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Gebser V. Lago Vista Independent School District

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Dylan Civale

on 1 October 2013

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Transcript of Gebser V. Lago Vista Independent School District

Gebser V. Lago Vista Independent School District
Supreme Court of the United States
524 U.S. 274, 118 S. Ct. 1989, 141 L.Ed. 2d 277
Decided June 22, 1998

Alida Starr Gebser
attended 8th-9th grade school year at Lago Vista Independent School District
Was part of Waldrop’s book discussion group in 8th grade
Assigned to two of Waldrop’s classes in 9th grade
relationship with Waldrop from 1991-1993

Frank Waldrop
high school teacher / book discussion group leader
inappropriate, sexually suggestive comments in class
sexual relationship with Gebser for two years
did not report relationship to school officials
caught having sexual intercourse with Gebser and was arrested
Employment with Lago Vista District was terminated
Texas Education Agency revoked teaching license

District Ruling
United States District Court ruled in favor of Lago Vista.
Court reasoned "the statue was enacted to counter policies of discrimination in federally funded education programs." and "only if administrators have type of notice of the gender discrimination and fail to respond in good faith can the determination and fail to respond in good faith can the discrimination be interpreted as a policy of the school district."
Parents complaints were the first on Waldrop.
Evidence was inadequate to raise genuine interest whether the school had actual or constructive knowledge that Waldrop was involved in sexual relationships with a student.
State Ruling
United States District Court ruled in favor of Lago Vista.
The court concluded its analysis by reaffirming its holding in Rosa H. that, "school districts are not liable in tort for teacher-student sexual harassment under Title IX unless an employee who has been invested by the school board with supervisory power over the offending employee actually knew of the abuse, had the power to end the abuse, and failed to do so," and ruling that petitioners could not satisfy that standard.

Future Implications
Although O'Connor has denied such implication, the Gebser decision removes vicarious liability of a school district for its teachers' behavior. The Court has created a veritable "smoking gun" requirement for harassment suits, forcing the victim to prove that the school district knew of the teacher's actions and consciously ignored them. This places a heavy burden upon the victim, especially when faced with a district who may have been sympathetic to the student's concerns, yet refused action upon them.

Furthermore, the Court appears to have a complete disregard for the emotional and psychological characteristics of sexual harassment. The dynamics of harassment often involve an aggressor who holds a position of power over the victim, which is especially intensified in a student-teacher relationship. A student victim may rely upon the teacher as a model of right and wrong and doubt her own reaction to the situation. This Court, though, refuses to recognize the specialness of teacher-student sexual harassment, or else it would not have constructed a standard that places on the shoulders of children the duty to enforce the words of adults.

Because the Gebsers filed under the Title IX discrimination law, their claim was denied. Future cases involving Title VII sexual harassment law, between a teacher and student were now asked to consider the Gebser case when situations like this occurred in the future.
Facts of the Case
Waldrop began directing more of the comments towards Gebser. Gebser began spending more time alone in his classroom.
He initiated sexual contact in the Spring
He visited her house to drop off book
The two had sexual intercourse a number of occasions throught the school year.
Relationship continued throughout the summer and following year often times engaging in sex during class time but never on school property. Waldrop never reported any relationship to administration.
Gebser and her mother filed suit against Lago Vista and Waldrop raising claims against the school district for title IX and state negligence law.
Claims against Waldrop under state law.
They sought compensatory and punitive damages for both defendants.
Appeals Ruling
Title IX claim only / looking for monetary compensation
Affirmed District ruling based upon two recent decisions

#1. Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools

#2. Rosa H. v. San Elizaro and Canutillo School Districts v. Leija
Full transcript