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Survivor Protection for Sexual Harassment Under Title IX

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces, among other statutes, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Title IX states that:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Title IX provides protection for numerous forms of discrimination, including sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, and sexual violence. Sexual violence includes attempted or completed rape or sexual assault, as well as sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism, exhibitionism, verbal or physical sexuality-based threats or abuse, and intimate partner violence.

As of July 22, 2015, the federal agency (OCR) was conducting 140 investigations [2] at 124 higher education institutions for possible violations of Title IX in their handling of sexual assault. Additionally, as of July 2015, 41 similar investigations were pending, at 40 local K-12 schools and school districts.

According to the American Civil Liberties [3] Union, a “college or university that receives federal funds may be held legally responsible when it knows about and ignores sexual harassment or assault in its programs or activities. The school can be held responsible in court whether the harassment is committed by a faculty member, staff, or a student.” A school may be held liable under Title IX for the sexual harassment where the school remains deliberately indifferent to severe, pervasive and objectively offensive sexual harassment of which it has actual knowledge. Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Educ., 526 U.S. 629 (1999)

The options to remedy Title IX violations include the filing of a complaint for discrimination with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and/or filing a complaint in federal court. An individual has 180 days from the date of the violation in order to file with OCR. The time to file a complaint in federal court varies by jurisdiction.

The ACLU further speaks to the issue of sexual harassment as follows:

  • Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment can qualify as discrimination under Title IX if it is “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit.”
  • Single Instance: Courts have generally found that even a single instance of rape or sexual assault by another student meets this standard.
  • Responsibility: To be held responsible, “the college or university must have authority over the harasser and over the environment in which the harassment takes place.” Title IX also covers any such conduct that occurs on campus or at campus-sponsored events as well as any such conduct that occurs off-campus but affects students on campus. According to the Supreme Court, a school becomes legally responsible when the school’s response to harassment “is clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances.” Davis, 526 U.S. at 648.

Schedule a consultation with a nationwide Title IX attorney today

If you believe that you have suffered unlawful sex harassment, Title IX gives you the right to file a complaint with OCR to have the school investigated and to file a civil action against the institution. If you are a victim of sexual harassment, you can receive money damages, known as compensation, if you can prove that your college intentionally did not comply with its Title IX obligations. Further, if your Title IX lawsuit is successful, the court can order compensation for your attorney’s fees. Some states have additional protections, such as Connecticut’s Campus Sexual Assault law[4], which became effective July 1, 2014.

The attorneys at Duffy Law have extensive experience with Title IX actions and fully believe in the equal rights of all students and employees under the law. They are powerfully committed to the cause of Title IX and are prepared to discuss your situation today at 203-946-2000.



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