While the following “asks” have been tailored to college campuses, we recognize that Title IX should be more adequately enforced in high schools, community colleges, and vocational schools by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) because sexual harassment and violence are pressing issues at these educational institutions too.
1. Timely Investigations
The ED must resolve investigations within a semester of a Title IX complaint being filed.
The 2011 Title IX Guidance requires schools to provide prompt resolutions for complaints of sexual violence. We ask that the ED do the same. This will ensure that survivors who remain on campus have resolutions that facilitate their ongoing education at that institution. At present, the delayed findings are meaningless to graduated survivors and come at too high a cost for enrolled students who are often forced to delay their education as a result, affecting student loans, financial aid, and scholarships.
2. Proactive Compliance Measures
(i) Proactive Investigations
The ED must proactively investigate under Title IX when it hears media reports about school administrators mishandling sexual violence rather than wait for complaints from survivors.
Many students are still unaware of their rights under Title IX. Regional ED offices should be proactively investigating campus sexual violence that may qualify as Title IX violations while it is in the media rather than waiting for survivors to file complaints – a process that is burdensome, triggering, frightening, and almost wholly unknown to most students. This will show that the ED has no tolerance for the mishandling of sexual violence cases and will aggressively seek out and address such violations.
(ii) Regional Compliance Reviews
The ED must ensure national compliance with Title IX through annual school reviews.
Given the norm of noncompliance within educational institutions, the ED should take proactive measures to ensure schools nationwide are aware of and in compliance with Title IX rather than wait for tragedy to strike. Each regional ED office should conduct random compliance reviews each year at several schools in each region to encourage compliance and proactively prevent violations.
(iii) Mandatory Audits
The ED should encourage the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct retroactive audits of colleges and universities with repeated Title IX complaints to determine patterns of violation.
Certain schools have evaded noncompliance findings despite repeatedly being reported for mishandled sexual violence cases. The DOJ should partner with ED on these tougher cases. Specifically, the DOJ should retroactively review institutions with multiple complaints in order to determine repeat patterns of violations.
3. Resolution Reforms
(i) Intermediate Sanctions
The ED must review sexual violence complaints under both Title IX and the Clery Act to appropriately use the intermediate sanctions authorized under the Campus SaVE Act.
Enforcement of Title IX needs to be meaningful. Colleges are quickly learning that they will never lose federal funding; therefore intermediate sanctions must be levied for violations. The Campus SaVE Act provides a mechanism for intermediate sanctions, having incorporated portions of the Title IX Dear Colleague Letter Guidance into the Clery Act. To facilitate its use, the ED should mandate all sexual violence complaints be comprehensively reviewed under both Title IX and the Clery Act.
(ii) Monitoring of Resolutions
The ED should allow the DOJ to monitor institutional compliance efforts as part of voluntary resolution agreements.
When voluntary resolutions agreements occur, the DOJ should be brought in for site monitoring. The DOJ should create and analyze climate surveys, announce public meetings for commentary, and ensure survivors and faculty are adequately sampled to provide meaningful monitoring of institutional efforts.
The ED must advertise the Title IX complaint process and publish filings, findings and resolutions to adequately alert students to the risk of sexual violence on campus.
Transparency is needed on Title IX enforcement. Students need to be made aware of their rights under Title IX and about ED’s complaint process. Complainants should be able to track the progress of their Title IX complaint so that it is not lost or neglected. The filing, investigation, and findings of a complaint should be publically accessible with all identifying information redacted to preserve privacy for the survivor involved. Noncompliance findings and sanctions should also be public to appropriately shame schools that have violated their federal obligations.
4. Further Education & Guidance
(i) LGBTQ Guidance
The ED must issue guidance to schools on handling LGBTQ and same-sex sexual violence to ensure adequate enforcement of Title IX.
School administrators need guidance on applying Title IX for same-sex sexual harassment and violence, especially when it involves LGBTQ students. The ED needs to be a leader on this issue and provide guidance for these circumstances to ensure equal protection for all students.
(ii) Cultural Competency Education
The ED must provide training for its officers, regional departments and campuses to ensure marginalized student populations are not unfairly burdened when exercising their rights under Title IX.
Survivors in marginalized communities often face additional barriers when bringing Title IX complaints. No survivor should have sex discrimination excused because of cultural perceptions or minimized because of their identity. Additionally, international students on visas face unique risks regarding their status when bringing Title IX complaints. The ED must provide ongoing education so that officials in schools and the ED properly address all cases of sexual violence.
ED Act Now team and allies is a now defunct group of Education Activists, asking the Department of Education to hold colleges accountable that break the law by refusing to protect students from sexual assault. As part of Blue Grizzlies 9-point Freedom Schools Initiative, we will continue to carry the banner