Our schools and our workplaces should, of course, be free of sexual harassment. Under federal law, employers and schools can be held financially liable for harassment that is so sufficiently severe or pervasive that it alters the conditions of the workplace or prevents members of one sex from equally accessing any aspect of an educational program. It is important to remember that a stray remark, an occasional joke, or an academic discussion about sex or gender do not, by themselves, constitute unlawful harassment. Moreover, public employers and schools are prohibited by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free expression from punishing controversial speech simply because some members of the community may find it offensive.

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