New Title IX rules strain districts, administrator says

Schools urgeds to provide more guidance to students around sexual assault and their Title IX rights
By: | June 14, 2021

Trump-era Title IX regulations have placed unnecessary burdens on administrators investigating sexual misconduct complaints, one school leader said during this week’s Office for Civil Rights virtual hearing.

Requiring a principal and an assistant principal to participate in complaint hearings poses an “undue hardship,” said Mike R., a Title IX coordinator for a 36,000-student district in Colorado.

“Servings as a principal or assistant principal is not a typical 9-to-5 job. Sometimes they work on the weekend. They do this because they love their job and students,” he said. “Our recommendation would be to bring back the single investigator model so while one staff member is conducting an investigation the other staff member can support the students.”

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, also known as OCR, is holding a five-day virtual hearing as it reviews Trump-era revisions to Title IX regulations and works to implement President Joe Biden’s March 8 executive order on “Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free from Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.”

Mike R. also suggested that OCT write a set of Title IX rules specifically for K-12 schools in mind. For one thing, some younger children do not understand what sexual harassment is, he said.

He also recommended aligning Title IX procedures with state due process laws around school discipline.

“There is a distinct difference between the cognitive level of a fifth-grader compared to that of a four-year college student,” he said. “Children should not be forced to participate in a process designed for adults.”

How to participate in Title IX hearing

Members of the public share their comments in this week’s Title IX hearings by registering with the Department of Education.

But schools should also provide more guidance to students around sexual assault and their Title IX rights, said Jasmin M., a recent high school graduate from Illinois who will attend American University in the fall.

This is of particular importance in high schools, where 18-year-olds and 13-year-olds walk the same hallways, Jasmin M. said.

She recommended OCR create a program to guidance schools in educating students around Title IX issues.

“The framework of Title IX and grievance policies aren’t accessible to those who may not be able to comfortably articulate their traumatic experiences,” she said. “How is a student body expected to advocate for themselves when we don’t know what our rights are and what our educational institutions are obligated to do.”