Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Title IX Does Not Apply in Grenada (In Case You Were Wondering)

A federal district court recently held that Title IX does not apply to a university operating entirely outside the United States -- even if it is considered a federal funding recipient by virtue of federal assistance received by American students enrolled there (an issue the court assumed without deciding).

The plaintiff, Erika Phillips, is a student at the Saint George's University School of Veterinary Medicine, located in Grenada. In 2006 she was repeatedly sexually harassed by a university employee. She sued SGU in an American federal court, alleging that university officials' failure to remediate the situation, which she called to their attention, violated Title IX.

SGU moved to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The district court agreed, reasoning that the power of the federal courts to apply federal law is limited to the territorial United States unless Congress has clearly indicated otherwise. By its terms, Title IX says nothing about applying extraterritorially, and in fact, expressly prohibits discrimination by federally funded educational institutions only against persons "in the United States," so the court easily determined that the requisite congressional intent that the law apply abroad is lacking.

The court was clear to distinguish this case from another court's decision that Title IX did protect American students in South Africa who were participating in a study abroad program sponsored by Eastern Michigan University. When Title IX applies to an educational institution, it applies to every program under control of that educational institution, which in that case, included the study-abroad program operated by EMU. SGU had no comparable relationship to an educational institution subject to Title IX.

Decision is: Phillips v. Saint George's University,
2007 WL 3407728 (E.D.N.Y., Nov. 15, 2007).