Court Case: Roderick Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education

Case Adopted 02/05

Case Update 03/05:
On March 29, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Jackson, holding that individuals who complain about sex discrimination have a private right of action for retaliation under Title IX.

Case History

Roderick Jackson, a public school teacher and coach at Ensley High School in Birmingham, Alabama, sued the Birmingham Board of Education under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, alleging that he was retaliated against for protesting sex discrimination against his girls’ basketball team.

The Birmingham Board of Education hired Roderick Jackson in August 1993 to serve as a physical education teacher and coach. Jackson began working at Ensley High School in August 1999 where his duties included coaching the girls’ basketball team. He discovered that the girls’ team did not receive equal treatment and began to complain about the inequities. Specifically, he alleged that the girls’ basketball team did not receive equal funding and access to facilities and equipment, in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Jackson complained about these violations beginning with his supervisor and working his way up through the school district’s chain of command. Subsequently, he received negative work evaluations and his job as a coach was terminated in May 2001.

In June 2001, Jackson filed a lawsuit alleging retaliation under Title IX. The District Court for the Northern District of Alabama dismissed Jackson’s complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The dismissal was affirmed and rehearing en banc denied by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In dismissing the lawsuit, the 11th Circuit relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in Alexander v. Sandoval. In Sandoval, the Supreme Court held that individuals may not vindicate their rights in court under Title VI if those rights stem from regulations that go beyond the language of the statute. Applying this decision to Jackson’s Title IX case, the 11th Circuit held that because retaliation is mentioned in the Title IX regulations, but not in the language of the statute itself, Jackson has no right to sue in court for retaliation under Title IX.

The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in June 2004 and heard oral arguments in the case on November 30, 2004. The issue presented to the Supreme Court was whether Jackson has a private right of action under Title IX to challenge the retaliation against him. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief in support of Jackson; LAF joined a separate amicus brief in support of his case.

Key Issues

Retaliation for complaining about sex discrimination in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.