DOs and DON’Ts for K-12 Building Administrators for Reports of Sexual Harassment

By Thompson & Horton’s Title IX Team

The 2020 Title IX Rules provide detailed training requirements for school district personnel who serve in formal roles in the Title IX grievance process, including the Title IX Coordinator, investigators, decisionmakers, appeal officers, and informal resolution facilitators. In their efforts to ensure all designated Title IX personnel are trained, schools may overlook the need to educate and train K-12 campus personnel—especially principals, assistant principals, counselors, and teachers—about the rules of the road when it comes to responding to allegations of sex-based misconduct, including harassment in schools.

K-12 campus employees are often the first to learn about allegations of sex-based misconduct at their schools. To their credit, building administrators usually work quickly to address problems at their campus. In some instances, campus administrators have already investigated allegations of sex-based misconduct and taken disciplinary action before the Title IX Coordinator is ever called. Although a proactive response to reported misconduct is laudable in many cases, in the context of a school’s Title IX obligations these actions can be the basis of an OCR complaint or other Title IX dispute.

Campus personnel at K-12 schools need to know what they should do and what they should not do when they learn or receive a report about potential sex-based misconduct, including harassment, at their schools. Here are some DOs and DON’Ts to get this essential conversation started. You can also use this convenient flyer to drive home these important tips. We recommend having copies on hand for campus personnel, including principals, assistant principals, counselors, and teachers, so that they can refer to it whenever they receive information about alleged sex-based misconduct at their schools.

Biden OCR Issues Proposed Title IX Rule Drastically Changing Title IX Process for Schools on 50th Anniversary of Title IX

By Jackie Gharapour Wernz & Holly McIntush

The long awaited proposed Title IX regulation from the Biden administration’s U.S. Department of Education was released today, on the 50th anniversary of Title IX. You can find the proposed rule here. As expected, the proposed rule includes provisions that, if they become law, would drastically change the process schools, colleges, and universities use to address Title IX sexual harassment reports. The current process is from the Trump administration’s Title IX rule, which has been in effect for less than two years. Among other things, the proposed rule would grant explicit legal protections to LGBTQI+ students, replace the “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” definition for a hostile environment with a lower “severe or pervasive” standard, and remove the requirement that a formal complaint be signed or filed to initiate the complaint process.

Playing Prime Time or Stuck on a Broken-Down Bus? Are Your High School Athletics Programs Providing Equal Benefits under Title IX?

By Jackie Wernz, Adam Rothey, Matt Reed, and Kendra Yoch

Historically, K-12 athletics have taken a back seat to collegiate athletics when it comes Title IX enforcement, whether in the form of private litigation or investigations by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”).  More recently, however, we are seeing an emerging focus on Title IX enforcement in high school athletics, and specifically allegations that female teams are receiving unequal benefits compared to their male counterparts. Is your district in compliance? An internal review can help ensure equal opportunities and benefits for your athletes and avoid costly disputes. Here’s what to look for.

New Year, New Title IX Policy? Four Steps to Get Your Policies and Procedures in Shape

It’s 2022. We know that we are expecting new proposed Title IX rules in April 2022. Still, if that tells us anything, it’s that we will be living with the current Title IX regulations for at least another calendar year, and probably for a whole school year after that. Schools cannot be complacent in ensuring that policies and procedures are up to standard under the current rules simply because new rules are coming sometime in the future. I know; it’s not what anyone wants to hear. But the good news is, updating your policies and procedures does not have to be painful. Here are four steps you can take to get your policies and procedures in the best possible position for the next few semesters while the 2020 Title IX rules will still be in effect.