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Another Court Applies Title IX to a Nonprofit School

Just days after a Maryland federal court held that nonprofit status subjected a private school to Title IX regulations, a California has joined the trend. In E.H. v. Valley Christian Academy, the federal court for the Central District of California denied a motion to dismiss filed by a Christian school and related church. The court recognized that few courts have ruled directly on the question, but concluded with only minimal analysis that “Valley Christian’s tax-exempt status confers a federal financial benefit that obligates compliance with Title IX.” The court also found Title IX liability from the school’s PPP loan, but that ruling is more expected and, by definition, of shorter duration.

Nonprofit independent schools need to pay attention to both this and the Maryland decisions. The schools most likely will appeal, and the current reach of the rulings is limited. But the cases represent a wave of claims that independent schools soon will face from plaintiff’s attorneys alleging sex discrimination claims.  

Nonprofit schools need to consult their lawyers about how to proceed in the face of this new risk, including whether to start adopting Title IX procedures for sexual harassment and discrimination claims. The guidelines are in flux, and courts have held some of them to be unconstitutional when applied by government schools. Whether those guidelines will survive in the private school sphere is not a settled question. Smaller schools also will have difficulty setting up an elaborate Title IX procedure. Attorneys experienced in Title IX issues can help you determine which protocols are essential and within your reach.

Changing law always is messy and unsettled for a time. The next few years will be important ones for this question. The only choice that schools have is to pay attention and adapt as best they can to the changing rules.

Absent any controlling precedent nor “strong legislative history to the contrary,” the Court finds that “the plain purpose of the statute is controlling. Here that purpose is clearly to eliminate discrimination in programs or activities benefitting from federal financial assistance. Distinctions as to the method of distribution of federal funds or their equivalent seem beside the point, as the regulations issued by the various agencies make apparent.”

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