State education officials are pleased with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows sexually harassed students to sue their schools for money.
"I think it would have been a bad message had (the court) come down any other way," said Doug Bates, legal counsel to the state Office of Education.The court ruled 6-3 Wednesday in the decision, saying it intended to let students sue for such compensation when it passed a law known as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Bates says the ruling upholds strict policies regarding sexual harassment already in place at Utah's public schools.
"We take a firm line on this issue. (The decision) also supports several bills we've introduced during this Legislative session," he said.
One of the bills passed and awaiting Gov. Bangerter's signature makes sodomy against a child under 14 years of age a first-degree felony. Prior to the bill's passage, state law classified the act a class B misdemeanor.
Wednesday's high court decision is a victory for a former Gwinnett County, Ga., high school student who sued over her alleged sexual encounters with a teacher she said pursued her ardently.
"A damages remedy is available for an action brought to enforce Title IX," White wrote for the court.
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.
The case had attracted additional attention because it was the first involving alleged sexual harassment to reach the court since Thomas became a justice.
His Senate confirmation hearings were marked by law professor Anita Hill's allegations that he sexually harassed her while she worked for him at the Education Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.