Doe v. School Board of Broward County, Florida

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court case of Fitzgerald v. Barnstable  School Committee, et.al., 200 U.S. 321 (2009), allowing Section 1983 claims against  high ranking school officials for violations of Title IX of the  Education Amendments of 1972, the Eleventh Circuit has clarified, at least in certain circumstances, when a high ranking official, such as a high school principal, can be sued  in their individual capacity under Section 1983.

In Doe v. School Board of Broward County, Florida, 2010 WL 1655918 (C.A.11 Fla.), the Eleventh Circuit  held  that supervisory officials are not liable under §1983 for the unconstitutional acts of their subordinates unless the supervisor personally participates in the alleged constitutional violation  or there is a causal connection between actions of the supervising official and the alleged constitutional deprivation. Id. at *17.

Causal connection can be established in the following instances:

(1) when a “history of widespread abuse puts the responsible supervisor on notice of the need to correct the alleged deprivation, and s/he fails to do so” or

(2) when a supervisor’s “improper custom or policy results in deliberate indifference to constitutional rights.” Id. at *17.

 

The Court goes on to note that the actions or omissions of  high ranking officials may be sufficient to create liability under Title IX , but may not be sufficient to create liability under Section 1983.

 

Practice Pointer: The practitioner should go through a qualified immunity analysis to determine if a 1983 suit should be brought against a school official in addition to any Title IX claim against the school district.

 

This is intended as a general overview of recent developments in Title IX jurisprudence and not for any specific legal advice. If you think you have a Title IX claim you should consult with a qualified attorney to discuss your potential claims further.