In 1999, Roderick Jackson was hired by the Birmingham City Schools to teach drivers’ education and coach the girls’ basketball team at Ensley High School. Soon after arriving and preparing for his first season, Coach Jackson began to notice things that did not sit right with him; things that had nothing to do with the team but rather, with how the team was treated. The girls’ team did not receive the same funding, and they did not have the same access to facilities and equipment as the boys.
Upset by the discriminatory treatment of his team, Jackson expressed his concerns to his superiors, who told him to “Just play ball!” Being true to his mother’s admonition that he should always stand up for what he believed, Jackson continued to press his complaints up the chain of command. Subsequently, he was fired from his coaching position in 2001, but unwilling to accept either the unfair treatment of his players or the backlash he received for complaining about it, Jackson sued the Birmingham Board of Education under Title IX, the federal statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Both the trial and appeals courts ruled against Jackson, saying that Title IX did not provide a private right to sue for retaliation for complaints of sex discrimination. On March 29, 2005, however, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled in his favor, saying that “Teachers and coaches such as Jackson are often in the best position to vindicate the rights of their students because they are better able to identify the discrimination and bring it to the attention of administrators.” The case, Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education, stands for the proposition that an individual who is retaliated against for speaking out against sex discrimination perpetrated by a recipient of federal education funding has a cause of action under Title IX even if that individual did not experience the original discrimination personally.
Curt L. Hamakawa, UNCOMMON COURAGE—RODERICK JACKSON AS SINE QUA NON FOR THE RIGHT TO SUE FOR RETALIATION UNDER TITLE IX, 35 W. New Eng. L. Rev. 353 (2013), http://digitalcommons.law.wne.edu/lawreview/vol35/iss2/3