The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will decide whether the leading federal law on gender equality in school sports also protects those who protest alleged discrimination against girls' and women's athletic programs.

In a brief order, the court said it would decide Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education, No. 02-1672, in which Roderick Jackson, a high school girls' basketball coach, contends that he was fired for complaining to supervisors that his team was receiving less funding than boys' basketball.

Jackson argues that Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments, the statute that has been credited with fostering a generation of female athletes by requiring federally funded schools and universities to support male and female sports equally, also provides an individual right to sue in federal court for retaliation against gender-discrimination whistleblowers.

The Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled against Jackson, creating a split on the issue among the lower courts, and he appealed to the Supreme Court.

Jackson's petition for Supreme Court review, drafted by the National Women's Law Center, said the 11th Circuit's ruling "threatens to undermine a fundamental protection against sex discrimination in all federally funded educational settings."

But the Birmingham, Ala., Board of Education countered that Title IX's text contains no reference to retaliation or individual lawsuits to remedy it -- and that Jackson is not covered by Title IX because he was not a victim of direct sex discrimination.

The case will be argued before the court next fall, and a decision is expected by July 2005.

Separately, the court acted on three appeals by European governments of a lower court's rulings that they could be sued in the United States for World War II-era human rights violations. Those cases had been on hold pending last week's ruling in Austria v. Altmann, No. 03-13, which gave a Jewish refugee from Austria the right to sue that country's government in U.S. courts for the return of art seized by the Nazis. But the ruling also suggested it might not apply in other circumstances.

The court sent three lawsuits back to the New York-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit for review in light of Austria v. Altmann. Those cases involve claims against the French national railroad for deporting Jews to German death camps; against the Austrian government for alleged illegal expropriation of Jewish property; and against Poland for property seized just after World War II.

The court also sent a fourth lawsuit, brought against Japan by Korean "comfort women" used as prostitutes by the Japanese armed forces during World War II, back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which had ruled that Japan was not subject to suit.