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
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.