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Justices Hear Arguments in School Harassment Case

The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday for a case weighing an unusual test of sexual harassment laws whose outcome could have an impact on future gender, racial, and workplace discrimination cases. Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal recaps the case.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    The justices today took up a case involving a 5-year-old girl who was sexually harassed on a school bus by an older student. Her parents sued the school district for violating their daughter's constitutional right to equal protection.

    For more on today's arguments, we're joined by NewsHour regular Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal.

    So this was a simple school bus, a trip to school every day, to Hyannis West Elementary School in Massachusetts. What happened?

  • MARCIA COYLE, National Law Journal:

    That's right. After a period of about six months in which the kindergartener was losing weight, losing sleep, and not wanting to go to school, she told her parents that, on the days she rode the bus and was wearing a dress, an older boy — later picked out as a third-grader, an 8-year-old — would make her pull her dress up, spread her legs, sometimes pull her panties down and spread her legs, and make fun of her, along with some of the other kids.

    The parents immediately went to the principal with this complaint of sexual harassment. And the principal launched an investigation. So did the police. The police decided ultimately they could not bring criminal charges. The principal said there were no corroborating witnesses.

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