Friday, June 24, 2022
Developing a Theory of Institutional Betrayals as Actionable Sex Discrimination under Title IX
Emily Suski, Institutional Betrayals As Sex Discrimination, 107 Iowa L. Rev. (2022)
Title IX jurisprudence has a theoretical and doctrinal inadequacy. Title IX’s purpose is to protect public school students from sex discrimination in all its forms. Yet, courts have only recognized three relatively narrow forms of sex discrimination under it. Title IX jurisprudence, therefore, cannot effectively recognize as sex discrimination the independent injuries, called institutional betrayals, that schools impose on students because they have suffered sexual harassment. Institutional betrayals occur when schools betray students’ trust in or dependency on them by failing to help students in the face of their sexual harassment. These injuries cause harms that can be more severe than those resulting from the original sexual harassment. Further, schools do not passively cause institutional betrayals; they impose them in three affirmative ways: Schools punish students for their sexual harassment, blame them for it, and communicate an automatic, default disbelief of students’ harassment.
Because Title IX’s statutory mandate is broad—it prohibits sex discrimination without limitation—courts could recognize as sex discrimination the institutional betrayals that schools impose on students because of their status as survivors of sexual harassment. None of the three extant judicially created forms of sex discrimination under Title IX, however, has the capacity to meaningfully do so. When schools impose institutional betrayals, therefore, courts find that they do not violate Title IX.
To remedy this jurisprudential failing, this Article develops a theory of institutional betrayals as a new form of sex discrimination under Title IX. Drawing on empirical research on institutional betrayals, this theory contends that when schools impose institutional betrayals, they knowingly injure students because they have suffered gender-based harm. This Article also offers a framework for evaluating this new type of sex discrimination that would compel courts to assess institutional betrayals as sex discrimination. With such changes, Title IX jurisprudence would not only effectively recognize institutional betrayals as sex discrimination but also remedy their harms and better fulfill Title IX’s protective purpose.