Thompson & Horton Announces 2024 Title IX Webinar Series: “T&H TacTIXs”

Thompson & Horton is offering a complimentary webinar series for 2024: “T&H TacTIXs: 2024 Title IX Webinar Series.” Join our Title IX team on the last Wednesday of each month for an essential update on critical Title IX tactics your school, college, or university needs to know to get—and stay—compliant in 2024.

Our first webinar, on January 31, 2024, will be called “A Cruel Summer of Title IX Is Coming: Are You Ready For It?Register now even if you cannot attend the first webinar because spots are limited! Registration for the series will get you access to all of the monthly webinars for the year. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to get the T&H checklist for what you need to do this Spring to prepare for an implementation summer in 2024.

Read more here!

Title IX + IDEA = NBD? OMG!

Some of the most important and confusing questions we receive from K-12 school administrators regarding Title IX involve two other important Federal laws, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Those laws require public school districts to provide a free, appropriate public education to students with disabilities and include a myriad of rules that must be followed when educating such students. When can a student with disabilities be involved in a Title IX case? When can they be removed from school through Title IX processes? What steps must be followed to impose discipline on a student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan? Read more for the answers to those questions, and more, to turn the mix between Title IX and the IDEA from OMG to NBD (no big deal)!

The Final Title IX Regs Will Be Out In March! Or Will They?

Remember those Title IX regulations that were supposed to come out in May/June 2023…. and then in October 2023? Well, recent updates to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) website regarding the Title IX sex-based discrimination (including harassment) rule and the Title IX rule on gender identity and athletics project a final rule publication date of March 2023. Is that a realistic deadline, and what should your educational institution be doing now to prepare?

What Can You Do When a Complainant Doesn’t Want a Formal Title IX Complaint? The Answer May Not Be What You Expect

By Jackie Gharapour Wernz

I was lucky enough to present with my dear friend Jacqui Litra in a lengthy session on all things Title IX at the inaugural conference of the National School Attorney’s Association last month in Nashville. If you aren’t familiar with it, NSAA provides the only unified, non-political, independent organization for attorneys representing school districts of all shapes, sizes, and political and social leanings. (Disclosure: I’m also lucky enough to be on the NSAA’s Transition Board and was the primary author of the organization’s comment to the proposed Title IX athletics rule, so I’m a pretty big fan).

One of the questions we received from the audience, packed with school lawyers from across the country, was, “What can you do when a Title IX complainant does not want to sign a formal complaint?” What that means is that this is not a stupid question—it is one that many brilliant people are struggling with across the country, even three years after the 2020 rules went into effect. So what is the answer? Is it “Nothing”? Or can you use another, non-Title IX process to address the behavior? As we explained at NSAA, neither of those options is correct. There are many things you can do. But you cannot use a complainant’s reluctance about the Title IX process to “back door” the case into a non-Title IX process. Here’s why.

Let the Girls Dance (and Dress!)? Title IX Implications for “Morality Codes” in Schools

By Jackie Gharapour Wernz

I know many of you may be wondering why this blog has been so quiet. Well, I took the summer off! And guess what, Summer just ended in Dallas this week, something that I was certainly not used to when living in Chicago. Now that it’s finally not 100+ degrees outside every day, my break is over and I am ready to tackle the fall.

My nine-year-old daughter started a new public school this year. I was very surprised when she came home from school a few days into the new academic year telling me that she had been “dress-coded” for her skirt being too short. Now, those of you who know me may not believe this, but this 5’4″ mama has a fourth grader who is already over 5 feet tall! She has long legs and a small waist, which makes buying skirts that meet the old “three-inches-above-the-knees” requirement nearly impossible. Also, she’s in fourth grade—is there really a risk that any fourth-grade boys are going to be so busy ogling her that they can’t focus on learning fractions and other elementary school topics? Shouldn’t she be told how big her brain is at school, not how distracting her body is to others?

This situation got me thinking about “morality codes” in schools. Whether you’re talking about dress codes, for which 90% of enforcement reportedly falls on girls, or other rules based on gender stereotypes about how girls should look or act, back to school is a perfect time to remind ourselves of Title IX’s limitations on these types of requirements. A recent story out of Louisiana provides a great backdrop for this discussion.

Can Even a Short K-12 Library Book Ban Lead to a Civil Rights Violation? OCR Says Yes

By Jackie Gharapour Wernz and Kendra Yoch

From School Board member resignations to administrator terminations, from Federal free speech lawsuits to schools pulling the Bible from library shelves, there is no shortage of stories about the challenges facing school districts that ban books based on allegedly explicit content. The U.S. Department of Education recently added to the fraught environment surrounding book bans in response to a complaint alleging that the removal of certain books led to violations of students’ rights under Title IX and Title VI. Specifically, several students spoke up at a school board meeting saying their school district removed books because of LGBTQIA content or authorship. Others claimed books were removed because they championed principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion or were written by authors or contained characters who are people of color. The students reported feeling targeted, marginalized, and unwelcome because of the book bans. Despite those reports, the school district did not address the concerns under its policies prohibiting harassment based on race, color, or national origin (Title VI policies) or sex, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity (Title IX policies).

Although OCR resolved the complaint before making a finding of whether a violation occurred, the type of resolution agreement used can only be considered when OCR’s investigation has identified concerns through its investigation. The agreement is therefore clear notice to schools that OCR expects them to treat allegations of harassment based on the removal of books from school libraries as they would any other allegation of misconduct based on a protected status. Unless and until a lawsuit—like the one filed by the Texas AG recently, challenging a similar OCR investigation in Texas—is successful, schools should brush up on their civil rights responsibilities to limit the risk of an OCR investigation in response to removals of library books. Let’s talk about this case a bit more and what those responsibilities are.