Category Archives: Guest Blog

Sexual Abuse in DC Schools: Parents and Locally Elected Officials Demand Answers

by Denise Rucker Krepp and Danica Petroshius

We’re writing at the request of Stop Sexual Assault in Schools to illustrate how communities can address adequate data on sexual harassment and assault in public schools.  Because K-12 schools aren’t required to provide this data to the public, locally elected officials and parents in Washington, DC are working together to create greater transparency in public, private, and charter schools.

Local DC reporters have reported over the past ten years about sexual harassment and assault in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. But Washington, DC schools didn’t officially start tracking sexual harassment and assault complaints in K-12 schools until January 1, 2018; and very little about these complaints is made public.

In June 2019, parents at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan (CHML) were notified that an aftercare employee had been let go and aftercare was cancelled. Parents scrambled to find alternative care for their children. DC Public Schools never mentioned that the employee was let go due to an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor.

Three days later, a local reporter published an article explaining the cancellation. Only then did parents find out that an aftercare employee had been accused of sexual misconduct against a minor student. Furious parents, led by Danica Petroshius, demanded answers. School and district leaders attempted to placate them with vague responses.  Refusing to accept the non-answers, CHML parents organized a city-wide sign-on letter that attracted over 300 signatures within 24 hours from parents and community members across the city asking for specific information and procedures to keep children safe.

The DC Council, the entity responsible for conducting oversight over the DC school system, refused to act. So 57 locally elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners (ANC) and State Board of Education (SBOE) representatives sent a letter to the DC Mayor Bowser in June 2019 requesting information. Denise Krepp, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, organized the letter. As a former Maritime Administration Chief Counsel responsible for one of the five federal service schools, she utilized this experience to draft the questions sent to the DC Mayor.

The Deputy Mayor for Education acknowledged that sexual harassment and abuse had occurred at CHML and at other DC public schools but refused to share a list naming the schools wherein confirmed abuse occurred. Per the Deputy Mayor, he had not heard a compelling argument for why this information should be shared. He thought his response would end the questions.

Parents, refusing to be stonewalled, sent numerous follow-up emails and letters in the fall of 2019 to the Deputy Mayor, the Chancellor, and the DC Council. They made it clear that non-responsive answers were unacceptable. They demanded that the DC Council start engaging in the issue.  Parents contacted the press and media reports forced district leaders to be more transparent. Since that time, DCPS has begun to take a deep look at its policies and practices. But there is much more work to be done.

What we learned: we lack data transparency and strong policies to protect our students across our entire DC public school system.

Regrettably, Mayor and the Deputy Mayor still will not disclose where the sexual harassment and abuse is occurring in Washington DC schools.  We will continue to demand this information until the Mayor and Deputy Mayor provide answers.

We’re sharing our story because we want parents and community members, including our unpaid, elected ANC members, to understand that we all have the positional power to demand answers. We will continue to build on the current momentum for improving safety by demanding answers and better policies for keeping all students and adults safe in our public schools.

UPDATE December, 2020: After more than a year of FOIA appeals, DC Public Schools (DCPS) named the four schools where substantiated accounts of employee sexual misconduct took place.

Related media reports

After FOIA Appeals, DCPS Reveals Names of Schools Where Employee Sexual Misconduct Took Place (Washington City Paper)

D.C. parents want school system to do more to prevent sexual misconduct (Washington Post)

Parents Pressure Schools to Release Sexual Misconduct Complaints and Data (Washington City Paper)

Hollow Promise (District Dig)

‘Making Noise’ Is Key to Breaking Down Institutional Silence on Sexual Assault (GW Today)

Denise Rucker Krepp, a locally elected official, draws on her experience as a former federal agency chief counsel to hold Washington, DC leaders accountable for sexual abuse in DC K-12 schools.

Danica Petroshius is a parent at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan.

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Immediate Response is Key to Successful Title IX Response

by Megan Farrell, Title IX and Civil Rights Officer, Palo Alto Unified School District

When I joined Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) in 2017 as Title IX Coordinator, the District had recently completed a resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) related to a wide-reaching Title IX investigation.  As part of this agreement, PAUSD agreed to hire its first full-time Title IX Coordinator.  While most if not all colleges and universities were well aware of the requirements related to complying with Title IX, many school districts, lacking funding and expertise, had not undertaken a concerted effort to comply.

During my tenure at PAUSD, I have had the opportunity to work closely with dedicated and professional administrators whose focus has always been on the best interest of the students.  Unfortunately, many of them had not been trained in Title IX prior to my arrival and did not understand the intricacies related to its requirements for response, investigation, and conclusion.  While Title IX covers all forms of sex-based discrimination (i.e., access to educational programs, parity in athletics), the majority of my work in this period has involved sexual harassment and sexual misconduct matters.

Over the course of these years with PAUSD, I have concluded that assisting administrators with an immediate, reasoned response is a critical to managing Title IX claims and achieving the goal of allowing students to pursue their education without the fear of discrimination/harassment.  The information contained in this blog deals with the immediate response, oftentimes prior to the initiation of a formal/informal investigation and definitely prior to reaching a conclusion about whether the Districts’ Sexual Harassment and/or Nondiscrimination policies have been violated.

Below are my suggestions for both Title IX Coordinators and school level administrators to assist in the process.

What is NOTICE of a Title IX matter?

As general guidance, a district is deemed to have notice of a Title IX matter when a “responsible employee” learns of a situation that may give rise to a Title IX complaint that the district must investigate.  Under OCR guidance, responsible employees are those who have authority to redress or a duty to report incidents of sexual violence, or those who students reasonably believe have this authority or duty. In many districts, responsible employees include administrators, counselors, and teachers.  At PAUSD, all employees of the District regardless of their title are considered responsible employees.  The information regarding who is a responsible employee at any given District should be included in the District policies or on the website.

What is the OBLIGATION when a district learns of a Title IX matter?

As a guiding principle, districts need to remember its underlying obligation – upon notice of a Title IX matter, they must:

  • Stop the harassment;
  • Remedy the effects of the harassment; and,
  • Prevent the harassment from occurring in the future.

What are the STEPS to an immediate, reasoned response?

Although it is difficult to predict exactly what might be necessary in any given circumstance, below is a list of considerations:

  1. Identify a School Point Person

For all those involved in a Title IX matter – the reporting party, the responding party, friends of both (who may have brought the initial report), and parents –  the process can be intimidating and scary.  Providing a party with a designated, on-campus point person can help everyone feel safe and solidify that that the District is taking the matter seriously.  Normally, we try to select an administrator with whom the individual has a relationship prior to the incident.  When there is not an administrator who fits, we will find a non-confidential counselor or teacher, and our Title IX Office supports the point person with any response that is necessary.

    2. External Reporting Requirements

Title IX matters often trigger other reporting requirements.  Upon learning of the matter, consider whether a report is necessary to:

      • State welfare organization – most employees do this immediately due to mandatory reporter obligation. Districts are required to train on this mandatory reporting obligation in most states.
      • Local Police

These reports are often state-mandated and cannot wait.

  1. Physical and Mental Health Support for Parties

Title IX matters often involve trauma and stress.  Districts should ensure that they have resources to assist the parties and extend this support to other students who may be impacted.  Responsible employees should know how to access this mental health support.  Providing this information on the school website can assist in getting this information into the hands of those who need it.

Medical Health Assistance – Students should be given information about where to go for support after a sexual assault, maintaining evidence (clothing, etc.), and where they can receive a Sexual Assault Response Team examination.

Mental Health Support – Both parties may need the assistance of mental health professionals to manage the trauma and stress related to the Title IX matter.  School resources that provide support and confidential services (if appropriate) should be shared with the parties.  Initial appointments should be scheduled if possible.  Districts should also compile a list of local resources, in the event that the parties may not want to receive this care through the District, including  fee and free service options. Both the reporting party and the responding party should be given access to these resources.

  1. Academic and School Programs

Upon notification of a Title IX matter, schools need to examine how the students involved can continue to pursue their education.  In many instances, this may mean altering students’ schedules and/or participation in school-sponsored activities.  Prior guidance from OCR allowed preferences to be given to the requests of the reporting party.  More recent guidance in 2017 advised schools to weigh the impact of the changes on both parties before instituting a change.

For example, if two students are in the same class, one may request that the other student be moved.  In reaching a decision about the class, the school must weigh a number of factors and allow both parties to pursue their education.  At PAUSD, we have moved one or both students, have allowed students to finish the class through independent study, moved seats, and also had class monitors attend the class going forward.  Unfortunately, there is generally not a simple solution, and many factors need to be analyzed before an adequate solution is found.

Districts should review their policies before making any changes, and in complicated cases seek the advice of an expert or counsel.  In addition, OCR plans to issue new regulations in the near future that could impact what schools are required to do going forward.

  1. Safety Measures

In order for students to pursue their education, they need to feel safe at school.  Thus, schools should address what safety measures are necessary.

No Contact Directives – In general, these directives keep students from communicating while the investigation is pending.  At PAUSD, we routinely issue these directives to ensure that we are preventing the possibility of continued harassment.  Our directives prohibit the students from communicating with one another at school and off-campus.  The prohibition includes verbal outreach and digital/social media posts about the other party.

Safety Plans – When a matter involves a serious allegation that includes potential violence, and/or students interacting frequently during the course of a normal school day, a more detailed Safety Plan can be used to address class and non-class time. Some of the areas that we usually cover in creating a safety plan include the following: designating how a student will arrive and depart from school; setting up specific routes for students to follow when traveling to and from classes; designating where students eat lunch; identifying when students use campus resources (library, technology lab); deciding who will and will not attend any school activity (dances, teams, clubs); and, including any other protections related to time/space where students might interact or run into one another.

In the K12 arena, the immediate response of the district is integral to allowing the students to feel safe and continue their education.  Without a concerted response, students are left feeling unsupported and may disengage from their education.  Each Title IX claim is unique and different, and the responses need to be tailored to the circumstances.  Hopefully, this article can guide some of these responses and serve the best interests of the students.

Megan Farrell is the Title IX Coordinator and Civil Rights Officer for PAUSD and can be reached at  She also consults with K12, colleges, and universities on Title IX. You can reach her at  

PAUSD’s Sexual Harassment Policy

PAUSD’s Nondiscrimination Policy

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How to File a Title IX Complaint in K-12 Schools

A Guide for Parents and Guardians

By Dr. Bill Howe with Stop Sexual Assault in Schools (

Dr. Howe was the Connecticut State Title IX coordinator for 17 years. 


This simple guidance for parents and guardians explains how to file a complaint with your school district regarding sexual harassment, sexual violence, sex discrimination, and other violations of state and federal civil rights laws regarding gender discrimination. Some of this guidance also applies to educational programs (e.g. museum, science center) or private schools, if they receive federal funding from any source (e.g. Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, etc.).  All public and private schools that receive federal funding must follow the federal civil rights law Title IX, which protects students from the impact of sexual harassment and assault on their education.

The following information should not be construed as legal advice.

  1. Make sure that your school or educational program is required to follow state and federal civil rights laws. Under federal law, any educational entity that receives even one dollar of federal financial support must abide by Title IX and other federal civil rights laws. Do not let schools argue that since “they do not receive Title IX money” they do not have to obey the law. For example, schools (public or private) must follow Title IX under these circumstances:

— The school receives public school district funding. Public school funds, state funds, and federal funds are commingled. Therefore, acceptance of public school district funding or state funds is essentially the same as receiving federal funding.

— If any student in your school receives grants, scholarships, or loans through the school district or through the state, that is federal funding.

— If the school receives any state funds, then the school is bound by state civil rights laws, which most likely include anti-discrimination laws such as sex discrimination and sexual harassment.

— The private school receives federal funds, such as Title I, from any number of federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, etc.

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To find out if a private school receives federal funding or how to file a complaint if it does, see Title IX and Private Schools.  If your private school is one of several within an organization or diocese and even if only one school accepts federal money, Title IX applies to all schools in the organization or diocese. Learn more.

Students in parochial schools are generally not protected by state and federal civil rights laws if the schools do not accept state or federal funding. Complaints would go to the archdiocese office. However, if the complaint involves sexual assault, it could be a criminal matter that falls under police jurisdiction. Or it could be a child welfare issue, which should then also be reported to the state children welfare agency.

If your private school receives federal funding through federal agencies other than the U.S. Department of Education, such as the Department of Agriculture, it still must follow Title IX.  Learn more.

  1. Upon finding out that a violation as occurred, determine if the child has been physically injured and if so seek medical treatment. If a sexual assault has occurred, consider preserving evidence by immediately following these steps:

* Reassure the child emotionally.

* Gather all facts immediately. Write them down in detail. The chronology (order of events) is important. Ask:

— Where did this take place?

— What time was it?

— Who was the perpetrator? How does the child know the perpetrator?

— Were there any witnesses? Get their names.

— What was the offensive behavior? Why does the child think this occurred?  

— Were there any conversations at the time of the incident? Describe them.

— Where were people positioned? Draw a picture illustrating where the offense occurred.

— Were any adults notified of the incident? Get their names.

  1. Review the school’s policies and procedures regarding Title IX and violence. Title IX requires that schools have written policies and procedures in the student handbook. The Title IX Coordinator’s contact information should appear in the student handbook. If it doesn’t, call the district and find out who the Title IX Coordinator is.
  1. Call the person identified in the student handbook who is responsible for sexual harassment and assault. If a person cannot be reached, contact the school principal. If no one can be reached, leave a voice message and follow it up with an email indicating you have an urgent report of the civil rights violation and possible criminal action.
  1. When you reach the person in charge, make sure you get their name, title and other contact information. Reading from your notes describe exactly what your complaint is. Let the school official know that you believe that this incident is possibly a civil rights and criminal violation. Cite Title IX. Also, if your child is a special needs student, has a disability or may have been targeted because of race, religion, national origin indicate that these are also possible violations. Some federal civil rights in education laws are:

— Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq) prohibits sex discrimination in education and in employment situations that receive federal financial assistance.

— Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in all programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

— Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination based on disability in all programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.

— Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) governs the equal treatment and education of special education students.

— Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 gives the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence by providing the Justice Department with jurisdiction over crimes of violence where a perpetrator has selected a victim because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

  1. Write down what the school official says. Ask the school official how they plan to proceed. Get a commitment for a follow-up call. Follow up conversations with a written summary to the school.
  1. Get confirmation from the school official that there will be no retaliation against your child. There should be a statement in the student handbook that says so; it might be helpful to cite the page number. Get a written commitment from the school for a safety plan to ensure that your child will not be at risk during the investigation.
  1. Consider enlisting the help of a victim’s advocate or rape crisis organization to serve as an intermediary. Get confirmation from your school that your child will have permission to leave the classroom and seek the school counselor or other designated adult as needed.
  1. It is the school’s responsibility to notify law enforcement and the child welfare agency, if they deem it appropriate. School staff are mandated reporters and required to report sexual assault. You may also do so yourself.
  1. Allow the school district time to investigate your complaint and reach a conclusion. Often the timelines are in the student handbook. The U.S. Dept. of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) once considered 60 days a reasonable time for a school to complete an investigation, however that guidance has been rescinded. Many feel that this is far too long. A prompt investigation is critical. Law enforcement may ask the school to wait to complete its investigation, but this should not be an unreasonable amount of time.
  1. You may ask for proof that the person conducting the Title IX investigation has been trained in Title IX. Training is a federal requirement (see Cape Cod Community College, OCR Case No. 01-93-2047).
  1. While you notify the school, you also have the right to file a complaint with OCR. OCR generally wants to give the school sufficient time to conduct the investigation, but if they feel that the investigation is not progressing in a timely manner, you may press OCR to act.
  1. You may also file a complaint with the state civil rights commission and the state Department of Education. The state civil rights commission may decline to begin an investigation if OCR has already done so. At the same time, OCR most likely will not act if the state civil rights commission has already begun an investigation. OCR will most likely not act if you have contacted an attorney and begun private litigation. You can file the complaint with OCR within their 180-day limit. They may close the investigation if other agencies are investigating, but they may revisit the complaint once you have exhausted other complaint pathways. Keep in touch with OCR to determine your deadline for resubmitting.
  1. If the school investigates and concludes that there was no violation, ask what the appeal process is for the school district. Sometimes, schools will include a policy on appeals in the student handbook; sometimes they will not. Some schools may not have any appeal process.
  1. In high-profile cases, or in cases in which the alleged perpetrator is a school official, the school may hire a so-called “independent investigator” to conduct investigation. Try to vet this independent investigator to ensure that they are indeed unbiased and have no conflict of interest with the school district. For example, if the “independent investigator” is regularly hired by the district, they might not want to jeopardize future jobs by determining that the district was at fault.
  1. If the perpetrator is a certified teacher or administrator, you may have rights within your state to file a complaint with the state education agency and ask that their teaching credentials be revoked. This is usually done through the state education agency’s legal office.
  1. Even if the local law enforcement agency finds that there was no criminal action, that does not mean that there was no Title IX violation. Title IX is about protecting the student’s education from discrimination based on sex; it does not necessarily seek to determine whether a crime occurred. Similarly, a child welfare agency may find no violation of child welfare laws but there may still be a violation of Title IX. Most states have parallel (similar) state laws to Title IX.
  1. If the school investigation finds that you have no grounds for your complaint, you could proceed with a complaint with OCR or the state civil rights commission but generally only if you can prove that there were procedural errors, such as the person conducting the investigation was not trained in Title IX or that the school failed to follow its stated policies and procedures. At this point, you may want to consult an attorney to consider private litigation.
  1. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), generally prevents the disclosure of confidential information about other students. However, the U.S. Department of Education has ruled that in Title IX cases, parents have the right to know the outcomes of the investigation and the punishment given to the perpetrator. This is a very contentious issue since schools have been traditionally warned not to disclose any confidential information. Sometimes school districts will disclose your personal information accidentally or as retaliation. If this occurs, collect proof and file a FERPA complaint.
  1. Determine what you want to happen as a result of an investigation. In civil rights terminology the question is “how can we make the victim whole again?” Some things that you may want to consider for your child are:

— An opportunity to retake tests that were missed because of the incident.

— An extension to make up work to receive credit for the class after the end of the term.

— Tutoring for your child to help them make up for lost schooling and lowered grades.

— Payment for summer school to help your child get caught up in school.

— Reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical expenses because of the incident.

— Payment for counseling services for your child. You could ask the same for the perpetrator.

— You may ask for a safety plan to ensure that the perpetrator will not have any contact or share classes with your child. This may not be possible in small schools, but the perpetrator can be made to take coursework online or at another school.

— Protection against retaliation.

In addition, you could request that:

— The Title IX Coordinator receive training or advanced training.

— All faculty and staff be trained in Title IX, other civil rights laws, policies and procedures.

— All students receive additional lessons in proper school conduct, specifically in sexual harassment.

— All faculty and staff be trained by professionals to take complaints of sexual harassment and assault compassionately and effectively.

— The district review and update school policies, the employee handbook, and the student handbook.

  1. Filing Title IX complaints with other federal agencies. OCR only handles Title IX complaints where schools have received federal funds through the U.S. Department of Education. If your private school receives money from another federal agency, such as the Department of Agriculture, file the complaint through that agency. Follow these instructions.

To work in partnership with your school district to improve Title IX Compliance, see Parents: You Can Become the Agent of Change for Title IX Policies in Your Schools.

Title IX and Private K-12 Schools

by Christine Garner, with input from Bill Howe and SSAIS.

This FAQ is about Title IX and private K-12 schools. It is not intended as definitive legal advice. We recommend that you contact an attorney to review your specific situation. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) continues to change its guidance. This information is based upon guidance provided prior to March 10, 2018.

Is a private K-12 school required to comply with Title IX?

Title IX states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”  If a private school receives any federal financial assistance then it must comply with Title IX, unless the school has a legitimate religious exemption (see below).

The courts have ruled that even if one department of a school receives federal financial assistance, the entire school must abide by Title IX.  If a private school is part of an entity with more than one school, then all schools within the entity must adhere to Title IX, even if only one of the entity’s schools receives federal financial assistance.

Does a private religious school have to comply with Title IX?

If a private religious school accepts federal financial assistance, then it is required to comply with Title IX. A religious school can claim an exemption from Title IX requirements that it believes would be inconsistent with its religious tenets. Religious schools may apply to the Department of Education for exemptions to Title IX requirements, but a school is not required to file a written claim for an exemption to be valid.  The school can raise the religious exemption in response to a Title IX complaint.

The most common religious exemptions apply to sports, pregnant students, or LGTBQ rights. It is difficult to envision a valid religious tenet that would exempt a school from having to address sexual harassment or sexual assault.  If a religious school claims an exemption, you could still file a complaint, and OCR will decide if the exemption is valid.

What qualifies as federal financial assistance?

The Department of Justice (DoJ) defines federal financial assistance as “the award or grant of money.” The DoJ definition continues:

However, federal financial assistance may also be in nonmonetary form… [F]ederal financial assistance may include the use or rent of federal land or property at below market value, federal training, a loan of federal personnel, subsidies, and other arrangements with the intention of providing assistance. Federal financial assistance does not encompass contracts of guarantee or insurance by the federal government. It is also important to remember that not only must an entity receive federal financial assistance to be subject to Title IX, but the entity also must receive federal assistance at the time of the alleged discriminatory act(s) except for assistance provided in the form of real or personal property. In this situation, the recipient is subject to Title IX for as long as it uses the property.

Private K-12 schools usually receive financial assistance from the Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture, or the Department of Health and Human Services.  Private schools might also receive financial assistance from other federal agencies.

If a student or teacher at a private school receives Title I or special education services from a public school, does that mean the private school is a recipient of federal financial assistance?

Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) require public school districts to provide eligible students with special education resources and also to provide “equitable services” to eligible children in private schools. If a private school student or teacher receives “equitable services” from a public school, that does not mean that the private school is a recipient of federal financial assistance.  Department of Education policy does not consider services provided to private school students or teachers under ESEA Title I or IDEA as federal funds given to the school.

How do you know whether your private school receives federal financial assistance?

First, ask the private school administration if they receive federal financial assistance. The school should know because they are required to sign an Assurance of Compliance prior to receiving the funds. The assurance of compliance states only that the school “assures” the federal agency that the school complies with Title IX and the other federal civil rights laws. The signed assurance of compliance does not mean the federal agency has audited to see if the school is truly in compliance.

If the school refuses to answer or you do not trust their answer, you can search (see instructions below) or the Federal Audit Clearinghouse. These databases show the federal financial award amount and the agency that provided the money. Even if the school does not appear in one of these databases, it still might receive federal financial assistance.

If you cannot verify whether your private school receives federal financial assistance, you can still file a Title IX complaint with OCR, and they will determine if the school receives funds from the Department of Education. It’s best to consult with an attorney first to determine the best course of action because you can lose valuable time waiting for a determination from OCR.

If my private school does receive federal financial assistance, how do I a file complaint under Title IX?

If you are not able to resolve your complaint with the private school, you can file a lawsuit or file a complaint through the civil rights department of the federal agency that provided the school with financial assistance. The three most common sources of federal financial assistance to private K-12 schools are the Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture, and Department of Health and Human Services.

Here are the links to file complaints:

OCR sets the standard for review of a Title IX complaint, even if another federal agency is processing that complaint. If a private school receives funds from more than one federal agency, you only need file a complaint with one agency. It’s preferable to file a complaint through the Department of Education if your school receives funds from the Department of Education.

When must I file my Title IX complaint?

You must file a Title IX complaint within 180 days of the latest occurrence of the discrimination.  If you filed a complaint through your school’s grievance process and you feel your Title IX rights were violated, you can file a complaint with OCR within 60 days after the last act in the school’s grievance process. OCR sometimes grants a waiver of the 180-day filing period, but it’s best to submit your complaint within that time frame. Because discrimination can be ongoing, discuss your filing deadline with an attorney as soon as you discover the discrimination.

What if my private school isn’t required to comply with Title IX?

You do not need to rely only on Title IX to prove sexual harassment and sexual assault are wrong. Even if your private school is not required to comply with Title IX, you can still demand that it address these issues and live up to Title IX standards. If a student is a victim of sexual assault at a private school, the action is still wrong and the school should respond to protect and help the victim. Depending on the facts, a private school might be liable for breach of contract, negligent supervision, or some other legal theory that would be best discussed with an attorney.

As noted in the Assurance of Compliance, schools must also comply with other civil rights laws and an incident could violate more than one law. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. Discrimination based upon disability is prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Age discrimination is prohibited by the Age Discrimination Act of 1975.

Most states have their own anti-bullying laws. These statutes define bullying in different ways. Check with an attorney about whether a private school must comply with anti-bullying laws in your state.

In conclusion, if a student has been a victim of sexual harassment, do not give up. You have the right to demand protection and help from your private school.

Legal disclaimer

Instructions on how to conduct a search on the USA Spending website:

  1. Browse to advanced search webpage.
  2. On the left side, in the Filters box, under Time Period, select All Fiscal Years.
  3. In the Filters box, click Award Type, and select all of the categories (Contracts, Grants, Direct Payments, Loans, and Other).
  4. In the Filters box, click Recipient, and in the Recipient Name search box, enter the name of the school or portion of the name, and then click the search icon (magnifying glass).
  5. Scroll to the top or to the bottom of the Filters box, and then click Submit Search.
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Standing Up for You – Standing Up for Others

katieshippIt is Not Your Fault

When you are raped, sexually assaulted, or sexually harassed by one of your peers or teachers, it can be hard to know what to do. Your first instinct may be to withdraw from family and friends, isolate yourself, and refuse to talk to anyone about what happened. A lot of survivors attempt to forget the abuse, make excuses for the perpetrator, or may even blame themselves. It is important to remember that what happened to you is not your fault. Even if drugs or alcohol were involved, someone forcing or pressuring you into something is not okay. Every kind of physical intimacy should be enjoyable and consented to by each participant.

Reporting What Happened Supports Other Survivors

The chances are, if someone forced himself or herself on you, took advantage of you, or pressured you into doing something you did not want to do- they have done or will do this to others. Standing up for yourself and reporting what happened- helps encourage other survivors to take action against abusers and prevents abusers from having additional victims. Many of our clients report that the best thing about taking action is knowing that other victims will know they are not alone, feel supported, and perhaps be encouraged to speak up about what happened to them. Unfortunately, 1 in 4 women and 1 and 5 men are sexually abused at some point in their life with the abuse normally occurring in high school or college. Reporting what happened to you will not only help you attain justice but may encourage others to seek it as well and no longer live in fear.

Know Your Rights

When you decide to report, it is important that you understand your rights. Your school should immediately put you in contact with its Title IX Coordinator and put measures in place to protect your safety. They should keep you updated on the status of the investigation, provide you with support services, and allow you to be involved in the investigation/hearing. They are also required to make sure that the abuse, harassment, and discrimination stop. If the school, its employees, or other students punish or retaliate against you for reporting in any way, it is illegal and prohibited by federal law. Knowing your rights will help you hold your school accountable and ensure that victims are supported and treated fairly. If you feel like you need help navigating the schools disciplinary process or protecting your rights- you may want to contact an attorney with an understanding of Title IX to help you.

Options If School Fails to Protect You

If you have reported to your school and they have failed to or did a bad job protecting your rights – you may want to consider filing a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education (“OCR”). OCR is the federal government agency that is in charge of enforcing Title IX. It is OCR’s responsibility to make sure schools are not discriminating against students on the basis of sex. If OCR finds a your school to be in violation of Title IX, it can require your school to take several steps to get back into compliance and may even issue sanctions.

The OCR website explains how to file a complaint. The complaint process requires you to fill out a form and provide a statement of what happened. You are not required to have an attorney to file a complaint but hiring one may be helpful. If OCR decides to investigate your case, they may ask you for additional information. Filing complaints with and notifying OCR of sexual abuse, discrimination, and harassment helps to ensure that your school will not make the same mistakes when other victims step forward and report what happened to them.

You also have the option of hiring an attorney to initiate a civil lawsuit against the school. In order to obtain damages, you must be able to prove that the school had actual knowledge of the abuse or harassment and responded inadequately with deliberate indifference. Speaking with an attorney can help you understand the strength of your case and the likelihood of success. In most circumstances, attorneys do not charge for the first call.

Things to Consider

It is important to remember that OCR complaints and civil lawsuits must be filed within a certain amount of time. OCR complaints ordinarily must be filed within 180 days of the last act of discrimination and statutes of limitations for civil lawsuits differ depending on the state. Further, when suing a state-owned institution, some states require a notice of claim to be filed as early as 90 days. However, some state laws provide exceptions that extend the time limitations for victims who were under age or legal disability when abused. Unfortunately, many survivors wait too long to come forward and lose the ability to take legal action against the school.

Additionally, the success of an OCR complaint or a civil lawsuit often depends on the amount of information the victim is able to provide. Make sure to keep copies of anything you receive, including emails, letters, text messages, social media messages, etc.. It is also important to keep a written log of everything that happened, the date it happened, everyone you spoke to, when you spoke to them, and what it was about. Putting everything in writing will allow you to provide an accurate account of what occurred to the OCR investigator or your attorney.

You Are Not Alone

While this process may seem intimidating, holding schools accountable for their failures and inadequacies helps protect others and ensures that future victims will be supported and treated fairly. It is important to know that you are not alone and that standing up for yourself will give others the courage to no longer tolerate injustice. Speaking up and demanding change pressures policymakers to enact and strengthen laws to protect students.

This material is general information of an educational nature and is not legal advice. It is recommended that you speak with an attorney to discuss the specific circumstances of your case.

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Katie Shipp is a women’s and children’s rights advocate and attorney in state and federal court. Ms. Shipp specializes in Title !X, victim’s rights, and child law.

Fatima Goss Graves: “Beyond the Campus: Protecting All Students From Sexual Assault”–the SSAIS website inaugural post


A change is coming. Title IX, the law that bans sex discrimination in education, is transforming the way that schools respond to sexual harassment and assault, and students around the country will be better for it.

Title IX’s scope and reach have always been broad. While it is most known for the important work to open opportunities for girls in athletic programs, it also has more quietly increased access for women to higher education, expanded opportunities for women in the science and technology fields, and protected student parents from discrimination.

Today’s Title IX campaigns to combat harassment and violence are anything but quiet. Instead, Title IX is now aided by bullhorns and after decades we may finally see the systemic change it was designed to prompt. Many of the ingredients for a transformative movement are present: Campaigns are survivor centered and driven, and student activists are challenging schools that fail to prevent and address harassment and violence. These vibrant activists are joined by policymakers eager to finally combat the problem of sexual assault—legislators at every level are working to support student survivors and improve school response. The attention to the issue goes all the way to the White House which has launched two public education campaigns, and And many colleges and universities are responding by pressing forward with specific strategies to finally address the issue on campus.

Despite these important gains, it is critical that we pause to address holes in the important progress made to date.  Indeed, now is the time to ask whether the policy development and public education campaigns are reaching all students.

We will have fumbled this opportunity if we don’t center the range of students who encounter sexual harassment and assault. Our work–and our policy solutions–must support the needs not only of students on traditional four-year college campuses, but also students in community college and other two-year settings, students in secondary schools, and young men and women who have become disconnected from school. The work must reach students who are homeless or in foster care. It must take into account the ways in which girls of color encounter violence. And it must reach the violence faced by girls who are transgender, queer or questioning.

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Moreover, if we do not bring a serious focus to the problem of sexual harassment and assault in elementary and secondary schools, it will be nearly impossible to make real progress at any other level of education. Too often the story of sexual violence in K-12 schools shows administrators who are poorly informed about their Title IX obligations or avoid taking the necessary steps required by Title IX to end and prevent future harassment.

Fortunately, it is not too late to ensure that the work is inclusive and the strategies are broad-based. And Title IX, and the students and communities it was designed to protect, will be stronger for it.

Fatima Goss Graves is President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center. She has spent her career fighting to advance opportunities for women and girls. Prior to becoming President, Ms. Goss Graves served as the Center’s Senior Vice President for Program, where she led the organization’s  broad program agenda to eliminate barriers in employment, education, health and reproductive rights and lift women and families out of poverty.

Prior to being named Senior Vice President, Ms. Goss Graves led the Center’s anti-discrimination initiatives, including work to promote equal pay, combat harassment and sexual assault at work and at school, and advance equal access to education programs, with a particular focus on outcomes for women and girls of color. She uses a number of advocacy strategies in her work on these issues ranging from public education and legislative advocacy to litigation, including briefs in the Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals. Prior to joining the Center, she worked as an appellate and trial litigator at Mayer Brown LLP. She began her career as a law clerk for the Honorable Diane P. Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Ms. Goss Graves is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles and Yale Law School. She currently serves on the EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace and is a Ford Foundation Public Voices Fellow and an adviser on the American Law Institute Project on Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct on Campus.
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Ms. Goss Graves is the author of this important editorial We Must Deal with K-12 Sexual Assault in the National Law Review.

Emily Lindin on Sexual Bullying and SSAIS

EmilyHeadShotEmily Lindin of The UnSlut Project talks about why Stop Sexual Assault in Schools is so timely and important. “The issues of sexual assault and sexual bullying are intricately related and dependent upon each other, and the way we approach one must inform the other.”



Emily Lindin is the founder and director of The UnSlut Project, which uses personal story sharing to work against sexual bullying and “slut” shaming. She is the author of the upcoming UnSlut: A Diary and a Memoir and the director of UnSlut: A Documentary Film.