ACLU Urges Supreme Court to Protect Whistle-Blowers Who Report Sex Discrimination in Schools

November 30, 2004 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


WASHINGTON–The Supreme Court today heard opening arguments in a case that will determine whether people who report sex discrimination in public schools or other federally-funded programs are protected against retaliation under a federal anti-discrimination law.

“Retaliation thoroughly and directly undermines the effectiveness of anti-discrimination laws,” said Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “You cannot tell a teacher or student that she has the right to be free of discrimination, and then turn around and say that any complaint about such discrimination may likely result in punishment.”

The ACLU submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case on behalf of Roderick Jackson, a 39-year-old physical education teacher at a Birmingham, Alabama high school who lost his position as coach of the girls’ basketball team after he complained to school officials that his team did not get equal treatment with the boys. Jackson sued the Birmingham Board of Education over his lost job, stating that he had been fired because he spoke up about the discrimination. A district court judge ruled that Jackson was not protected against retaliation under Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally-funded education programs. The U.S. Court of Appeal for the Eleventh Circuit upheld that decision.

In its brief, the ACLU states that both Congress and the Supreme Court have repeatedly recognized that effective civil rights enforcement demands protection for those who report civil rights violations. The brief calls the previous rulings in Jackson’s case unprecedented and urges the Court to reverse the decision of the Eleventh Circuit.

“If retaliation against whistle-blowers is not banned, then anti-discrimination laws that protect women and others are severely weakened,” said Lenora M. Lapidus, Director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “It sends a very negative message to young people, particularly young women, when they see their teachers being punished for speaking out against gender bias and discriminatory conduct.”

The ACLU filed its brief as part of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a coalition of more than 180 national organizations committed to the protection of civil and human rights in the United States.

For more information on Jackson v. City of Birmingham and to obtain a copy of the ACLU brief, go to: /cpredirect/18249.

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.