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Articles of Interest for Criminal Defense Attorneys and Their Clients, College Students and Their Parents, Athletes, and Title IX Advocates

Are Campus Visitors Protected from Sexual Assault Under Title IX?

Enacted in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments offers protection to students, staff, and faculty from discrimination based on sex, including harassment and assault, in education programs or activities that receive financial assistance from the federal government. While this has historically been used by students to defend their right to be free of discrimination and harassment, a number of recent cases have questioned whether the same protections should be offered to campus visitors. This is an ever evolving area of the law, so if you were visiting someone else’s campus and were harassed or assaulted, it is critical to speak with an experienced Title IX sexual assault lawyer who is well-versed in federal law and can explain your legal options.

Who is Covered by Title IX?

Title IX’s protections apply to all educational institutions that receive federal funding from the Department of Education, including:

  • State and local educational agencies;
  • Public school districts;
  • Postsecondary institutions;
  • Charter schools;
  • For-profit schools;
  • Libraries;
  • Museums; and
  • Vocational rehabilitation agencies.

Most educational institutions are covered by Title IX as they receive some sort of assistance from the federal government. In fact, all of a school’s programs are covered if a university, college, or school district in question receives federal financial assistance. There are, however, some private schools that don’t receive federal assistance and so are not covered by Title IX. Additionally, some institutions, namely schools that are controlled by religious organizations, are exempt from Title IX, but only to the extent that the application of the federal law would not be consistent with the organization’s religious tenets.

Covered entities are required under Title IX to operate in a nondiscriminatory manner when it comes to:

  • The recruitment and admission of students and personnel;
  • Counseling;
  • Financial assistance;
  • Athletics programs and events;
  • Sexual harassment;
  • Disciplinary measures; and
  • Employment opportunities.

Covered schools are also prohibited from retaliating against anyone who makes allegations against a school, student, or faculty member, testifies or participates in a Title IX complaint, or opposes an unlawful educational policy or practice. Any form or retaliation is considered a separate violation of Title IX.

On-Campus Violations of Title IX

Title IX’s protections don’t only apply to traditional academic-related educational operations, but also to a variety of other benefits and services, as long as those benefits and services are sponsored by or affiliated with a covered educational institution. For this reason, Title IX protections are available at the following school sponsored events:

  • Extracurricular activities;
  • Athletic events and programs;
  • Housing offered to students and faculty members;
  • Events that occur in campus bookstores, cafeterias, and classrooms; and
  • Campus shuttle services.

Fortunately, students, faculty, and employees are protected even when not present on a campus facility, but in all places that are associated with a certain covered educational institution. Sororities and fraternities, for instance, if they are affiliated with a certain school, are still covered by Title IX’s protections even if those programs aren’t located on the campus itself. Students who go off campus on school sponsored trips also benefit from the protections offered by Title IX, but only if the individual in question is engaged in an education-related activity.

While these protections apply to current, enrolled, and accepted students, as well as staff and faculty members, whether or not non-student visitors are covered by the protections offered by Title IX is not as clear and continues to be debated by federal courts across the country.

Are Non-Students Protected by Title IX?

The Title IX statute states that “no person” can be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination based on sex when engaged in any education program or activity that receives federal funding. The law, unfortunately, is silent as to whether this also applies to non-students who are assaulted by a student, faculty, or staff member at a covered educational institution. This can leave non-students who are not officially enrolled at a particular covered school unsure of their rights and protections when visiting that campus.

Recently, a federal district court issued a ruling that helped clarify the issue of who is entitled to protection under Title IX, which found that a person cannot bring a Title IX claim against a school unless he or she is participating or attempting to participate in a program or activity provided by an educational institution.

While this decision may seem limiting to the rights of non-students, the court also noted that this does not necessarily mean that a person has to be a student in order to have standing to file a Title IX claim. Instead, the court stated that a student must be either taking part or trying to take part in an institution’s educational program or activity if he or she wants to take advantage of Title IX’s protections. According to this reasoning, if a non-student suffered a sexual assault while researching at a university’s library or if a prospective student was harassed while on a campus tour, that individual might have standing to file a Title IX claim. Merely being present on campus, however, does not bring a person under the purview of federal law.

It’s important to note that while non-students may not be eligible to file a Title IX claim under federal law, they could have access to other legal remedies. Non-students who are harassed or assaulted by a student, faculty member, or employee of another school, for example, could seek compensation through the tort system by seeking money damages from their assailants directly and could also press criminal charges against the accused.

An Experienced New Haven Title IX Sexual Assault Lawyer

To learn more about your own legal options following an on-campus sexual assault, please contact one of the experienced Title IX lawyers at Duffy Law today. A member of our legal team can be reached 24 hours, seven days a week at (203) 935-8835 or by sending a message to inquiry@duffylawct.com.

Felice Duffy

Attorney Felice Duffy

Attorney At Duffy Law

Attorney Felice Duffy served as an Assistant United States Attorney for ten years after beginning her legal career at two prestigious firms (one in CT and one in NY) and then clerking for two federal judges. A life-long Title IX advocate, she brought a legal action under the then-new Title IX statute against UCONN while an undergraduate to compel the creation of its women’s varsity soccer program. She went on to become a first-team Division I All-American, was selected to be on the first U.S. National Women’s Team, and spent 10 years as Head Coach of the Yale women's soccer team. Attorney Duffy has Ph.D. in Education/Sports Psychology and has spoken to, and conducted trainings for, over 50 schools and organizations on a wide range of topics involving athletics, the law, and social justice. You can reach Felice at (203) 946-2000.
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