Third Circuit Addresses Title IX Liability

By: Adria Lynn Silva on February 14, 2022


In a Title IX matter, the Third Circuit weighed in on whether a federal funding recipient, like a university, could be held liable for the acts of a third party. Hall v. Millersville University, 22 F.4th 397 (2022).

In Hall, the parents of a student who was murdered by her boyfriend sued the daughter’s university under Title IX. The case was initially dismissed on summary judgment. The distinct court held the university could not be held liable for the actions of a non student. The Third Circuit disagreed and stated the real issue was whether the university had notice of the potentially harassing behavior. Id.

The Third Circuit went on to hold that for a university,

to act with deliberate indifference to known sexual harassment where the recipient exercises substantial control over the context in which the harassment occurs

Even if the harasser is a third party. Id.

Specifically, the Third Circuit rejected the University’s argument that it could not discipline the boyfriend who was not a student.

“Whether Millersville had control over [the boyfriend] is not a limited inquiry into Millersville’s formal disciplinary authority, but a broader examination of the degree of control Millersville had over him and its ability to ‘take remedial action’.”

Id. (citing Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Ed., 526 U.S.629. 644 (1989)).