Title IX: Know Your Rights
Did You Know?
- Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding?
- Sexual harassment including sexual assault, is a type of sex discrimination that’s banned by Title IX?
- Sexual assault is a physical act done against a person’s will?
- 1 in 5 women are victims of completed or attempted sexual assault while in college?
- Schools are required to adopt and publish grievance procedures for students who complain of sex discrimination, including sexual assault?
- Even if you file with HCC Police, HCC is required to independently investigate the assault?
Title IX: Protection from discrimination at school
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq., is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex—including pregnancy and parental status—in educational programs and activities.
All public and private schools, school districts, colleges, and universities receiving any Federal funds (“schools”) must comply with Title IX.*
1. Landmark case
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” –Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972
Passed by Congress on June 23, 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 bars sex discrimination in education programs and activities offered by entities receiving federal financial assistance. As the Supreme Court recognized in the landmark case of United States v. Virginia, “our Nation has had a long and unfortunate history of sex discrimination.” But in the forty years since its enactment, Title IX has improved access to educational opportunities for millions of students, helping to ensure that no educational opportunity is denied to women on the basis of sex and that women are granted “equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society based on their individual talents and capacities.” In 2011 alone, Title IX covered over 49 million students enrolled in more than 98,000 elementary and secondary schools.3 Title IX also protects more than 20 million students enrolled in postsecondary education.
2. Not Just for Females Only
Title IX protects any person from sex-based discrimination, regardless of their real or perceived sex, gender identity, and/or gender expression. Female, male, and gender non-conforming students, faculty, and staff are protected from any sex-based discrimination, harassment or violence.
3. Schools must be proactive
You are protected under Title IX even if you do not experience sex discrimination directly. Schools must take immediate steps to address any sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence happening on campus to prevent it from affecting students further. If a school knows or reasonably should know about discrimination, harassment or violence that is creating a “hostile environment” for any student, it must act to eliminate it, remedy the harm caused and prevent its recurrence.
4. Schools must have an established procedure for handling complaints of sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence
Every school must have a Title IX Coordinator who manages complaints. The Coordinator’s contact information should be publically accessible on the school’s website. If you decide to file a complaint, your school must promptly investigate it regardless of whether you report to the police, though a police investigation may very briefly delay the school’s investigation if they are gathering evidence. A school may not wait for the conclusion of a criminal proceeding and should conclude its own investigation within a semester’s time (the 2011 Title IX Guidance proposes 60 days as an appropriate timeframe). The school should use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard to determine the outcome of a complaint, meaning discipline should result if it is more likely than not discrimination, harassment or violence occurred. The final decision should be provided to you and the accused in writing and both of you have the right to appeal the decision.
Osvaldo Gomez, MSW
Director of EEO and Compliance/Title IX Coordinator
Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX
3100 Main, Suite 702
Houston, Texas 77002
713.718.8271 or firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Protect Victims
Along with issuing a no contact directive to the accused, schools must ensure any reasonable changes to your class or sports schedule, campus job, or extracurricular activity and clubs are made to ensure you can continue your education free from any ongoing sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence. These arrangements can occur BEFORE a formal complaint, investigation, hearing, or final decision is made regarding your complaint. It also can CONTINUE after the entire process since you have a right to an education free of sex-based discrimination, harassment or violence. Additionally, these accommodations should not over-burden complainant-victims or limit your educational opportunities. Instead, schools can require the accused to likewise change some school activities or classes to ensure there is not ongoing hostile educational environment.
6. No Retaliation
Schools must address complaints of sex discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence. As part of this obligation they can issue a no contact directive or make other accommodations to ensure the accused or a third party does not retaliate for any complaint. Additionally, the school may not take adverse action against the complainant-victim for their complaint. Any retaliation can and should be reported in a formal Title IX complaint to the U.S. Department of Education since it is your right to be free from a hostile educational environment.
7. No Contact Directive
When necessary for student safety, schools can issue a no contact directive preventing an accused student from directly or indirectly contacting or interacting with you. Campus security or police can and should enforce such directives. This is not a court-issued restraining order, but a school should provide you with information on how to obtain such an order and facilitate that process if you choose to pursue it.
8. In cases of sexual violence, schools are prohibited from encouraging or allowing mediation (rather than a formal hearing) of the complaint.
The 2011 Title IX Guidance clearly prohibits schools from allowing mediation between an accused student and a complainant-victim in sexual violence cases. However, they may still offer such an alternative process for other types of complaints, such as sexual harassment. Realize it is your choice and you can and should seek a disciplinary hearing if you desire such a formal process. Schools are discouraged from allowing the accused to question you during a hearing.
9. Schools cannot discourage you from continuing your education.
Title IX is a positive right to be free of a hostile environment in order to protect your access to education. You have a right to remain on campus and have every educational program and opportunity available to you. Schools may not discourage you from continuing your education, such as telling you to “take time off” or force you to quit a team, club or class. You can always file a formal Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education if this occurs or seek legal counsel to enforce your right to education under Title IX. It is your choice how to handle sexual harassment or violence, but realize you have a right to your education and the school MUST adjust to ensure you can continue free from that hostile environment.
10. Prompt and impartial
The school administration has a duty to address all Title IX complaints in a prompt and impartial manner. Investigations should be independent of police or other investigations. Once a potential Title IX infraction is known by a school administrator, the school must act quickly to address the complaint. Generally the school has 60 days to address a Title IX complaint unless there are extenuating circumstances. The legal standard of preponderance of evidence will be used when determining whether a violation has occurred.