Office For Civil Rights Releases New Guidance: Questions And Answers On Title IX And Sexual Violence

On April 28, 2014, the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights released a new guidance entitled Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence

Here is their summary of the Guidance:

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”) is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs and activities. All public and private elementary and secondary schools, school districts, colleges, and universities receiving any federal financial assistance (hereinafter “schools”, “recipients”, or “recipient institutions”) must comply with Title IX.

On April 4, 2011, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague Letter on student-on-student sexual harassment and sexual violence (“DCL”). The DCL explains a school’s responsibility to respond promptly and effectively to sexual violence against students in accordance with the requirements of Title IX. Specifically, the DCL:

  • Provides guidance on the unique concerns that arise in sexual violence cases, such as a school’s independent responsibility under Title IX to investigate (apart from any separate criminal investigation by local police) and address sexual violence.
  • Provides guidance and examples about key Title IX requirements and how they relate to sexual violence, such as the requirements to publish a policy against sex discrimination, designate a Title IX coordinator, and adopt and publish grievance procedures.
  • Discusses proactive efforts schools can take to prevent sexual violence.
  • Discusses the interplay between Title IX, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), and the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security and Campus Crime Statistics Act (“Clery Act”) as it relates to a complainant’s right to know the outcome of his or her complaint, including relevant sanctions imposed on the perpetrator.
  • Provides examples of remedies and enforcement strategies that schools and OCR may use to respond to sexual violence.

The DCL supplements OCR’s Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance: Harassment of Students by School Employees, Other Students, or Third Parties, issued in 2001 (2001 Guidance). The 2001 Guidance discusses in detail the Title IX requirements related to sexual harassment of students by school employees, other students, or third parties. The DCL and the 2001 Guidance remain in full force and we recommend reading these Questions and Answers in conjunction with these documents.

In responding to requests for technical assistance, OCR has determined that elementary and secondary schools and postsecondary institutions would benefit from additional guidance concerning their obligations under Title IX to address sexual violence as a form of sexual harassment. The following questions and answers further clarify the legal requirements and guidance articulated in the DCL and the 2001 Guidance and include examples of proactive efforts schools can take to prevent sexual violence and remedies schools may use to end such conduct, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects. In order to gain a complete understanding of these legal requirements and recommendations, this document should be read in full.

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James R. Marsh
A University of Michigan Law School graduate, James represents victims of campus sexual assault and rape; Title IX violations; sex abuse in schools, colleges, churches, and government and military institutions; online sexual exploitation; child pornography; sextortion, and revenge porn. His case on compensation for victims of child pornography in federal criminal restitution proceedings was recently decided by the United States Supreme Court. That case, United States v. Paroline, led to the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act currently pending in the House and Senate. James founded the nationally recognized Children's Law Center in Washington, DC, and is an experienced trial attorney, and frequent commentator, lecturer, and Huffington Post Blogger. He now leads Marsh Law Firm in New York which is recognized worldwide for its work helping sexually abused survivors obtain justice and rebuild their lives with dignity and respect.

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