New opinions, including another Title IX case

M.S. v. Susquehanna Twp. School Dist. — civil / Title IX — affirmance — Porter

An assistant principal at a Pennsylvania high school had sexual contact with a 16 year-old student. (The principal’s name is Shawn Sharkey, not to be confused with Daniel Sharkey, who had sexual contact with a woman in immigration-detention custody, from a Third Circuit case decided last year.) The student sued the school board under Title IX. For the school board to be liable for sexual harassment, “an appropriate person” must have had actual knowledge of it.

That’s where it gets tricky. Everyone agrees that the assistant principal would qualify as an appropriate person if he knew someone else was sexually harassing a student. Does his knowledge of his own actions satisfy the appropriate-person requirement? It does not, the Third Circuit held today, joining the only other circuit to answer the question. The perpetrator himself doesn’t count as an appropriate person for school-district Title IX liability.

Joining Porter were Rendell and Fisher. The appeal was decided without oral argument.


Late yesterday, the Court posted an opinion that actually issued back in May but was not posted then because it was under seal, apparently because one of the parties was a minor

U.S. v. C.S. — criminal — affirmance — Shwartz

Here’s the cogent intro—

C.S., a seventeen-year old, was adjudicated delinquent as a result of threats he made in an Internet chatroom dedicated to discussing terroristic attacks, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c). During several conversations, C.S. made threats against a local church. Although juvenile proceedings are usually sealed, the District Court permitted the Government to notify the church that it was the subject of a threat and that the party who communicated the threat had been prosecuted. The order did not identify C.S.

C.S. appeals the judgment and the notification order, arguing that the District Court: (1) erred in finding that his statements qualified as threats under § 875(c), and (2) violated the confidentiality provisions of the Juvenile and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (“JDA”), Pub. L. No. 93-415, 88 Stat. 1109 (codified as amended in relevant part at 18 U.S.C. §§ 5031-5038), in allowing the Government to notify the church of the threats. Because the evidence proved that C.S. made threats that violated § 875(c) and the District Court acted well within its discretion in issuing the notification order, we will affirm.

The prosecution arose from a series of online group chats that a 17-year-old whose “screenename … evoked allegience to Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas” had discussing attacks on the Washington Monument and a local Catholic church, particularly his chatroom statement, “Or if Christians trigger me then I go at the church.”

Joining Shwartz were Ambro and Jordan. Arguing counsel were MDPA AUSA Kim Daniel for the government and MDPA AFD Quin Sorenson for the defendant.