Sex-based discrimination is prohibited in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance pursuant to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Discrimination based on sex includes sexual harassment, sexual violence, and gender based harassment. Although the focus of Title IX has generally been on post-secondary education, Title IX also applies to public schools and school districts.
Following regulatory guidance during the Obama administration and increased pressure from the media and the public to address sexual harassment and sexual violence, many colleges and universities changed their investigatory and disciplinary policies and procedures. Unfortunately, some of these changes came at the expense of the accused students’ rights. Although the current administration has withdrawn the guidance that lowered the standard of proof and discouraged cross-examination in student sexual misconduct investigations, colleges and universities still fail to ensure accused students receive due process.
Recently, the United States Department of Education announced a new enforcement initiative to address sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, and sexual violence incidents in K-12 public schools. According to the press release, the new initiative will “strengthen the ability of schools to respond to all incidents of sexual harassment and assault.” The new initiative will include compliance reviews of schools and school districts, which will involve the review of policies, procedures, and practices for addressing complaints. The initiative will also involve public awareness, data quality reviews to ensure incidents are being accurately recorded and reported through Civil Rights Data Collection, and the collection of additional data.