A case out of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal offers a great example of when locker room horseplay can escalate to the point of a serious sexual assault and result in liability for the school district. In Mathis v. Wayne County Board of Education, 2012 WL 3608598 (6th Cir. 2012), two members of the middle school basketball team sued the school district and a number of district officials, claiming deliberate indifference to harassment by their peers in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The two boys were seventh graders who were targeted by their eighth-grade teammates. Over the course of the year, the incidents escalated to the point that one of the boys was penetrated anally by a marker.
The jury returned verdicts in favor of the boys, awarding them each $100,000. Naturally, the district appealed, arguing that the harassment stopped after the district learned of the incidents and took action to discipline the perpetrators and suspend them from the basketball team, among other things. The appeals court, however, characterized the district’s response as “too little too late.” Apparently, although the district responded to the harassment allegations, the jury found it to be insufficient and rose to the level of deliberate indifference. The 6th Circuit upheld the jury verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs. To read this 6th Circuit opinion, click here.Share the news.