Sexual harassment is also illegal at schools and colleges. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the California Education Code sections 200 - 231.5 prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual harassment, in education programs and activities. The essential elements of such a claim for sexual harassment are:
- plaintiff suffered severe, pervasive and offensive harassment that effectively deprived her of the right of equal access to educational benefits and opportunities;
- The school had actual knowledge of the harassment;
- The school acted with “deliberate indifference” in the face of such knowledge; and
- The deliberate indifference by the school caused plaintiff to suffer injury, damage, loss or harm.
The term "deliberate indifference" means that the district's response to the alleged harassment was clearly unreasonable in light of all the known circumstances. A response that is merely inept, erroneous, ineffective, or negligent does not amount to deliberate indifference. However, an official cannot simply turn a blind eye and do nothing. The official must respond in a prompt, timely and reasonable manner to a Plaintiff’s allegations of discrimination and sexual harassment. For deliberate indifference to occur where one student harasses another student, the harassment must take place in a context subject to the defendant’s control, and the individual defendants must have disciplinary authority over the person who is harassing the plaintiff.
In schools, children may regularly interact in a manner that would be unacceptable for adults. Consequently, a plaintiff cannot recover damages for harassment for being subjected to such simple acts as teasing and name-calling, even where these are comments target differences in actual or perceived sexual orientation.
Not only is sexual harassment illegal. The law also prohibits:
- Racial harassment
- Religious harassment
- Age-based harassment
- Harassment based on disability
- Harassment based on ethnicity or national origin