Title IX Protects Students from Sexual Violence, TooApril 11, 2011
Last week, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a “Dear Colleague” letter to the nation’s schools, colleges, and universities clarifying that sexual harassment of students, including acts of sexual violence, are prohibited under Title IX. Although commonly associated with athletics, Title IX forbids all sex discrimination in educational programs or activities that are operated by recipients of federal financial assistance. In explaining its decision, OCR said that “the sexual harassment of students, including sexual violence, interferes with students’ right to receive an education free from discrimination and, in the case of sexual violence, is a crime.”
The chilling statistics on student sexual violence underscore OCR’s desire to address this important issue. One report found that one in five college women are victims of completed or attempted sexual assault and that, in 2009, college campuses reported nearly 3,300 forcible sex offenses.
In its letter, OCR provides reminders and advice to schools about how they can comply with Title IX and protect students from sexual harassment and violence:
- Every school that receives federal funding must do three things: place a public notice of nondiscrimination in its facilities, designate at least one employee as the school’s Title IX compliance coordinator, and adopt and publish grievance procedures that provide for a prompt and equitable settlement of complaints.
- Title IX protects students in connection with all the academic, educational, extracurricular, athletic, and other programs at a school, whether they take place in the school itself or at an event sponsored by the school. If a school knows or reasonably should know about harassment in these venues, Title IX requires immediate action to stop the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.
- Schools should provide training on identifying and reporting harassment to any employee who is likely to witness it, including teachers, school administrators, counselors, and health personnel.
- Title IX does not require schools to adopt policies specifically prohibiting sexual harassment. However, a school’s anti-sex-discrimination policy violates Title IX if, because of a lack of a specific policy, students are unaware of what kind of behavior constitutes prohibited sexual harassment.
- Even if the student or school reports the harassment to law enforcement, the school is not relieved of its obligation to conduct an independent Title IX investigation. All Title IX complaints must receive a “prompt, thorough, and impartial” investigation by the school.
The AAUW website offers excellent tools for students, administrators, parents, or anyone interested in making campuses safer for women:
- Not Just Yale: The Wake-up Call Our Schools Need — AAUW’s statement on OCR’s investigation of Yale University
- Drawing the Line: Sexual Harassment on Campus — the most recent nationally representative survey on sexual harassment at college campuses
- Campus Sexual Assault Program in a Box — an online guide to help you organize projects to raise awareness about sexual assault on your local campus
- AAUW’s Title IX compliance resources
- AAUW’s sexual harassment on campus resources
- AAUW’s position on Title IX
- AAUW’s position on sexual harassment