WAY MORE THAN JUST SOFTBALL: The Office For Civil Rights Issues New Pronouncement on Schools’ Title IX Obligations

Although Title IX is most typically associated with sports, it also governs

sexual harassment and sexual violence in public

schools. With recent increases in sexting and

cyberbullying, and with emerging legal theories

regarding the rights gay and transgendered

students, many districts have faced OCR

investigations and lawsuits regarding sex

harassment and discrimination. OCR issued this

letter to remind schools of a reminder of several of

the key components of Title IX. Perhaps more

importantly, the letter also contains OCR’s most

current interpretation of the law.

Title IX Basics

In order to comply with Title IX, every K-12 school district must:

(1) Have a policy prohibiting sex discrimination (in both academic

and nonacademic settings such as athletic programs);

(2) Have a process for receiving, investigating, and resolving Title IX

complaints, including an appeal process; and

(3) Designate a Title IX Coordinator to assist in the enforcement of

the policy and complaint process.

New Interpretation Regarding Title IX Coordinators

The Dear Colleague letter adds several important details to how OCR

interprets the requirement that schools name a Title IX Coordinator. OCR

states that schools must

 provide ongoing training to their Title IX Coordinator

 distribute the Coordinator’s contact information, and

 include the Coordinator’s name and contact information in the district’s

nondiscrimination policy

Over the summer, school boards and administrators should review their

policy books to make sure their anti-discrimination policy is up-to- date. Be

sure to check any freestanding Title IX policy or handbook provisions and

remember to check your sex discrimination provisions, general

nondiscrimination notices, and bullying/harassment provisions, as well.

You should also be sure that the district has designated a Title IX

Coordinator and ensure that the Coordinator has had recent training on Title

IX’s legal requirements.

Note: If you are a KSB Policy Service subscriber or a district who subscribes

to our annual updates, your sex discrimination policies require the

superintendent to appoint your Title IX Coordinator. Because OCR often

follows DCL’s with enhanced enforcement efforts, we will be providing a

series of revisions within our annual policy update to clarify all of these

requirements and hopefully help avoid compliance investigations.

Required Training for Title IX Coordinators

We believe that a key component of showing compliance will be

documenting the training provided to the Coordinator. In our experiences in

dealing with OCR, they almost always ask to see verification of training.

Consider a freestanding Title IX training or consult with your athletic

conference or service unit to see if there is interest in pooling resources to

provide professional development focusing on Title IX to key staff. At a

minimum, schools should consider adding a Title IX component to their

existing staff training.

What Schools are Not Required to Do

While the DCL does serve as a good reminder of school districts’ legal

obligations, OCR also includes several suggested action steps for schools

which are not required by Title IX. For example, many districts use the

superintendent, principal(s), or the activities director as the Title IX

Coordinator. Some districts designate one person to cover the Title IX and

the Section 504 Coordinator responsibilities. Despite the DCL’s suggestion

that schools should hire a “full time” Title IX Coordinator, it is absolutely not

legally required. Likewise, OCR suggests that the Title Coordinator be

someone outside of the administrative chain of command, which is also not

legally required. You should think through and address in your policies and

handbooks how the Coordinator’s role in investigating Title IX complaints fits

into your district’s standard complaint and appeals procedures, especially if

you do not have a freestanding Title IX policy.

One of the new points of emphasis in this DCL is the OCR’s insistence that

your nondiscrimination policy, including the contact information for your Title

IX Coordinator, be “widely distributed.” OCR suggests that this information

must be present on materials distributed by the district and on your website.

We do not agree that this information must be included on all district

communications or on your website, but including the information in your

handbooks and on your website would provide good evidence that your Title

IX Coordinator’s contact information and your nondiscrimination policy have

been widely distributed.


This is the latest in which we expect to be to be a long line of “Dear

Colleague Letters” (“DCL”) prior to the conclusion of President Obama’s

Administration. You can access the Title IX DCL in its entirety here.

If you have questions, we recommend that you consult with your school

district’s attorney or call Karen, Steve or Bobby.