Tag Archives: sexual assault

Philip Gordon and Elizabeth Rodgers continue their focus on Title IX sexual assault claims

Title IX requires colleges and universities who receive federal money to stop sexual harassment or violence on their campuses. Under this law, colleges and universities must have policies and procedures in place for students to make complaints and for the institution to address those complaints. The school must thoroughly investigate the complaint, and then inform those students of the outcome. And, students, administrators, teachers and coaches MUST be free from retaliation for making or supporting those complaints.

Philip Gordon of the Gordon Law Group, along with Elizabeth Rodgers of Rodgers, Powers & Schwartz are among the leading attorneys representing individuals who have suffered retaliation for making complaints or insisting that their university comply with Title IX’s requirements. While there remain many facets to Title IX, they focus specifically in sexual assault, sexual harassment and retaliation claims against colleges and universities.

Most recently, one of their clients, Dr. Kimberly Theidon filed a complaint against Harvard University for, among other things, denying her tenure in retaliation for supporting students complaining of Harvard’s failures to support victims of sexual assaults and gender violence on campus. [HuffPost Article] Dr. Theidon acted as an unofficial confidante for victims of sexual assault, and an advocate for Title IX compliance, and her career was ultimately penalized for her show of support.

If you are suffering from sexual violence, harassment or retaliation on campus, Title IX may protect you.

For more information on Title IX and how we might help you, contact us.

This information is not a do-it-yourself guide to resolving employment disputes or handling employment litigation. While some may find this useful for understanding the basic issues and their legal context, it is NOT a substitute for experienced legal counsel and does not provide legal advice.  Please contact the team at Gordon Law Group to discuss your specific case.

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Know Your Title IX Rights

Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex against any person who participates in any federally funded education program. This means that many schools, colleges and universities across the country are subject to Title IX laws.

Contrary to popular opinion, Title IX does not apply just to college athletics. Title IX typically applies to 10 topics, ranging from standardized testing to technology.  We focus here specifically on sexual assault and sexual harassment cases, and we have a history of representing clients in Title IX matter against their schools.

Furthermore, Title IX law does not just apply to female students. Title IX protects equal rights in federally funded education for each and every person involved. This includes students, staff, faculty and other employees. It also includes women, girls, men and boys; those with or without disabilities; and international and undocumented workers. Under Title IX, every person has a right to pursue education or work in education, free from sex discrimination, sexual violence and sexual harassment.

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.

Why Title IX is critical to sexual harassment cases at colleges and universities

Title IX is a critical federal law. Almost every person in the United States (citizen or non-citizen – it applies to both) is protected by Title IX at some point in their life, be it during grade school, high school, or higher education.  Furthermore, Title IX applies to everyone who is connected to federally-funded education, from staff to students, and from presidents to professors. However, while Title IX is a well-written law, the failures appear in application and enforcement, typically by educational institutions ill-prepared to dealing with sexual violence or sexual harassment despite their legal mandates.

Here are some sobering statistics and thoughts, courtesy of TitleIX.info, that highlight how much work needs to be done:

  • 8 in 10 students experience some form of harassment during their school years, and more than 1 in 4 experience it often;
  • Girls are more likely than boys to experience sexual harassment (56% v. 40%), but boys are more likely to be harassed today than in 1994; and
  • Victims of sexual harassment are impacted deeply.

If you have any questions about this blog, or would like to speak to someone about sexual violence and harassment, please contact us today.

Colleges failing to properly investigate sexual assault

A new study has found that around 40% of colleges have failed to investigate a single incident of sexual assault on their campuses in the last five years.  Furthermore, 51% of colleges admit they have no hotline to report sexual assaults, and 10% have no Title IX coordinator.

These findings come after a survey conducted by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, who is focusing on campus sexual assaults after passing legislation earlier in 2014 to confront rape in the military.  To read the full report, click here.

Title IX and the Clery Act require colleges to report, investigate and prevent campus sexual assault, but these figures highlight a systematic failure to act in a significant portion of colleges. In the survey, colleges also showed a tendency to report sexual assault but not investigate it. The investigation process itself also remains highly fraught with many colleges not permitting the involvement of the victim in the case, while others involve a student body to adjudicate, leading to major privacy concerns and potentially discouraging student to report assault if it ends up under peer review.

There remains a significant lack of training and education to teach staff and students about sexual assault. 20% of colleges fail to provide sexual assault training for their staff, 31% fail to provide training for their students and 30% fail to provide training for on-campus security or police.

If you have any questions about sexual assault on campus or Title IX, please contact us today.

All statistics are from July 9, 2014 report issued by United States Senator Claire McCaskill.

Boston Globe interviews Dr. Theidon of Harvard University

One of Gordon Law Group’s and Rodgers, Powers and Schwartz’s clients, Harvard professor Dr. Kimberly Theidon, was featured in The Boston Globe this morning. The piece is the latest in a slew of articles and interviews about the Professor, who was denied tenure last spring. Theidon will now take a tenured faculty position at Tufts University.

Dr. Theidon has brought Title IX claims against Harvard University, stating that she believes the university discriminated against her because of her gender and for openly supporting victims of sexual assault on campus.

You can read the full article here.

You can also read and watch Philip Gordon and Dr. Theidon’s interviews with the Huffington PostMSNBC and ABC-Boston.

If you would like to learn more about Title IX, check out our Title IX page, our FAQ page or contact us today.

Philip Gordon appears on MSNBC to talk about Title IX

Philip Gordon recently appeared on MSNBC’s show Ronan Farrow Daily, alongside Dr. Kimberly Theidon of Harvard University, to discuss Title IX, sexual assault on campuses, and Theidon’s denial of tenure for supporting sexual assault victims. Click here to watch the video.

Philip, along with Elizabeth Rodgers, have been representing Dr. Theidon as part of her Title IX fight against Harvard.