What is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs and activities. Sexual harassment, including sexual violence, is a form of sexual discrimination prohibited by Title IX. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces Title IX.
What does Title IX require schools to do with respect to sexual harassment or sexual violence?
Schools receiving federal funds must ensure that sexual harassment or sexual violence does not create a hostile environment that denies or limits a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s educational programs or activities.
Who are perpetrators of sexual violence?
Sexual violence can be perpetrated by school employees, students, or others not affiliated directly with your school.
What can I do if I believe the school has not complied with Title IX regarding sexual harassment or sexual violence?
Here are some options:
- Show this fact sheet to your school’s principal.
- Inform your school’s Title IX Coordinator describing any incident of sexual violence or ongoing sexual harassment. Schools must have a designated Title IX Coordinator and publicize the name of that individual. If a school does not have a Title IX Coordinator, it does not comply with Title IX regulations.
- File a complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Any individual can file a Title IX complaint with the OCR on behalf of victims of sexual assault or ongoing sexual harassment. You do not need a lawyer. You can contact a local OCR enforcement office or you can file a discrimination complaint by using the OCR on-line complaint form. See our page on Filing Complaints.
- File a Title IX lawsuit in federal court. Only a victim, or the parents of the victim (if the victim is a minor), can file a lawsuit. It’s possible to file a Title IX lawsuit without filing a complaint with OCR. You can also file a complaint with OCR and then file a lawsuit after OCR has completed its investigation, regardless of the outcome. Note that if you file a Title IX lawsuit while OCR is investigating your complaint, OCR will close its investigation. See our page on Filing Complaints.
How long do I have to file a Title IX complaint with OCR?
You have 180 days from the date of the most recent sexual harassment to file a complaint with OCR. In certain situations, you can still file a complaint after 180 days has passed (see the OCR case processing manual Sections 106 and 107 for an explanation).
What do I include in the Title IX complaint to OCR?
OCR recommends that you do the following:
- Tell your story clearly and succinctly, following chronological order.
- If you know of others who have experienced sexual assault or harassment at your school, encourage them to join your complaint.
- Explain how sexual assault and harassment has affected your life and education.
- Include information about witnesses, if any.
- Explain what you would like your school to do as a result of your complaint—what changes you are seeking.
What happens after I submit a complaint to OCR?
OCR will review your complaint. If OCR decides to investigate, it will notify you and your school. OCR will collect and analyze evidence from you, your school, and possibly others. The OCR investigation takes time—anywhere from a few months to a year or more.
What happens if OCR determines that the school did not comply with Title IX?
If the OCR investigation determines that the school violated Title IX, it will contact your school to negotiate a “voluntary resolution agreement.” This agreement lists specific steps that your school must take to comply with Title IX.
If I disagree with the OCR decision, can I appeal?
Yes. You have 60 days to appeal the OCR decision.
What other resolutions are possible in an OCR complaint?
OCR offers an “early complaint resolution” process. If both parties agree to this process, OCR will facilitate negotiations between you and the school to try to reach an agreement. If both parties reach a mutually agreed “resolution settlement,” OCR will monitor your school to see that the school follows the terms of the settlement.
If OCR finds that the school violated Title IX, does it pay the victim for damages that resulted from sexual harassment or violence?
If a school knew or reasonably should have known about the sexual harassment or sexual assault, then, according to Title IX regulations, it must take effective action to stop it, remedy it, and prevent it from recurring. If OCR determines that the school did not do so, then it will require the school to change its policies and procedures so that it complies with Title IX regulations. OCR does not order the school to pay damages to the victim, although it may require the school to reimburse the student for certain expenses.
How can I get the school to pay the victim for damages that resulted from sexual harassment or violence?
You can seek money damages if you file a Title IX lawsuit against your school. You must show that although the school had actual knowledge of a hostile environment created by sexual harassment or sexual violence, it deliberately took no action to remedy the situation.
Where can I learn more about Title IX and sexual harassment?
Equal Rights Advocates has excellent guides on Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment and Assault.
See the approved OCR guidance Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance (2001).
This website is intended to provide users with general information and resources that may be of interest. The information is provided as a public service and is not legal advice. Read more…