NH Supreme Court
Three students were abused by teachers at the school. There were several questions that went before the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The court found that schools share a special relationship with enrolled students and this imposes duties of reasonable supervision. Additionally, school districts have a duty not to hire or retain employees that it knows or should have known to have abused students.
Plymouth State College was held liable for failing to respond to a student's complaint of sexual harassment by a university professor. Despite the fact that several faculty members were told of the harassment, it was not immediately addressed until after the student graduated and other allegations surfaced. The court held that the college had a fiduciary duty to create an environment for all students to pursue an education free from sexual harassment.
U.S. District Court New Hampshire
Doe v. Oyster River Cooperative School District, 992 F.Supp. 467 (D.N.H.1997)
Two girls complained of sexual harassment by a male classmate on several occasions. The guidance counselor warned the students not to mention the harassment to others as it might bring on lawsuits to the district. The court found the school did not respond to the harassment complaints in a timely manner and did not take remedial steps to end the harassment. However, the girls could not seek punitive damages from the school district because the school's response was not so egregious that punitive damages would be permitted.
Doe v. Londonderry School District, 970 F. Supp. 64 (D.N.H 1997)
A girl was harassed by three male classmates. The school district did not have a formal Title IX policy and procedure, a Title IX Coordinator, or a Title IX grievance procedure. The court found that a school district's failure to end peer-to-peer sexual harassment is actionable under Title IX if the plaintiff can show the following:
Requirement for liability of school district under Title IX for failure to curtail peer sexual harassment, that violation was "intentional," means that district must have intended to create hostile educational environment for plaintiff.
1) plaintiff was a student in an educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance within the coverage of Title IX;
2) plaintiff was subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment while a participant in the program;
3) the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive that it altered the conditions of the plaintiff's education and created a hostile or abusive educational environment;
4) and the school district knew of the harassment and intentionally failed to take proper remedial action.
Snelling and Snelling v. Fall Mountain Regional School District, et al., No. CIV. 99-448-JD (D.N.H. March 21, 2001 )
Two brothers brought a lawsuit against the school district and various individuals for the sexual harassment the boys experienced in high school. Although the boys complained to the principal and the superintendent, the harassment continued to persist. The court held that the school district had notice of the harassment and that the harassment rose to the level of being sufficiently severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive to be actionable under Title IX. Additionally, the court held that harassment based on sex-based stereotypes of masculinity is also actionable under Title IX.
U.S. Supreme Court
The Court held that Title IX does provide for a private right of action against a school district and therefore, schools may be liable for money damages for peer (student-to-student) sexual harassment.
In cases where teachers or other educational staff sexually harassed students, the Supreme Court limited the availability of money damages by requiring plaintiffs to prove that the school administrators with authority to take corrective action had prior knowledge of the harassment and acted with "deliberate indifference" in addressing the issue.