Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Ed., 526 U.S. 629, 3 (1999)

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Cite as: 526 U. S. 629 (1999)


school context under Title IX, this Court is constrained to conclude that student-on-student sexual harassment, if sufficiently severe, can likewise rise to the level of "discrimination" actionable under the statute. The statute's other prohibitions help to give content to "discrimination" in this context. The statute not only protects students from discrimination but also shields them from being "excluded from participation in" or "denied the benefits of" a recipient's "education program or activity" on the basis of gender. 20 U. S. C. 1681(a). It is not necessary to show an overt, physical deprivation of access to school resources to make out a damages claim for sexual harassment under Title IX, but a plaintiff must show harassment that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victims' educational experience, that the victims are effectively denied equal access to an institution's resources and opportunities. Cf. Meritor Savings Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U. S. 57, 67. Whether gender-oriented conduct is harassment depends on a constellation of surrounding circumstances, expectations, and relationships, Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., 523 U. S. 75, 82, including, but not limited to, the harasser's and victim's ages and the number of persons involved. Courts must also bear in mind that schoolchildren may regularly interact in ways that would be unacceptable among adults. Moreover, that the discrimination must occur "under any education program or activity" suggests that the behavior must be serious enough to have the systemic effect of denying the victim equal access to an education program or activity. A single instance of severe one-on-one peer harassment could, in theory, be said to have such a systemic effect, but it is unlikely that Congress would have thought so. The fact that it was a teacher who engaged in harassment in Franklin and Gebser is relevant. Peer harassment is less likely to satisfy the requirements that the misconduct breach Title IX's guarantee of equal access to educational benefits and have a systemic effect on a program or activity. Pp. 649-653.

2. Applying this standard to the facts at issue, the Eleventh Circuit erred in dismissing petitioner's complaint. This Court cannot say beyond doubt that she can prove no set of facts that would entitle her to relief. She alleges that LaShonda was the victim of repeated acts of harassment by G. F. over a 5-month period, and allegations support the conclusion that his misconduct was severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive. Moreover, the complaint alleges that multiple victims of G. F.'s misconduct sought an audience with the school principal and that the harassment had a concrete, negative effect on LaShonda's ability to receive an education. The complaint also suggests that petitioner may be able to show both actual knowledge and deliberate indifference


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