Jenner & Block

Equality and Civil Rights

Educational institutions, public and private, face a wide variety of sensitive issues regarding the rights of their students, faculty, and community to create the culture they desire. Jenner & Block has represented and advised these institutions – and has represented the government dealing with these institutions – as they navigate all aspects of these issues, defending their institution’s conduct and developing the policies and procedures they need to fulfill their mission.

We assist colleges and universities with responding to the full range of issues surrounding campus sexual violence and sexual harassment, including compliance with Title IX, the Clery Act, and the Campus SaVE Act, and determining how these laws intersect with the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other federal and state requirements that apply to educational institutions. We have led major sexual assault prevention initiatives of the U.S. government.  We provide advice on developing and implementing sexual misconduct policies and procedures consistent with each client’s educational mission and core values. We have defended leadership of academic institutions accused of creating an atmosphere of impunity. 

We have represented universities in litigation over diversity in higher education.  Representing 13 elite universities in the recent Supreme Court case of Fisher v. Texas, we presented the academic institutions’ compelling interest in providing an enriching educational experience for all students and in preparing them to be active, capable citizens and leaders.

We are also nationally recognized for our First Amendment expertise, and for more than 30 years have counseled and represented clients on matters involving cutting-edge First Amendment issues.  Advocating for academic freedom on behalf of the American Library Association, the American Association of University Professors, and others, we have briefed and argued some of the most significant First Amendment cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and appellate courts across the country.  Drawing on the strength and depth of our Media and First Amendment practice group, we also counsel clients on non-litigation First Amendment matters. Representative matters handled by our Education team include the following:

  • Advised a major public university on its response to allegations of sexual misconduct, including in response to a due process challenge.
  • Advised numerous institutions of higher education on sexual harassment and sexual assault policies.
  • Trained compliance officers on Title IX.
  • Represented a major private university in a federal civil rights investigation related to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Represented a large public university in a Title VII investigation into discrimination in teacher and staff pay.
  • Represented educational organizations, educational institutions, and non-profit entities in numerous cases involving issues of student freedom of expression, the commercial speech rights of student newspapers, affirmative action, the establishment clause, free exercise of religion in schools, and the removal of books from libraries.
  • Filed amicus briefs on behalf of associations interested in academic freedom relating to government investigative powers and anonymous speech.
  • Litigated key First Amendment issues before the U.S. Supreme Court -- including Brown v. EMA (restrictions on “violent” video games), United States v. American Library Association (library internet filtering requirements), Reno v. ACLU (“indecency” on the Internet), and Global Relief Foundation v. The New York Times Co., et al. (extension of substantial truth defense to reports of governmental investigations).