North Haven Bd. of Educ. v. Bell

PETITIONER: North Haven Bd. of Educ.
LOCATION: North Haven Public School

DOCKET NO.: 80-986
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 456 US 512 (1982)
ARGUED: Dec 09, 1981
DECIDED: May 17, 1982

Beverly J. Hodgson - on behalf of Respondent Linda Potz
Paul E. Knag - on behalf of Petitioner Trumbull Board of Education
Rex E. Lee - on behalf of the Federal Respondents
Susan K. Krell - on behalf of Petitioner New Haven Board of Education

Facts of the case

In 1972, the United States Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibited federally funded education programs from discriminating on the basis of gender and allowed the government to withhold federal funds to non-complying educational institutions. Government agencies tasked with supplying federal funding to educational institutions were authorized to create regulations to enforce Title IX. In 1975, one of these agencies, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (“HEW”) passed regulations that extended the prohibition on gender discrimination to school personnel.

Employees of two Connecticut school districts, North Haven and Trumbull, accused the districts of practicing gender discrimination. HEW opened investigations into both districts and eventually warned both that they were in jeopardy of losing their federal funds. Both districts filed separate suits against HEW, claiming that the regulation went beyond the authority of Title IX, which does not explicitly cover gender-based employee discrimination. In both cases, the district court found for the school districts by holding that Title IX was intended to apply to students, not employees. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the district courts and held that Congress had intended Title IX to apply to both students and employees.



Is Title IX’s prohibition on gender discrimination in schools intended to cover the employees of schools?

Media for North Haven Bd. of Educ. v. Bell

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 09, 1981 in North Haven Bd. of Educ. v. Bell

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in North Haven Board of Education against Bell.

Ms. Krell, I think you may proceed when you are ready.

Susan K. Krell:

Thank you.

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this case involves the validity of regulations promulgated by the then Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, now the Department of Education, pursuant to Sections 901 and 902 of the Education Amendments of 1972.

It is the Petitioners' position that Section 901 was drafted with an unmistakable focus on the beneficiaries of federal financial assistance and not as a general prohibition on discriminatory conduct by recipients of such federal financial assistance, and thus the regulations in question are invalid.

I will briefly present the facts in the North Haven case, and counsel for Trumbull will address the facts in that case.

The legal issues are the same.

The North Haven case arose when a former teacher who had quit her job applied for an open position and a different female applicant was hired.

The rejected applicant filed charges of sex discrimination in employment with the EEOC and with HEW.

She also filed a federal court suit under Title 7 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, under 43 US Code 1983, and under Title 9.

When HEW attempted to investigate her charge, the Board of Education pointed out that it believed HEW did not have jurisdiction over general employment practices, and that several district courts had so found.

HEW, however, persisted, thus necessitating the North Haven Board filing a suit in district court in Connecticut.

Judge Ellen B. Burns granted North Haven's motion for summary judgment, and held the regulations in question void, invalid, and of no effect whatsoever, and granted an injunction prohibiting further investigation by HEW.

The Trumbull litigation followed a similar path, and the Department of Justice appealed both cases to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, where they were consolidated.

The cases were held in abeyance pending a decision by this Court on three petitions for writs of certiorari filed by Justice Department from three court of appeals decisions that, similar to Judge Ellen Burns' decision, had held the regulations invalid.

When those petitions were denied, the cases were reactivated and heard by the Second Circuit.

At that time there were 15 court decisions in various district courts and courts of appeals, all holding these regulations invalid.

The Second Circuit, however, reversed the decision of the district court and upheld the validity of those regulations.

It is our position that an analysis of the legislative scheme of Title 9 in its entirety, of the statutory language of Sections 901 and 902, and the legislative history all establish that employees in general are not among the class protected by Section 901.

The Department of Education has recently indicated its agreement with that position.

The genesis of what became Title 9 were hearings, extensive hearings held before the House of Representatives in 1970, and at that time two problems were brought to its attention.

One was sex discrimination in employment against women employed in educational institutions, and at that time Title 7 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act explicitly excluded women... excluded educational institutions from its parameters.

The Equal Pay Act at that time excluded people in positions of executive, professional, and academic.

That would also work to the detriment of women faculty members of educational institutions.

So, thus there was one very special problem of women employees of educational institutions who were victims of sex discrimination and who were not protected by Title 7 of the Equal Pay Act.

Another problem that was brought to Congress's attention was the problem of student beneficiaries who were also or might also be victims of sex discrimination and who were not protected by Section 601 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a section that protected beneficiaries of federal financial assistance from race, color, or national origin discrimination, but did not prohibit sex discrimination.

Growing out of these hearings was the bill that became Title 9, which very explicitly addressed the problem of women employees by amending Title 7 to remove that exemption for employees of educational institutions, and by amending the Equal Pay Act to remove the exemption for academic, professional, and executive positions.

So, employees of educational institutions now have federal forums, federal agencies that could investigate their claims and could go into federal court pursuant to those statutes.

The problems of student beneficiaries were addressed in what became Section 901 of Title 9.

The section that was enacted prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs or activities.