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What is Title IX?  Title IX is the law that applies to sexual misconduct on college campuses and all schools that receive federal funds.  It is a one-sentence law that says any educational program or activity that is receiving federal funds cannot discriminate on the basis of sex. They can’t exclude anyone from participating on the basis of sex, and they can’t deny the benefits of the program on the basis of sex. And to be clear, Title IX protects everyone in the school, whether it’s teachers, students, or employees.

Title IX is also the law we think of when we talk about equal funding for women’s  sports. However, contact sports are excluded which is why colleges have been able to make a lot of money in recent years from promoting football, and they don’t have to devote a similar amount of money to women’s sports.

What do schools have to do to comply with Title IX?  

Title IX has been interpreted to require colleges and universities to provide campuses with little risk of sexual assault. It is becoming increasingly clear that college campuses are often dangerous places for students. There have been consistent reports in recent years that one in five female college students is assaulted while trying to get an education.  We think this is a low number because it is based on who reports the assault, and so many time assaults are not reported.

All schools that get federal funding, which is all public schools, are required to have a Title IX officer. They’re required to have training in prevention of sexual misconduct, have rules for handling complaints of sexual misconduct, and provide notice to students about their rights to file and pursue a complaint. Schools also have to investigate claims. The intended result of Title IX is that the school must protect students’ right to an education by preventing sex discrimination and assault and make sure both parties are treated fairly.

What happens when you bring a claim for violation of Title IX?  

It does regularly happen that a victim of a sexual assault will bring a claim or lawsuit against a college or university for violation of Title IX.  Some perpetrators are also bringing claims saying they have been discriminated against.

Let’s say that Barbie goes to college and she’s unfortunately sexually assaulted on campus. She can either:  sue saying that the school failed to keep her safe, or she make a Title IX claim with the school after the assault.  Barbie chooses the Title IX claim, so she goes through the complaint process. But she is so emotionally damaged by the sexual assault, plus she feels the procedure was so stacked against her that she is drops out of college. She becomes depressed, her education is set back and she has student loans to pay back.  So, she sues for that.

But here’s the thing about Title IX, Barbie has to prove actual notice, which is a little different than in an employment situation.  In an employment situation the law says the supervisor “either knew or should have known,” but in this situation she must prove that she gave actual notice.  The school had to actually know that she was not only in danger but in sexual danger. So, it’s very hard to meet that standard in the assault setting, but it’s easier to meet when it’s about the process because after you file your Title IX complaint with the school, the school will have actual notice of what is happening  in the process it controls.

Read more about the New Proposed Standards affecting Title IX cases in our next blog post.

If you or one of your family members was a victim of a sexual assault or sexual harassment on campus, our lawyers are here to help. We can assist you with navigating the legal system and provide support to you and your family member during this very difficult time.  We can help you report the assault and approach the campus authorities and law enforcement. We can also assist you in making a Title IX complaint. We know it can be difficult to speak up if you have been a victim of sexual assault and we are here to guide you through the process.

This is an excerpt from the Law Sisters podcast.  Mixing legal information with entertainment, The Law Sisters give important safety and legal information and discuss all things sex in the workplace.  Click on the image to listen to Episode 12: Sexual Assault on College Campuses.  


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