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Title IX & Student Conduct Code Blog

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The Role of Title IX Coordinators

The scheme of regulations supporting Title IX requires all schools that receive federal funding to have at least one employee who is designated to serve as the Title IX Coordinator for that school. However many people are unclear about what the Coordinator is supposed to do and what to expect from the Coordinator.

A complainant or respondent involved in a Title IX complaint process may work closely with the Coordinator on campus, but many others associated with a case or individuals who are considering filing a complaint may be uncertain of the Coordinator’s role.

At Duffy Law, we work extensively with all aspects of Title IX cases, and we are quite familiar with the duties and responsibilities laid out by law, as well as the practicalities of serving in this role in a number of different educational settings. The role of Title IX Coordinator varies depending on the policies established by each school, but here are some general features shared by Title IX Coordinators.

Overall Responsibility

Broadly speaking, a Title IX Coordinator at an individual school is charged with overseeing the implementation of Title IX policies, training students, faculty and staff on their Title IX obligations, and ensuring the institution’s overall compliance with Title IX regulations. It is a complex task, particularly in larger academic settings.

Among the most important parts of the Title IX Coordinator’s duties are the responsibility for overseeing the handling of complaints alleging sex discrimination. The Coordinator is also expected to identify and address patterns of behavior or systemic problems that come to light as the result of complaints.

Schools Must Prominently Identify their Title IX Coordinator

Federal regulations require schools receiving federal funding to provide notification of the identity of the Title IX Coordinator to the following people:

  • Applicants seeking admission
  • Applicants seeking employment
  • Students
  • Parents or guardians of elementary and secondary school students
  • Employees
  • Unions
  • Professional organizations engaged in collective bargaining or similar agreements with the school

In addition to the Coordinator’s name or title, the school must provide the office address, email address, and phone number. The contact information can be used to report sex discrimination either verbally or by written report. The Coordinator is expected to serve as the first point of contact for complaints, in addition to other duties. Therefore, this position may not be left vacant—someone must always be appointed to perform in this role.

General Responsibilities

Although schools develop their own job description for a Title IX Coordinator, and the role may not necessarily be a full-time position, there are some responsibilities that should be included in the job description. If the employee designated as Title IX Coordinator has other duties, which is often the case, those duties should not be of a type that would create a conflict of interest.

Among the general responsibilities of a Title IX Coordinator, the most visible are those associated with managing the acceptance, processing, investigation, resolution, and reporting of Title IX complaints. Coordinators are also expected to develop plans to effectively educate faculty, staff, and students about Title IX requirements as well as plans to prevent discrimination and harassment based on gender identity and other protected factors. Policies, procedures, and programs related to Title IX must be developed and implemented by the Coordinator. 

These broad duties create a number of underlying responsibilities that vary somewhat according to the setting. Regular duties of a Title IX Coordinator in a K-12 environment can be quite different than in a college setting where there are more likely to be Title IX complaints alleging sexual assault.

Examples of a Coordinator’s Duties

The role of a Title IX Coordinator can be divided into different areas:

  • Understanding obligations: A Title IX Coordinator is expected to understand the regulations and guidance issued by the Department of Education. When there are changes to the regulatory requirements, the Coordinator needs to share that information with those responsible for developing school policies so that policies can be adjusted to remain in compliance. The Coordinator should also understand the impact of court decisions related to Title IX issues.
  • Education: A Title IX Coordinator needs to ensure that faculty, staff, and students know how to comply with Title IX obligations. This often requires not only sharing information but also conducting extensive training on a regular basis. Information also needs to be shared with parents in a K-12 setting.
  • Monitoring compliance: Title IX Coordinators are supposed to collect, monitor, analyze, and report data on compliance with all Title IX obligations. This includes monitoring participation in athletics and academic programs to detect programs with a disproportionate enrollment percentage, and then investigating to ascertain whether sex discrimination is damaging the equal education opportunities of students.
  • Administrative requirements: A Title IX Coordinator will be responsible for ensuring that an educational institution is complying with reporting requirements and other administrative obligations
  • Investigate Complaints: As part of their duty to implement complaint procedures, Title IX Coordinators must investigate Title IX complaints according to procedures set out in the school’s policy manuals. The Coordinator may personally conduct the investigation (but he or she may not be the decision-maker) and could also assign this duty to trained staff. A report must be prepared and provided to the parties involved at least ten days before a hearing is held on the complaint.

The duties of a Title IX Coordinator require considerable skill, knowledge, and experience to complete properly. In some institutions, the person assigned to this role lacks an adequate understanding of the full range of responsibilities and how to complete them properly. When they fail to train faculty, students, and staff regarding Title IX obligations, the school may be more likely to be held liable for Title IX violations. Similarly, failure to conduct investigations of alleged violations properly can also lead to liability for the educational institution. In many cases, the position of Title IX Coordinator has not been given adequate attention, and problems come to light years later as aggrieved complainants and respondents take their cases to the federal courts.

Avoiding a Conflict of Interest or Bias

Federal rules prohibit Title IX Coordinators, as well as investigators and decision-makers, from having a conflict of interest in the outcome or bias against complainants or respondents either individually or as a class. A Title IX Coordinator should not be put in a position where there is a conflict of interest between their Title IX obligations and other duties they owe to an educational institution. It is generally recommended, for instance, that school athletic directors should not serve as Title IX Coordinators because if athletic personnel are accused of sexual harassment or assault, or the program is accused is not living up to Title IX standards, the Coordinators would be managing the investigations of the departments they would also want to defend.  

The duty to avoid bias can be a little more difficult to apply since individuals often do not recognize their own biases. Title IX Coordinators are required to ensure that training materials for those involved in an investigation and adjudication do not allow an assumption that complainants are always truthful when filing complaints or that respondents are always responsible for the actions of which they are accused. Training materials may also not instruct personnel to scrutinize the factual testimony of respondents more closely than they do the testimony of complainants.

Coordinator As Decision-Maker

Under the current rules, a Title IX Coordinator cannot be responsible for evaluating evidence of sexual harassment or of making a determination of responsibility. That role is to be held by a separate individual or panel of individuals known as decision-makers. The rules attempted to separate adjudication of responsibility from the investigative process.

However, the Coordinator has been permitted to make such decisions under previous versions of the rules, and when new rules are released, they may again permit schools to put the Title IX Coordinator in charge of both investigation and adjudication. The proposed rules allowed for the return of a process where investigation and adjudication could be handled by the same person, and that person could be the Title IX Coordinator. However, if a state’s statutes or judicial rulings require schools within that state to establish due process requirements that prevent the Coordinator from adjudicating decisions, then those state provisions would be controlling under the proposed regulations.

Questions About Whether a Title IX Coordinator Acted Appropriately? Check with Duffy Law

Title IX provides important protections to students, faculty and staff who have a right to be free from harassment and discrimination on the basis of sex, including gender identity. However, in the zeal to protect one individual’s Title IX rights, it is important to avoid trampling the rights of another individual. The rules attempt to strike a balance, and Title IX Coordinators often bear responsibility for maintaining that balance.

When someone’s Title IX rights have been violated, the experienced attorneys at Duffy Law help victims seek justice and restore the balance. If you have questions about whether a situation was handled properly on campus or you are facing campus proceedings now, we can provide guidance and advocacy to protect your rights and future opportunities. Contact us today for a confidential consultation.

Felice Duffy

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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.