Friday Roundup: Title VII, the Pledge of Allegiance, and Cheerleading

By Mark Walsh — January 30, 2009 2 min read

There were some pretty big school law developments this week:

Title VII Retaliation: In a case involving a school district central office, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the main federal employment-discrimination law protects workers who faced retaliation for participating in an internal investigation.

Justice David H. Souter said in an opinion for seven members of the high court in Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers a school system payroll specialist who complained about crude sexual conduct by her boss during an internal investigation launched on behalf of another employee. The payroll specialist, Vicky Crawford, was dismissed from her job, which she claimed was retaliation.

Justice Souter said that Crawford’s descriptions of the “louche goings-on” by her boss “would certainly qualify in the minds of reasonable jurors as resistant or antagonistic” to the boss’s treatment, and thus would be covered by Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, filed a separate opinion concurring in the judgment.

I wrote about the background and oral arguments in the case in Education Week here.

Florida Pledge Law: A full federal appeals court has declined to reconsider a three-judge panel’s ruling that upheld most of a Florida law requiring public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day.

In July, the panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, upheld the parts of the law requiring students to have parental permission to opt out of the daily recitations of the pledge. The panel struck down a provision that it interpreted as requiring all students to stand during the pledge, including those who were opting out with parental consent. I blogged here about the panel’s decision in Frazier v. Winn.

On Jan. 26, the full 11th Circuit announced it would not reconsider the panel decision. Judge Rosemary Barkett issued a dissent from the denial, saying “the panel’s holding that the State of Florida can compel students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in violation of their personal beliefs directly contravenes precedent that has been firmly entrenched for over 65 years, since West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette held that the State does not have the power to compel minor students to recite the Pledge to the flag.”

Cheerleading: The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that high school cheerleading is a contact sport and its participants are immune from liability for negligence under state law.

The case involved a cheerleader who sued a fellow cheerleader at Holmen High School who had failed to catch her during a stunt. The court also ruled that the Holmen Area School District was immune from the suit.

The court’s ruling in Noffe v. Bakke was issued on Jan. 27, and the Chicago Tribune has this Associated Press story.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.