Federal Court Rules Tax-Exempt Independent Schools Must Comply with Title IX

Robinson & Cole LLP

A recent federal court Title IX decision could affect private and independent schools nationwide. In Buttner-Hartsoe v. Balt. Lutheran High Sch. Ass’n, No. RDB-20-3229 (D. Md. July 21, 2022), five women brought a Title IX suit against their independent high school, alleging that the school failed to adequately address their complaints of sexual assault and harassment by male students. In response, the school argued that it was not subject to Title IX requirements because it was not a recipient of federal financial assistance and asked the court to dismiss the claims. On July 21, 2022, the Maryland federal court held that the school’s tax-exempt status under 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3) amounted to federal financial assistance and thus Title IX was applicable. Crucially, as a result of this holding, any independent school in Maryland with 501(c)(3) status must comply with Title IX and the mandates it imposes.

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