TITLE IX: ITS NOT JUST ABOUT SPORTS
What every parent and student should know about protecting yourself against sexual harassment in educational institutions.
All students and parents should be aware of Title IX. Below is a helpful summary of Title IX and what you should know to protect yourself.
WHAT IS TITLE IX?
Title IX is a federal civil right that prohibits sex discrimination in education. When most people think of Title IX, they likely think of equal access for girls and women to sports. But, what most people don’t know is Title IX also can be utilized to protect anyone, whether male or female, who has been a victim of sexual violence or sexual harassment as well as gender-based discrimination.
Title IX of Educational Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq provides: “No person in the United States shall on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Title IX was created with the purpose to eliminate discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Sex discrimination includes sexual harassment and sexual violence and is therefore covered under Title IX. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature and can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Examples of sexual violence include attempted or completed rape or sexual assault, as well as stalking, voyeurism, exhibitionism, verbal or physical sexuality-based threats or abuse, and intimate partner violence. Title IX also protects against discrimination for pregnant or parenting students.
WHO IS REQUIRED TO COMPLY WITH TITLE IX?
Any school that receives Federal financial assistance must comply with Title IX. That means elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, school districts, proprietary schools, colleges and universities.
DO I HAVE TO BE ON CAMPUS TO BE PROTECTED BY TITLE IX?
You don’t have to be on school grounds to be protected by Title IX, as Title IX applies to sexual harassment of a student that occurs in an “education program or activity.” An “education program or activity” of school includes all of the school’s operations. This means that Title IX protects students in connection with all of the academic, educational, extra-curricular, athletic and other programs of the school, whether they take place in the facilities of the school, on a school bus, at a class or training program sponsored by the school at another location, or elsewhere. Title IX also protects students who may have been sexually harassed off school grounds, outside a school’s education program or activity, if the harasser was a fellow student.
DOES THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT HAVE TO OCCUR MORE THAN ONCE OR OVER A LONG PERIOD OF TIME?
Just one instance of sexual harassment is enough to trigger the requirements of Title IX.
DOES TITLE IX APPLY ONLY TO SEXUAL HARASSMENT COMMITTED BY TEACHERS AND EDUCATORS?
Title IX applies to sexual harassment of a student that may be committed by a school employee, another student, or a non-employee third party (e.g., a visiting speaker or visiting athletes).
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY SCHOOL IS TITLE IX COMPLIANT?
Title IX has many requirements that schools must comply with. However, some of the very basic requirements are as follows:
- Your school must have a well-publicized and effective grievance procedure in place to handle complaints of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment. This procedure must provide for a prompt and equitable resolution of sex discrimination complaints.
- Your school must have and widely distribute to students and faculty, a policy against sex discrimination.
- Your school must have a Title IX coordinator.
- You school must have and make known procedures for students to file complaints of sex discrimination.
Title IX requires schools do many other things, but the items listed above are a few of the very basic requirements.
WHAT ARE MY REMEDIES IF I THINK MY TITLE IX CIVIL RIGHTS HAVE BEEN VIOLATED?
You have various options:
- Grievance Procedure with your school-schools are required to have a well-publicized and effective grievance procedure in place to handle complaints of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment complaints. This procedure must provide for a prompt and equitable resolution of sex discrimination complaints. Your school’s Title IX coordinator can provide you the information you need to initiate the grievance process.
- Filing a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights-The Federal government has an Office of Civil Rights (OCR) whose job is to ensure rights of U.S. citizens are not violated. You can file a complaint online by visiting OCR’s website. The OCR then can choose to conduct an investigation of your school and potentially order remedies and changes to ensure your school complies with Title IX in the future.
- Filing a lawsuit in the civil justice system-you can also file a lawsuit in the civil court system where you can ask for money damages and injunctions (forcing your school to take certain actions, such as changing its Title IX procedures). You can possibly obtain compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills and expenses, school tuition and costs, future lost earnings, future medical bills and expenses and even attorney’s fees. Its important to choose an attorney who is experienced in Title IX cases since they are a complex cause of action.
Sexual assault is rampant on college campuses. In fact, one in four women are sexually assaulted during their time in college. Now, more than ever, schools are becoming aware that they must take active steps to stop sexual harassment and ensure they are Title IX compliant. However, there are still many instances where schools have not done what they have supposed to. If you think you have suffered sexual harassment and your school may have failed to do everything they are required to do, Lindsay Anne Cordes at Thomas Law Offices is available to discuss your potential case. Lindsay has experience in litigating Title IX cases and is knowledgeable in this area of the law and can help you navigate the complex legal system. Contact Lindsay here.
 U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance: Harassment of Students By School Employees, Other Students, Or Third Parties 2 (January 2001)
 Id. at 11-12.
 Id. at 12.
 Id. at 23.
 Id. at 2.
 Id. at 1.
 Id. at 2.
 Id. at 23.