, arguing that the private, parochial high school and other schools run by the diocese were not bound by Title IX because they did not receive any federal funding.
However, the U.S. District Court disagreed. In a September 15 decision, the court ruled that the private high school must comply with Title IX because another school within the diocese took federal subsidies for a school lunch program. The decision set a precedent that if a private school accepts federal money, Title IX applies to that school and all other schools within the same organization.
This is a victory for women’s educational rights that will lay the groundwork for future enforcement in private schools. This decision should remind all schools that receive any federal funding that their students are protected under Title IX. If students attending those schools believe their rights have been violated, they have protection under the law.