The MLO Minute: By Nancy Potter, Esq.
In the past decade, the number of sexual harassment and violence complaints in American K-12 public schools have increased fifteen fold, according to the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”). In an effort to address this, last week, the U.S. Dept. of Education announced a new Title IX enforcement initiative, led by OCR, to address the rise of sexual assault in K-12 public schools. According to Secretary Devos, this initiative should enhance OCR’s enforcement of Title IX in both elementary and secondary public schools and strengthen the ability of schools to respond to all incidents of sexual harassment and assault, referred to inclusively as sexual misconduct.
Title IX requires that schools and districts take appropriate steps to address sex discrimination. The requirements of Title IX apply to incidents of sexual misconduct, including incidents that involve both student-on-student misconduct and staff-on-student misconduct. The new initiative will include compliance reviews in schools and districts, public awareness and support, data quality reviews of sexual misconduct data submitted by districts, and an expansion of the Civil Rights Data collection to include incidents perpetrated by school staff or school personnel.
Advocates, parents, students and schools all continue to await the publication of the new Title IX regulations. We expect those regulations to be published in the Federal Register before the end of April. The announcement of this initiative may be some indication that the Dept. of Education and OCR are not reducing its enforcement of Title IX, like some expected. However, we won’t know that until the final regulations are released to the public. We do expect to see more guidance on how OCR expects schools to investigate stalking, sexting, sexualized bullying, and intimate partner violence.
Our team at MLO has a unique set of experiences, backgrounds, and skills to expertly assist students involved in Title IX matters, whether they are victims of inappropriate conduct by others or accused of misconduct themselves. We have handled a great many Title IX matters at both the K-12 and Higher Education levels, as well as issues involving academic integrity and academic progress, and we can provide the expertise necessary to assist students and their families. Any student who is involved in a Title IX claim or other student conduct issue should have the benefit of good counsel. The issues are critical and the stakes are so very high for students and families.