The US Supreme Court agreed today to hear a case involving a former girls' basketball coach who was allegedly fired after he complained that his team received less money and were forced to use worse facilities than comparable boys' teams. The issue before the Court is whether individuals who are penalized for attempting to ensure that schools do not discriminate against women and girls are eligible to sue under Title IX, the landmark 1972 federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs.
Roderick Jackson, formerly head coach of girls’ basketball at Ensley High School in Alabama, argues that the girls’ basketball team was forced to use substandard facilities and equipment and received less money and support from the school, in comparison with the boys’ basketball team. Jackson alleges that he was fired after submitting complaints about the problem.
Jackson’s case has been rejected by lower federal courts, including the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that Title IX does not allow any specific right to sue over alleged retaliation, according to the Associated Press. The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) has taken up the case for Jackson, arguing that Supreme Court precedent holds that other broadly worded anti-discriminatory laws allow suits over alleged retaliation, even when the laws do not expressly bar retaliation. Furthermore, “the strength of our civil rights laws hinges on the willingness of citizens to expose violations,” according to Marcia Greenberger, co-President of NWLC, in a written statement. If individuals cannot seek recourse when they are penalized for protesting sex discrimination, not only would that undermine the right to be free from such discrimination, but it would also increase the prevalence of discrimination, Greenberger continued.