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Appeals Court Affirms Broad Application of Title IX

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A federal appeals court in Philadelphia has ruled for the second time in barely over a month that educational institutions receiving any amount of federal aid, either directly or indirectly, must comply with federal laws barring sex discrimination in all their programs and activities.

The ruling in the case, Haffler v. Temple University, directly contradicts a federal district court's ruling in a similar case, University of Richmond v. Bell.

The Third Circuit court, in its Sept. 7 ruling, relied heavily on its decision earlier this summer in Grove City College v. Bell in concluding that Temple University's athletic department must comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Gender Discrimination

Title IX prohibits gender discrimination in "any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

In the Grove City case, the court ruled on Aug. 12 that the college, a small private institution that accepts no direct financial aid, must comply with Title IX in all its programs and activities because its students receive federal tuition grants.

Temple University's attorneys specifically asked the court to answer in its opinion whether the phrase "education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance" in Title IX includes programs, such as those of its athletic department, that do not receive direct federal aid.

The three-judge panel simply responded, "We answer this question in the affirmative."

The judges explained that, in keeping with its opinion in Grove City, Title IX's anti-discrimination prohibitions are triggered when students make use of federal tuition grants.

"Whatever the views of the individual judges on this panel may be, the result reached in Grove City and the reasoning employed by the Court there resolve the present appeal," the appeals-court judges said.

Earlier this month, the Reagan Administration decided not to appeal the Richmond case, in which the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia said that the Education Department (ed) could not require the component programs and departments of educational institutions to comply with Title IX unless those programs receive federal aid directly. (See Education Week, Sept. 15, 1982.)

In deciding not to appeal the Richmond decision, the Administration turned away from anti-sex-discrimination policies pursued under several previous Administrations.

The decision also raised questions as to how the federal government will argue Title IX cases in the future. At least one of those lawsuits, Grove City College v. Bell, appears to be headed for resolution before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The divergent opinions on Title IX mean that the law now is being interpreted and enforced differently in different parts of the country. The Third Circuit Court's interpretation of Title IX, as outlined in the Temple and Grove City cases, applies in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The federal district court's ruling in Richmond is binding in the eastern half of Virginia.

The Justice Department, which represents the government in all lawsuits testing the scope of federal laws, argued in the Richmond case that Title IX applies to the university's athletic department, because the university, on the whole, benefits from a substantial amount of federal aid, including the federal tuition grants received by its students.

Similar Arguments

Attorneys for the eight female undergraduates who sued Temple University offered arguments in their lawsuit similar to those offered by the Justice Department in the Richmond case.

The Temple lawsuit, like Richmond, also involved allegations of discrimination in the university's athletic department.

Despite the similarities between the two cases, the Third Circuit's conclusions in the Temple case were diametrically opposed to those reached by U.S. District Judge D. Dortch Warriner in his decision in Richmond.

Attorneys for Grove City College said earlier this month that they are preparing to appeal their case to the Supreme Court. Attorneys for Temple University, meanwhile, said early last week that they were still reviewing the Third Circuit's decision in their case.

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