Thomas A. Mayes


Sexual harassment, education


Student-on-student sexual harassment has been the subject of significant scholarly commentary and numerous court battles. In light of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, which held that in certain cases students have a cause of action under Title IX against schools for peer sexual harassment, many schools have been advised to consider responses to and ways to prevent student-on-student sexual harassment. When considering corrective and preventative approaches to peer sexual harassment in the schools, educators and policy makers should strongly consider addressing same-sex harassment. Prior to its decision in Davis, a unanimous United States Supreme Court, in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., held that same-sex harassment in the workplace may be actionable under Title VII. Given the judiciary's frequent reliance on Title VII standards in Title IX cases, at least when considering what type of conduct is actionable, Oncale, when read together with Davis, signals the opening of a new avenue for students seeking relief for same-sex peer harassment. This article hopes to offer some insight for educators and policy makers developing responses to same-sex peer harassment. First, it more fully explains the Supreme Court's decisions in Davis and Oncale and their importance to educators. Second, it briefly summarizes recent scholarship concerning the effects of a homophobic school climate on students. Finally, it offers some basic guidance for practice and policy formation.

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Education Law Commons



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