Almost anyone who has been exposed to collegiate activities in one form or another has heard of the famed Title IX legislature. Often college athletics and equal female representation in varsity sports is the first and perhaps only thing that comes to mind for many. However, in reality, Title IX reaches much farther than the gym or the locker room. In fact, its influence even surpasses the college campus in its entirety — Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.
Though the implications are complex and thoroughly explored in countless pages of guidance materials, discussion, and legal precedence, Title IX itself is short and sweet: “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. The following points comprise a few truths about Title IX that are important for anyone involved with a Federally funded institution, and especially those involved on college campuses as either students or staff/faculty, to understand.
Title IX prohibits sexual discrimination in any facet of a federally funded institution — not just within sports.
This means that Title IX is just as applicable (and will provide the same protection) to a commuting student or a member of the campus Chess club as it is to a varsity athlete.
Title IX addresses sexual misconduct in a broad stroke by prohibiting sexual violence, rape, harassment, exhibitionism, threats, and abuse.
- Title IX prohibits ANY sexual discrimination (protects men and women equally).
- Title IX protects discrimination on the basis of the individual’s PERCEIVED gender, not their anatomical sex. Thus, transgender and bisexual students won’t be turned away from receiving the protection Title IX guarantees.
Title IX imposes strict responsibilities on every educational institution where infractions occur. For instance, every institution:
- MUST respond to any received complaint by immediately conducting an investigation.
- Is obligated to conduct discipline in any instance where the likelihood of an offense is “more likely than not”.
- Is sanctioned to issue a “No Contact Directive” (similar to a restraining order) that prevents the offending party from approaching or contacting the victim of the abuse. The institution is also required to assist the victim in receiving a court-ordered restraining order should the victim request one.
- Must cover the cost of any accommodation necessary for the victim to continue their education at that institution. From educational assistance to psychological counseling to different living arrangements, the institution must provide any services deemed necessary for the victim’s continued educational success free of charge.
According to TItle IX, it is a student’s right to be free from a hostile educational environment.
The main objective of Title IX is to abolish sexual harassment of any kind from Federally funded institutions and programs. Its goal is that every student, faculty and staff member, or any other involved party is able to safely work and learn without feeling threatened by sexual advances or misconduct.
Utilizing Title IX
No one expects sexual harassment. It’s easy to dismiss the examples and news stories as urban legend and think, “But that would never happen to ME.” However, every single day, people just like you and I find themselves in serious sexual harassment or abuse situations that necessitate action or protection against further incidents. How does a victim of sexual harassment or abuse proceed? The first and most common course of action after encountering a possible act of sexual misconduct is to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR can be contacted by using their toll-free numbers or by using their online local office locator to locate an office near you. If you have experienced or witnessed an act of sexual misconduct or discrimination, this is a good starting point.
Lawsuit or Complaint?
When someone suffers a serious act of sexual misconduct, including abuse or sustained harassment, they have the option of filing a lawsuit against the perpetrator instead of merely filing a complaint. However, initiating legal action can affect Title IX proceedings and should only be done after consulting legal counsel.
Title IX Institutional Compliance
Just as important as it is to foster awareness in students and individuals who are protected by Title IX legislature is the process by which a Federally funded institution should make sure it remains compliant with the legal standards Title IX imposes. Every educational institution that receives Federal funding must designate a Title IX coordinator and must publish that coordinator’s contact information where students can access it. Any institution that fails to instate a Title IX coordinator is non-compliant and thus risks repercussion should a complaint ever be filed with the OCR.
Another vital part of making sure an institution is Title IX-compliant is to make sure it is equipped with operating procedures and protocols for receiving and investigating complaints as they arise. Incidents could be reported at any time and an institution without a predetermined plan for how to handle them faces serious risk of handling them incorrectly, an oversight that could cost them large amounts of money in fines, cause negative press, and potentially result in loss of Federal funding should they be reported.
Title IX’s Importance in Today’s Educational Arena
Whether you are a student on a college or university campus or a wizened educational board member detached from the college scene, the implications of Title IX are far-reaching and significant. It is important that everyone connected to a Title IX institution is aware not only of the protection and benefits made available to them by this important piece of legislature, but also of the responsibilities it places on all Federally funded institutions.
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