GEBSER v. LAGO VISTA IND. SCHOOL DIST.

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
96-1866
Petitioner 
Gebser
Respondent 
Lago Vista Ind. School Dist.
Advocates
(On behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioners)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
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Facts of the Case 

Alida Star Gebser, a high school student in the Lago Vista Independent School District ("Lago Vista"), had a secret sexual affair with one of her teachers. At the time, Lago Vista had no official procedure for reporting sexual harassment nor any formal anti-harassment policy, as required by federal law. One day, after the two were discovered having sex, the teacher was arrested and fired. Claiming she was harassed in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (the "Amendments"), providing that no person "be subjected to discrimination" under any federally funded education program or activity, Gebser sought damages against Lago Vista. On appeal from a decision affirming a district court's ruling in favor of Lago Vista, the Supreme Court granted Gebser certiorari.

Question 

Can a federally funded educational program or activity be required, under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, to pay sexual harassment damages to a student who was involved in a secret relationship with a member of its staff?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Lago Vista Ind. School Dist., 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Education Amendments of 1972

No. In a 5-to-4 decision the Court held that two minimal criteria must be met in order for an aggrieved party to recover sexual harassment damages under the Amendments. First, the party must show that a school district official, with the ability to institute corrective measures, knew of the forbidden conduct. Second, a showing must be made that despite having knowledge of the forbidden conduct, the educational establishment deliberately failed to respond in a proper manner. The Court concluded that Lago Vista never showed indifference to Gebser's relationship since it never knew, either formally or informally, of its existence. Accordingly, Lago Vista was not liable for sexual harassment damages.

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GEBSER v. LAGO VISTA IND. SCHOOL DIST.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_96_1866>.
GEBSER v. LAGO VISTA IND. SCHOOL DIST., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_96_1866 (last visited November 25, 2014).
"GEBSER v. LAGO VISTA IND. SCHOOL DIST.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 25, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1997/1997_96_1866.