News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
MONDAY, APRIL 11, 2005


Birmingham coach's case adds teeth to sex bias law

Roderick Jackson's problem with the Birmingham Board of Education stems from taking equal rights seriously.

Mr. Jackson is a girls basketball coach at Ensley High School, currently on "interim" status after losing his coaching duties but not his teaching job.

Speaking in Decatur on Friday, Mr. Jackson said his team had to raise funds constantly to pay for equipment while the boys team was fully funded. As the father of two daughters, he said, "I saw inequities I wouldn't like my own kids to have to deal with."

He complained to his supervisors. Then he received negative work evaluations and ultimately was removed as coach.

When he went to court against the board, he was simply a courageous man acting as his own lawyer. But the case caught the attention of groups such as the American Association of University Women. These groups came to his assistance. (AAUW, holding its state convention here, was his host Friday.)

On March 29, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his case. The court said retaliation against a complaining individual gives that person a right to sue under federal Title IX, which forbids sex discrimination in federally assisted education programs.

"Without protection from retaliation, individuals who witness discrimination would likely not report it, indifference claims would be short-circuited, and the underlying discrimination would go unremedied," wrote Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Mr. Jackson must go back to court if he wants to prove that the Birmingham board retaliated against him because of his complaint. Meanwhile, he has established the principle that such retaliation violates Title IX. This should make other people more willing to insist that schools treat male and female students equally.

Leave feedback
on this or