Tag Archives: Department of Education

Title IX: Key Terms

Title IX terms are often unclear, and the very nature of claims can make the process confusing. We’ve put together some key terms and definitions that should help you understand a little bit more about Title IX and filing a claim under Title IX. As always, if you have any questions, contact us.

Bystander Intervention – This model focuses on stopping sexual assault by teaching prevention and interruption skills. It includes education on sexual assault, speaking out against sexual assault, and understanding and interpreting situations that could lead to sexual assault before it happens.

Campus Grant Program – This is a fund given to colleges and universities, specifically for reducing sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking on campus.

Clery Act – This is a federal law that requires higher education institutions to disclose and report statistics and information about campus crime, as well as prevention programs and policies. The information must be available to students, employees and the public.

Compliance Review – The Departments of Education and Justice periodically review federally funded educational institutions to check for compliance with federal laws, such as Title IX. Recently, many colleges and universities across the country have been failing to comply with Title IX laws.

FERPA – The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. This is not limited to academic transcripts. It also includes health records, disciplinary records and complaints.

Injunctive Relief – This is a court order (“injunction”) that requires a specific action. For example, a college may be required to provide counselling for a victim of sexual assault or made to improve education and training programs surrounding sexual violence and harassment.

Preponderance of the Evidence – This is the standard of proof in Title IX proceedings.  It essentially means proving that it is more likely than not that sexual violence or sexual harassment occurred. This is significantly easier to meet than the well-known criminal standard:  beyond a reasonable doubt.

Primary Prevention – The aim is to prevent sexual violence from occurring. This may be through training and education programs. Bystander invention is an example of primary prevention.

Responsible Employees – This term refers to any employee who is authorized to take action regarding sexual violence. It may also refer to someone who reports the incident to the Title IX coordinator or someone who a student may consider to have the authority.

Retaliation – Title IX law makes it unlawful to retaliate against an individual either before, during or after a complaint has been made. Retaliation includes intimidation, threats, coercion, harassment, bullying or creating a hostile environment.

Title IX Coordinator – Federally funded educational institutions must designate at least one employee to ensure compliance with Title IX. That person must be trained in sexual violence and sexual harassment cases and oversee all Title IX complaints.

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 – This amended the Violence Against Women Act and the Clery Act (see above) to update the requirements of how schools prevent and respond to sexual violence. The new requirements include primary prevention education, awareness programs, statistics on stalking and sexual assault (already required), issuing complainants a written notice of their rights, and updating grievance policies.

White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault – Established by the President in January 2014, the task force is charged with improving and sharing practices regarding sexual assault, increasing transparency and public awareness, and improving enforcement.

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Your school’s role in addressing sexual violence under Title IX

Colleges and universities rightly face increasing scrutiny about how they respond to victims of sexual assault. Under pressure from campaigners, victims and advocates, the White House has led a charge to combat what can be described as the systematic failings of college and university administrators.  The Department of Education has released a list of over 50 colleges and universities nationwide now under review for their mishandling of sexual assault. Senator Claire McCaskill (Mo) recently issued a comprehensive survey that detailed some shocking statistics and was complete with the subtitle “How too many institutions of higher education are failing to protect students” (you can read our blog on the report here). The White House also initiated a task force to look at sexual assault and launched a new informational website, www.NotAlone.gov.

So, what are a school’s responsibilities? If a student reports an incident of sexual violence to the school, the school must respond promptly and effectively and take the reasonable steps to resolve the situation. A criminal investigation does not relieve the school from its duties under Title IX. During the investigation, they must ensure the safety of the student.

However, many schools have been found unable to provide the proper resources or lack qualified individuals to deal with the report of sexual violence. As detailed in Senator McCaskill’s report, most school systems are insufficient and fail to effectively support victims. Even the presence of a trained Title IX coordinator is often detrimental, as they have been found culpable of protecting the school rather than the victim.

Many schools inadequately deal with reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment. If you are a victim of sexual assault, or know a victim, and you feel your school has failed to help or you just want to know what you should expect, please contact us today.

Philip Gordon and Elizabeth Rodgers interviewed by Huffington Post about Harvard University professor’s denied tenure

Philip Gordon, together with Elizabeth Rodgers of Rodgers, Powers & Schwartz LLP, is leading part of the Title IX effort against Harvard University. They represent Dr. Kimberly Theidon, an accomplished anthropology professor at Harvard University who has seemingly been denied tenure for supporting students who were victims of sexual assault and critical of Harvard’s approach to their cases.  Click here to read an interview with Theidon, Gordon and Rodgers.

Colleges and universities across the country are facing ever-increasing scrutiny as to how they deal with instances of sexual assault on campus, including Harvard University where students have filed a separate Title IX complaint to the U.S. Department of Education. Title IX protects students against sexual harassment and sexual violence because it denies the student the right to an education free from discrimination. There has been a wave of exposure in the media, including coverage of Theidon’s case which you can read here. You can also read the Huffington Post’s coverage of Harvard’s students’ complaint by clicking here.