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Title IX Plaintiffs Alleging Unequal Treatment Do Not Have to Notify School before Filing Suit
Arezou Mansourian, Lauren Mancuso and Christine Wing-Si Ng each wrestled competitively in high school. They chose to attend UC Davis because of the school’s acclaimed wrestling program, which had long offered opportunities for female athletes. The school did not operate separate wrestling teams for men and women. When the school eliminated women from the wrestling program, the students filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights. The school agreed to reinstate the women, but only on the condition that they defeat men in their respective weight classes. As a result of the new requirement, the women were not able to participate in the program and lost the benefits associated with varsity status, including scholarships and academic credit. The students filed a class action suit in federal court seeking damages and injunctive relief under Title IX (20 U.S.C. § 1681) and also asserted an equal protection claim under 42 U.S.C § 1983. The district court dismissed the students’ claims, holding in part that they were required to notify the university in advance of filing suit in order to give the school an opportunity to cure the alleged violation of Title IX. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed (Mansourian v. Regents of the University of California, copy attached), holding that there is no pre-litigation notice requirement in a Title IX case that involves official policy that discriminates. Such notice is only required, said the court, in cases where “the alleged Title IX violation consists of an institution's deliberate indifference to acts that do not involve official policy.” This is often the case in sexual harassment cases. But there is no such requirement in cases such as this one, which involved affirmative institutional discrimination. “Moreover,” as the court noted, “a judicially imposed notice requirement would be superfluous in light of universities’ ongoing obligations to certify compliance with Title IX’s athletics requirements and to rack athletics gender equity data.” A complete copy of the court’s opinion is attached for your convenience.