When It Comes to Harassment Under Title IX, Follow Your Policies

October 4, 2022

Title IX compliance is becoming more and more complicated as political fighting, and regulatory changes emerge. Even so, Title IX and other federal statutes prohibiting harassment in public schools remain in effect. Despite the current confusion about the scope of these laws going forward, there is one thing school officials can do to ensure a compliant response under Title IX: train staff to follow policy instead of merely handling the situation.

What is Title IX?

In 1972, Title IX of the Educational Amendments was signed into law to protect people from discrimination and being denied participation in and the benefits of any education program or activity receiving Federal funding.

Federal and state anti-discrimination statutes, including Title IX, prohibit public schools from tolerating harassment and discrimination based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, and disability.

Over the last 50 years, Title IX applications have been challenged, argued, and defended, resulting in years of changes, including exemptions for specific types of organizations and expansions to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

Everyday Situations with Title IX Implications

School administrators and teachers are experts at resolving conflicts between students and monitoring situations to ensure students are safe when under their watch. However, they may not be adequately prepared to ensure legal compliance with Title IX or other federal anti-discrimination statutes.

Let’s say that a student is calling another student names in class. This situation may be an everyday occurrence for most teachers. So, they may promptly respond by separating the students and counseling them or imposing discipline on the name-caller. But what if the name-calling included sexist, sexual, or even racist connotations? What if the name-calling was part of a pattern? This is where things can break down in terms of legal compliance.

What Should School Administrators and Officials Do?

When it comes to sex-based harassment and discrimination, Title IX imposes specific procedural requirements.

When bad behavior happens at school, following the code of conduct may be appropriate. It may also be necessary to follow other policies, including those requiring an investigation and written report, to ensure that harassment or discrimination is not tolerated.

In short, schoolteachers and administrators should respond promptly to manage their classrooms effectively and ensure the safety and comfort of their students. To fully comply with the law, they should also be trained to confer with or report to the Title IX Coordinator and involve legal counsel to determine if additional steps, including investigation, are necessary. 

About the Author

Claire E. Parsons

Claire E. Parsons

Claire is part of Wood + Lamping’s Litigation and Local Government practice areas. Claire’s practice includes litigation through defense-oriented matters, representation for school boards and other public entities and administrative, municipal, and employment law.

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