In this week's Alabama Law Weekly Update, we review a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit which addresses both a Title IX sex discrimination claim and a Title VI race discrimination claim.
Rollins v. Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama, ___ Fed. Appx. ___, Case No. 14-14882 (11th Cir. April 11, 2016) (Student failed to present evidence that public dentistry school's decision to dismiss him was motivated by his gender or his race).
D. Rollins, a white male, began attending the University of Alabama at Birmingham's School of Dentistry (UAB) in 2011. In his second semester, Rollins failed a three-hour course. During the summer following the 2011-2012 academic year, UAB's “Academic Performance Committee” (APC) convened and voted to dismiss Rollins and one other student, an African-American female. The APC also allowed a white female student to repeat her first year of dental school. In July 2012, Rollins filed a lawsuit against UAB's Board of Trustees (UAB Board) claiming, among other things, that the school discriminated against him on the basis of his gender and race. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the UAB Board. Rollins appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Regarding Rollins' gender discrimination claim, the Eleventh Circuit explained that Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and that Rollins, to be successful, was required to show that “similarly situated persons have been treated disparately” and that the disparate treatment was motivated by Rollins' sex. This has been described as a requirement of proving “discriminatory intent.” The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the trial court's decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the UAB Board because, it explained, that Rollins had not shown that someone similarly situated had been treated differently. A white female student had been allowed to re-take her first year at UAB, but the trial court found she was not in the same position as Rollins, in part, because various health issues had interrupted her efforts during the academic year. As a result, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the decision of the trial court to grant summary judgment in favor of the UAB Board.
Regarding Rollins' race discrimination claims, Rollins argued he was dismissed “to “offset” the dismissal of … an African-American female” student. The Eleventh Circuit explained that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race and, like his Title IX claim, Rollins was required to prove a “similarly situated” person was treated differently and that the disparate treatment was motivated by Rollins' race. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the trial court's decision regarding this claim as well, stating that Rollins could not prove “disparate treatment by comparing himself to a student who received the same treatment.”