Title IX is one of the most important and recognizable federal laws that apply to educational institutions. It impacts students, staff, professors, and members of the community and violating Title IX can have serious consequences. Keep reading for a fact sheet on Title IX and what you should know if you are accused of breaking the law.
A Brief History
Title IX was introduced on June 23, 1972, as a part of the Equal Protection Clause. The goal of Title IX is to prevent discrimination and establish guidelines for discipline at federally funded colleges and universities. The law states,
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, […] be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Public universities must aide by Title IX as a part of their compliance with federal financial student aid and other benefits. In many cases, noncompliance can affect accreditation and lead to scandals that impact the institution’s future.
In addition to preventing discrimination and harassment, Title IX improves conditions for athletes of all genders and associations. Prior to the law, colleges did not allow women to participate in collegiate sports and denied academic and employment privileges to female students and those who do not identify as male.
Schools must provide sufficient notice of nondiscrimination policies. Notices do not need to explicitly mention sexual harassment and violence, but the U.S. Department of Education recommends that universities include such language to avoid misinterpretation. Schools may include public postings of Title IX policies and include a more extensive breakdown of policies in the student or employee handbook. Notices must be available virtually and in print and must include detail.
Federally funded educational institutions must use a portion of their funding to support a Title IX Coordinator. A Coordinator is responsible for compiling security reports and addressing reports of discrimination, harassment, or violence. Coordinators must also ensure that schools are compliant with the law and provide correctional directives to address any noncompliance issues. The Title IX Coordinator cannot serve any other position at the institution. Contact information for the coordinator must be readily available to students, faculty, and staff.
Schools must adopt clear grievance procedures for complaints. Title IX offers recommendations to help universities build out a more specific policy on their own. For example, institutions must be “prompt and equitable” when handling reports which means the Title IX office must review and handle cases as soon as possible but thoroughly.
Additionally, law enforcement must inform survivors of their rights under the grievance procedure should the student or staff member report assault or harassment to police prior to filing a claim with the school.
Individual universities may include school-specific policies that incorporate cultural and geographical context to ensure that the policy applies to the students in attendance and there are no gaps in the rules. In general, Title IX prompts institutions to ensure that employees know how to respond to claims and ensure that counselors are available and qualified to handle victim’s cases. The school must also promote annual education and training on Title IX.
All federally funded educational institutions must have prompt and thorough responses to accusations of violence on campus. Accusers and the accused must have equal rights during this process including:
- The right to an advisor of choice present at the disciplinary hearing
- The right to present evidence and provide statements for their own behalf
- The right to access information used at the hearing
- The right to attendance at all related meetings in the prehearing and hearing phase
- The right to receive a final decision in writing at the same time as the other party without the need for a non-disclosure agreement
- The right to appeal a final decision
Title IX is a federal civil right and requires a preponderance of evidence meaning the evidence must prove whether the claim is more like than not to have occurred. In other words, the likelihood of a violation should be about 51% or higher.
Retaliation against victims is not tolerated under Title IX and may result in serious penalties by the Department of Education and the university.
Title IX leaves little room for error on the part of institutions and those accused of misconduct. While the accused does have rights under the law, there are few protections or considerations for their benefit which can make defending against false accusations more complicated.