The Associated Press, June 27, 1998
Supreme Court Clears Up Harassment Involing Employees; Does Opposite for Schoolchildren
By Richard Carelli, AP Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court's 1997-98 term provided important road maps for navigating the legal landscape of sexual harassment on the job and in school. There was good news for workers, but the court laid out a daunting trek for families of students victimized by teacher misconduct.
``There's a dichotomy. The court has given employers incentives to be aggressive in combating sexual harassment in the workplace but also has given school officials incentives to put their heads in the sand when it comes to students being sexually harassed and abused by teachers,'' said Marcia Greenberger of the National Women's Law Center.
Interpreting the federal law that bans discrimination in employment, the court made employers easier targets for lawsuits, even if they were unaware of the sexual harassment. The court also ruled that such misconduct can be illegal even if the harasser and the victim are of the same sex.
The justices interpreted a separate federal law, banning sex discrimination in education, to shield school districts from responsibility when teachers harass students unless administrators knew and did nothing about it.
The grouping of that many — four — decisions on sexual harassment in one October-to-June court term was extraordinary. Previously, the justices had issued only three rulings on the relatively new and still-evolving subject.