Fitzgerald v. Barnstable Sch. Committee


The Fitzgeralds’ daughter was a kindergarten student in the Barnstable, Massachusetts school system who rode the bus to school. She informed her parents that a third grade boy bullied her into lifting up her skirt. The parents met with principal and a school investigator who could not substantiate the claims. No action was taken. Later, the girl reported escalating harassment to her parents. The parents once again met with the principal but, again, the school could not substantiate and no action was taken. The parents sued under Title IX, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, & state law, alleging the school inadequately responded to allegations of harassment.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted review to resolve a split in the circuits over whether Title IX precludes use of § 1983 to redress unconstitutional gender discrimination in schools.


Title IX does not preclude section 1983 action alleging unconstitutional gender discrimination in schools. Because Title IX does not include a comprehensive remedial scheme, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that it was not meant to be an exclusive mechanism for addressing gender discrimination in schools or a substitute for § 1983 suits as a means of enforcing constitutional rights.