- What is Title IX?
- Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. While Title IX is a very short statute, Supreme Court decisions and guidance from the U.S. Department of Education have given it a broad scope. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs or activities operated by recipients of Federal financial assistance. Sexual harassment of students, including acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination expressly prohibited by Title IX. The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) recommends policy guidance to provide universities with information to assist them in meeting their Title IX obligations, and provides the public with information about their rights.
- I am a K-12 student. Does Title IX have anything to do with me?
- Absolutely: Title IX protects students at all levels of education. Much of our advice here will be relevant to your process, but our experience and the focus of this site is with college and university complaints. We encourage you to contact a lawyer or organization for more information about your complaint.
- What are key factors I need to know about Title IX?
- Title IX a landmark federal civil right that prohibits sex discrimination in education. Title IX is not just about sports; it is a prohibition against sex-based discrimination in education. It addresses sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, and sexual violence. Sexual violence includes attempted or completed rape or sexual assault, as well as sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism, exhibitionism, verbal or physical sexuality-based threats or abuse, and intimate partner violence.
- Title IX does not apply to female students only. Title IX protects all persons from sex-based discrimination. Female, male, and gender non-conforming students, faculty, and staff are protected from any sex-based discrimination, harassment or violence.
- Schools must be proactive in ensuring that your campus is free of sex discrimination. You are protected under Title IX even if you do not experience sex discrimination directly. Schools must take immediate steps to address any sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence happening on campus to prevent it from affecting students further. If a school knows or reasonably should know about discrimination, harassment or violence that is creating a “hostile environment” for any student, it must act to eliminate it, remedy the harm caused and prevent its recurrence.
- Schools must have an established procedure for handling complaints of sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence. Every school must have a Title IX Coordinator who manages complaints. The Coordinator’s contact information should be publically accessible on the school’s website. If you decide to file a complaint, your school must promptly investigate it regardless of whether you report to the police, though a police investigation may very briefly delay the school’s investigation if they are gathering evidence. A school may not wait for the conclusion of a criminal proceeding and should conclude its own investigation within a semester’s time. The school should use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard to determine the outcome of a complaint, meaning discipline should result if it is more likely than not discrimination, harassment or violence occurred. The final decision should be provided to you and the accused in writing and both of you have the right to appeal the decision.
- Schools must take immediate action to ensure a complainant-victim can continue his or her education free of ongoing sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence. Along with issuing a no contact directive to the accused, schools must ensure any reasonable changes to your housing, class or sports schedule, campus job, or extracurricular activity and clubs are made to ensure you can continue your education free from any ongoing sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence. These arrangements can occur BEFORE a formal complaint, investigation, hearing, or final decision is made regarding your complaint. It also can CONTINUE after the entire process since you have a right to an education free of sex-based discrimination, harassment or violence. Additionally, these accommodations should not over-burden complainant-victims or limit your educational opportunities
- Schools may not retaliate against someone filing a complaint and must keep a complainant-victim safe from other retaliatory harassment or behavior. Schools must address complaints of sex discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence. As part of this obligation, they can issue a no contact directive or make other accommodations to ensure the accused or a third party does not retaliate for any complaint. Additionally, the school may not take adverse action against the complainant-victim for his or her complaint. Any retaliation can and should be reported in a formal Title IX complaint to the U.S. Department of Education since it is your right to be free from a hostile educational environment.
- Schools can issue a no contact directive under Title IX to prevent the accused student from approaching or interacting with you. When necessary for student safety, schools can issue a no contact directive preventing an accused student from directly or indirectly contacting or interacting with you. Campus security or police can and should enforce such directives. This is not a court-issued restraining order, but a school should provide you with information on how to obtain such an order and facilitate that process if you choose to pursue it.
- In cases of sexual violence, schools are prohibited from encouraging or allowing mediation (rather than a formal hearing) of the complaint. The 2011 Title IX Guidance clearly prohibits schools from allowing mediation between an accused student and a complainant-victim in sexual violence cases. However, they may still offer such an alternative process for other types of complaints, such as sexual harassment. Realize it is your choice and you can and should seek a disciplinary hearing if you desire such a formal process. Schools are discouraged from allowing the accused to question you during a hearing. If your school allows that, consider getting a nonprofit attorney or other legal advocate to help you through the process and/or file a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education about that schools hearing process.
- Schools cannot discourage you from continuing your education. Title IX is a positive right to be free of a hostile environment in order to protect your access to education. You have a right to remain on campus and have every educational program and opportunity available to you. Schools may not discourage you from continuing your education, such as telling you to “take time off” or force you to quit a team, club or class. You can always file a formal Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education occurs or seek legal counsel to enforce your right to education under Title IX. It is your choice how to handle sexual harassment or violence, but realize you have a right to your education and the school MUST adjust to ensure you can continue free from that hostile environment.
- How do I know if my school is Title IX Compliant?
- Does your school publish a notice of non discrimination?
- Under Title IX, schools must disseminate a notice of nondiscrimination. This notice does not have to specify that sexual harassment and violence are likewise prohibited, but the U.S. Department of Education (ED) recommends that schools do, since a notice that makes it unclear may qualify as a violation of Title IX. This notice is likely available in a student handbook or code of conduct in elementary and secondary schools and in an Annual Security Report (ASR) on higher education institutions.
- This notice prohibiting sex discrimination must be widely distributed, available, and easily accessible to the school community each year. ED recommends schools:
- Publish this policy online and have it available in print across campus so that school members may understands its purpose and utility
- Include enough detail in the policy so that members of the community can realize sexual harassment and sexual violence are prohibited forms of sex discrimination
- Does your school have a Title IX Coordinator?
- Every educational institution receiving federal funding is required to have a Title IX Coordinator. The contact information (name/title, office address, telephone number, email address) of the Coordinator should be available both in your school’s nondiscrimination notice, but also in an ASR for higher education institutions. Both victims and third parties should contact the Coordinator to report incidents of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual violence.
- The Title IX Coordinator ensures schools are compliant with Title IX, coordinates the investigation and disciplinary process, and looks for patterns or systematic problems with compliance to ensure schools fulfill all their federal obligations. The Coordinator may not have any other job responsibility that creates a conflict of interest with their responsibilities under Title IX. For example, the Title IX coordinator may not also sit on a disciplinary board or serve as legal counsel to the college.
- When a school does not have a Title IX Coordinator or list that individual’s contact information, then your college is non-compliant with Title IX.
- If the Coordinator has another job responsibility that creates conflicts of interest, your school is likely in violation of Title IX.
- Does your school have a clear grievance procedure for sex discrimination?
- Schools are required to adopt and publish a grievance procedure outlining the complaint, investigation, and disciplinary process for addressing sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence occurring within educational programs. This process should address discrimination perpetrated by students, employees, or third parties. Additionally, school security and/or law enforcement personnel must notify victims of their rights to use the school’s grievance procedure in addition to being able to file a criminal complaint.
- This grievance procedure requires the school’s process be “prompt and equitable,” meaning it must be a timely response to discrimination and provide both parties equivalent rights during the disciplinary process rather than having one-sided due process. For example, if the accused student is given a right to have an attorney present, so may the accusing student.
- While sexual harassment complaints may be resolved through informal mechanisms, such as mediation, students are not required to use such a process. Mediation is not appropriate for sexual violence complaints. A school that requires mediation or offers it as a mechanism to resolve a sexual violence complaint are in violation of Title IX.
- Are school employees properly trained to address sexual violence?
- Both the Campus SaVE Act and the DCL require school employees that address sexual violence complaints to have appropriate training. ED also recommends that professors, campus police, administrators, counselors, health center staff, cleaning staff, coaches, resident advisers and others likely to receive reports be trained on how to identify and report sexual harassment and violence.
- Does your school respond in a prompt manner after receiving a complaint of sexual violence?
- Schools are required to be prompt when receiving a complaint of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual violence in order to remedy any hostile educational environment created by such behaviors. ED recommends investigations take no more than 60 calendar days, while allowing more complex cases to be addressed within a reasonable time-frame. A simultaneous police investigation does not remove a school’s responsibility to resolve a complaint under Title IX. While a school may delay its response to accommodate a police investigation, ED suggests only three to 10 days is sufficient for police to gather evidence. Schools that delay the Title IX complaint process unreasonably are in violation of Title IX.
- Does your school provide reporting options?
- The DCL reminded schools that they have an obligation under the Clery Act to inform victims of their reporting options. Schools must notify victims of their right to report to police and facilitate that process if desired by the victim. Victims also have the right not to report to the police.
- Regardless of a victim’s choice to report to the police, a victim may use a school’s grievance procedure to address sexual harassment or sexual violence or merely seek accommodations. When reasonable, schools must accommodate a victim on campus to remedy a hostile environment on a school’s campus. This means schools may change academic or extracurricular schedules to prevent an ongoing hostile education environment or put in place safety measures, such as a no contact directive or facilitate a student obtaining a restraining order. The burden of accommodations or safety measures should not be solely placed on the victim, as this may be seen as a violation of Title IX.
- Does your school have appropriate standard of evidence for disciplinary hearings?
- Since Title IX is a federal civil right, the appropriate standard of evidence is a “preponderance of the evidence.” This standard of evidence means that a hearing must determine whether a complaint of sex discrimination is “more likely than not” to have occurred or 51% likely to have occurred. This standard applies for all complaints of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and violence, because Title IX outlines standards for school disciplinary processes — not criminal complaints, which require the highest standard of evidence, “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
- Does your school have a fair Title IX Process?
- Under Title IX, both the accuser and accused have equal rights, such as the right to:
- Have an adviser of choice present during the process (this includes an attorney if allowed at all by schools)
- Present evidence or have witnesses speak on their behalf
- Have timely access to information that will be used at the hearing
- Be present at pre-hearing meetings that provide an opportunity to present their testimony
- Receive the final hearing decision in writing at the same time as the other party without being required to sign a non-disclosure agreement
- Have the right to appeal a final decision
- The DCL warns schools creating a disciplinary system requiring the accused and accuser to directly interact may be re-traumatizing and discourages this practice
- Did your school retaliate against you for a Title IX Complaint?
- As a federal civil right, Title IX automatically protects any individual who reports sex discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual violence against retaliation. This means employees and third party reports are protected along with reporting victims from any adverse consequence, harassment, intimidation, or discrimination that is causally related to reporting sex discrimination under Title IX. Schools must protect against other employees or students retaliating against a reporter when it “knows or should know” about the retaliatory harassment or behavior. If a school discourages or threatens you about discussing complaints of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual violence, this may be considered retaliation.
- Does your school address sex discrimination creating a hostile environment for others?
- In addition to being obligated to victims, schools must address hostile educational environments created by sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence school-wide. Addressing a hostile environment means remedying a current situation, addressing its effects, and preventing its recurrence in the future. Schools may meet this obligation through providing educational and awareness programming on sexual harassment or discrimination.
- How can I enforce Title IX at my school?
- Students and other concerned third parties have the right to report sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence to a school. Schools who fail to appropriately respond can suffer consequences under Title IX, such as the loss of federal funding, a non-compliance finding, a voluntary resolution agreement, or a lawsuit. The U.S. Department of Education accepts Title IX complaints, which can be reported toOCR@ed.gov. Additionally, Title IX allows harmed individuals to bring a private civil suit to seek money damages and an injunction to stop discriminatory practices.
- What are some concerns when filing a Title IX Complaint?
- I am not sure if my Title IX rights were violated.
- You may have our introduction to Title IX but still not be sure if your concerns are covered by the law. Your Title IX rights come from a fairly simple statute that reads:
- “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.
- The US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has expanded upon how this statute should be understood and applied by educational programs and institutions and is responsible for enforcing the statute.
- Cases of sexual harassment and sexual violence fall under Title IX if:
- Discrimination that is persistent and pervasive. If you have experienced any kind of persistent sexual misconduct (i.e. stalking, abuse, frequent sexual comments), which prevents you—either physically or emotionally—from participating in normal college activities, that is a Title IX violation. Even if a single instance is not sufficiently harmful, the ongoing nature of these offenses leads to Title IX qualification.
- Discrimination that is severe and traumatizing. In part due to the emotional trauma associated with these events, a single instance of rape meets this definition. If you experience a sexual assault that prevents you from participating in college activities, that is a Title IX violation.
- The statute sets certain obligations upon schools, including:
- Once a school knows or reasonably should know of possible sexual violence, it must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred.
- If sexual violence has occurred, a school must take prompt and effective steps to end the sexual violence, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects, whether or not the sexual violence is the subject of a criminal investigation.
- A school must take steps to protect the complainant as necessary, including interim steps taken prior to the final outcome of the investigation.
- A school must provide a grievance procedure for students to file complaints of sex discrimination, including complaints of sexual violence. These procedures must include an equal opportunity for both parties to present witnesses and other evidence and the same appeal rights.
- A school’s grievance procedures must use the preponderance of the evidence standard to resolve complaints of sex discrimination.
- A school must notify both parties of the outcome of the complaint
- If your case falls under Title IX and your school has not followed the above bullet points, your school has violated your Title IX rights. If you’re not sure your rights have been violated, you can talk to us – we will keep anything you tell us confidential. You can also contact the OCR with any questions at (800) 421-3481 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- I am Interested in Filing a Formal Title IX Complaint
- I can’t find information on how to file a Title IX complaint.
- My complaint involves incidents that occurred over 180 days ago.
- Even if you missed the 180-day window, you can still submit your complaint. The complaint form will ask you why you did not submit in 180 days. The OCR may be more likely to consider your complaint in this case if you are submitting alongside other people who are within the 180-day window, and/or if you can provide evidence that the discrimination you faced is ongoing. Keep in mind that it is 180 days from the most recent action: sometimes students think “they have no case” when in fact the actions had been on-going for three years.
- How do I submit a complaint involving multiple people?
- If you are submitting a complaint alongside other people from your school, you have two choices:
- You can all submit separately
- You can have a point person submit on behalf of all of you
- One person is allowed to file on behalf of a group. To do so, include the information about each person’s complaint in your description of the discrimination. Each person you are filing on behalf of will still need to sign and send in a consent form.
- Can I submit both a Title IX complaint and a complaint to another agency, such as Clery?
- Certainly. However, the OCR may choose not to handle your complaint if they believe the other agency’s resolution process will be comparable to the OCR’s. There is no limit on how much time has passed when submitting a Clery. As such, depending on the nature of your complaint, you may wish to attempt the Title IX process before going through a Clery complaint. We encourage you to complete the two as separate documents since the agencies reviewing each are different compliance branches.
- I’m not comfortable using my name.
- If you are submitting a complaint on your behalf, it must be signed and include your name and contact info to be considered. However, if someone else is submitting on your behalf, your name does not need to be included. In this case, the details of your situation will provide further support that an investigation is needed. But anonymity will limit the OCR’s ability to investigate your case and how the school handled it. When submitting with a group, the more complainants who include their names and fill out consent forms, the better.
- Remember, include your name does not give the OCR the right to reveal that you are one of the complainants. Your information will remain confidential to the OCR.
- Why might the OCR decide not to investigate my complaint?
- The OCR lists a number of possible reasons that it might decide not to investigate your complaint. These include:
- OCR does not have legal authority to investigate the complaint;
- The complaint fails to state a violation of one of the laws OCR enforces;
- The complaint was not filed timely and that a waiver will not be granted;
- The complaint is unclear or incomplete and the complainant does not provide the information that OCR requests within 20 calendar days of OCR’s request;
- The allegations raised by the complaint have been resolved;
- The complaint has been investigated by another Federal, state, or local civil rights agency or through a recipient’s internal grievance procedures, including due process proceedings, and the resolution meets OCR regulatory standards or, if still pending, OCR anticipates that there will be a comparable resolution process under comparable legal standards;
- The same allegations have been filed by the complainant against the same recipient in state or Federal court;
- The allegations are foreclosed by previous decisions of the Federal courts, the U.S. Secretary of Education, the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Reviewing Authority, or OCR policy determinations.
- Source: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaints-how.html
- How can I increase my chances that the OCR will investigate my complaint?
- Be timely and submit your complaint within 180 days of the action. Submit alongside other people, to show that the discrimination is systematic and ongoing. The more details and more evidence of discrimination you provide, the better. Details and evidence will help the OCR in its investigation.
- The OCR has decided to investigate my complaint. What’s the next step in the process?
- The OCR will attempt to gather information. The OCR needs to find a preponderance of evidence suggesting the school has violated the law. While this investigation is ongoing, you and the school have the option, if all parties are willing to do so, to go through Early Complaint Resolution. Through this process, the OCR will facilitate settlement discussions. The OCR does not approve, endorse, sign or monitor any agreement reached through this process. However, if the school is not following the terms of the agreement, you may submit a further Title IX complaint. This must be submit within 180 days of the original discrimination or within 60 days of learning that the school has failed to comply with the agreement, whichever date comes later.
- Your school also has the option to resolve the complaint early. If it chooses to do so, and the OCR accepts this, the school and the OCR will negotiate an agreement.
- Since submitting my complaint, I’ve faced further discrimination and/or retaliation from my school. What can I do?
- You can submit another Title IX complaint, outlining the discrimination you’re facing.
- I am unhappy with the results of the OCR’s investigation. What options do I have?
- You may appeal the OCR’s decision. To do so, send a written appeal, including supporting documentation, if you have any, to the Director of the Enforcement Office that investigated your complaint. Explain why or how you believe the evidence and information gathered by the OCR was insufficient or incomplete, how the factual analysis was incorrect and/or the appropriate legal standard was not applied, and how this would or should change the OCR’s decision. The results of this appeal will represent the agency’s final decision; you cannot appeal further.
- If you are unhappy with the appeal, you still have options, outlined under the next question.
- The OCR has decided against investigating my complaint. What next?
- Regardless of the OCR’s decision, you still have the option of going through other complaint processes. You may decide to file a federal court case – though if you do so while your OCR complaint is still under investigation, the OCR will not continue to investigate your complaint. Depending on the discrimination you faced, you may be able to file a Clery complaint; see our related resource guides. Your school may also have a complaint resolution process you can go through. If you are trying to figure out your next step, please feel free to contact us.
DISCLAIMER: Although these resources have been written with the guidance of legal experts, we are not lawyers, and the information on this website does not constitute legal advice. We encourage you to contact a lawyer to discuss your complaint or suit.
- What Exactly Are the Steps to File a Title IX Complaint with OCR?
- Who can File
- Anyone who believes there has been an act of discrimination on the basis of sex against any person or group in a program or activity that receives ED financial assistance may file a complaint with OCR under Title IX. The person or organization filing the complaint need not be a victim of the alleged discrimination but may be affected by a general “hostile sexual environment” or complain on behalf of another person or group. A complaint should be sent to the OCR enforcement office that serves the state in which the alleged discrimination occurred. You can find the address, email and phone number of your local OCR enforcement office at: (click here) https://wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov/CFAPPS/OCR/contactus.cfm.
- When to File
- A complaint must be filed within 180 days of the date of the alleged discrimination, unless the time for filing is extended for good cause by the Enforcement Office Director. Prior to filing a complaint with OCR against an institution, a potential complainant may want to use his or her school’s institutional grievance process to have the complaint resolved (though a complainant is not required by law to use the institutional grievance procedure before filing a complaint with OCR). If a complainant uses an institutional grievance process, his or her Title IX complaint must be filed with OCR within 60 days after the last act of the institutional grievance process.
- What to Include
- Complaint letters should explain who was discriminated against; in what way; by whom or by what institution or agency; when the discrimination took place; who was harmed; who can be contacted for further information; the name, address and telephone number of the complainant(s) and the alleged offending institution or agency; and as much background information as possible about the alleged discriminatory act(s). You will be asked for much identifying information, but remember that OCR keeps the identity of complainants confidential except to the extent necessary to carry out the purposes of the civil rights laws, or unless disclosure is required under the Freedom of Information Act or the Privacy Act (or otherwise required by law).
- Title IX complaints are generally more formal than Clery complaints, and this should be reflected in the language use. This doesn’t necessarily mean resorting to legalese, but use formal language. Instead of writing a narrative, as you might to submit a Clery complaint, outline and describe each discriminatory action separately. Use as many specifics as you can. We encourage you to work with an attorney or organization to draft and review your complaint. OCR enforcement offices also may be contacted for assistance in preparing complaints.
- You can find a pre-prepared complaint form, along with some supplementary information and advice, at: (click here) http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html. The form will ask you for various pieces of information, including:
- Your contact information
- Contact info for the institution you are filing your complaint against
- Whether you have previously tried to resolve your complaint, as through your school’s grievance process, a due process hearing or with another agency (for instance, through Clery)
- The content of your complaint; i.e. how your school violated your rights
- Whether you filed within 180 days and if not, why
- What you would like to see your school do as a result of your complaint
- You will also be offered the opportunity to submit supplementary written materials that will add to or clarify your complaint.
- How to File
- Title IX complaints are generally submit online, either through the electronic submission of the pre-prepared OCR complaint form or by email (OCR@ed.gov). However, you can submit your complaint, whether based on the online form or not, by snail mail.
- Whether you file online or by mail, you will need to sign and mail a consent form to allow the OCR to process your complaint. This can be found in the PDF version of the complaint form, or if you are submitting electronically, will be given to you after you complete the form but before you press the final submit button.
- If the OCR believes the information you provided is insufficient, they may contact you and ask for further details. Your addendums must be submit within 20 days of the OCR’s request.
- After Filing
- If an investigation indicates there has been a violation of Title IX, OCR attempts to obtain voluntary compliance and negotiate remedies. Only when it cannot obtain voluntary compliance does OCR initiate enforcement action. Enforcement usually consists of referring a case to the Department of Justice for court action, or initiating proceedings, before an administrative law judge, to terminate Federal funding to the recipient’s program or activity in which the prohibited discrimination occurred. Terminations are made only after the recipient has had an opportunity for a hearing before an administrative law judge, and after all other appeals have been exhausted.
- Title IX Complaint FAQs:
- Can I file both a Clery Act and Title IX complaint?
A: Yes, you can. Although some violations might be covered by both statutes, you may file both. Please note, however, that these two complaints must be filed separately.
- Do I need a lawyer to file a Title IX complaint?
A: No. Some individuals may choose to retain lawyers, either pro bono or for a fee, but anyone may file a Title IX complaint without legal counsel. For more information on finding a lawyer, visit the OCR resources.
- Who oversees Title IX? Where will my complaint go?
A: Your complaint will go to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) under the US Department of Education.
- When can I expect to hear back from OCR?
A: Complaints can take anywhere from a month to a year to receive initial confirmation. Once you have received confirmation, you will follow up with the investigators assigned to your case.
- What is OCR’s role? If they investigate, does that mean that they are on my side?
A: OCR is a neutral fact finder and does not take sides.
- Is there a statute of limitations for when I can file a complaint?
A: The statute of limitations is 180 days from when the last violation occurred, however, you have the right to request a waiver if your violations are outside of this window. (Clery has no statute of limitations.)
- What is the difference between the early resolution process and a full investigation? Is there a preferred option?
A: At times a college or university may cooperate with OCR and proactively address changes during the investigation process. These changes improve policies and procedures in responding to sexual violence and notifies the university community of these changes. A voluntary resolution means that an institution commits to continually reviewing and improving changes as well as addressing climate in the campus community.
- Q: What does OCR enforce?
A: OCR is responsible for enforcing, among other civil rights statues, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and its implementing regulation, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity receiving Federal Financial Assistance (FFA) from the Department.
- I am worried about being retaliated against by institution. Are there protections against retaliation?
A: There are laws that prohibit a recipient or other person from retaliating against n individual for the purpose of potentially interfering with any right or privileged secured by them or because that person has made a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in an investigation, proceeding or hearing under the laws enforced by OCR. If you feel you are being retaliated against, document the retaliation, and contact the OCR.
- How do I File a Title IX Lawsuit?
- Filing a Title IX Lawsuit
- Under Title IX, a sexual harassment victim can file a private lawsuit at a federal court if his or her college is not complying with its Title IX obligations. You can file a Title IX lawsuit without filing a prior complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). You can also file a lawsuit after filing a complaint with the OCR; the outcome of the complaint does not affect your ability to file a Title IX lawsuit.
- Who can file a Title IX lawsuit?
- Individuals are allowed to file a Title IX complaint with the OCR on behalf of sexual harassment victims. This, however, does not apply to Title IX lawsuits. Only a victim of sexual harassment, or the parents of the victim if s/he is below the age of 18, can file a lawsuit.
- How do you file a Title IX lawsuit?
- To a file a lawsuit, you must do so through an attorney or, for those who do not have an attorney, through a federal court’s pro se clerk’s office.
- For legal assistance, you can contact one of the following organizations which have experience with Title IX litigation:
- Legal Momentum works to expand legal rights and services for victims of gender-based violence. You can contact Legal Momentum’s helpline at email@example.com or (212) 925-6635, ext. 650.
- Public Justice is a national public interest law firm that uses precedent-setting litigation to fight injustice and right wrongs. It has worked on numerous sexual assault-related Title IX cases for decades, and also handles cases involving bullying and harassment, including gender-based harassment. You can contact the organization for legal assistance by phone at (202) 797-8600 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Victims Rights Law Center practices in Massachusetts and Oregon but can provide technical assistance and referrals elsewhere. You can contact the VRLC by phone at 617-399-6720 x19.
- The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) does legal advocacy work in Title IX cases. Each state has a local affiliate. You can find your local affiliate to obtain legal assistance.
- Legal Voice is a women’s rights advocacy organization that provides legal assistance for Title IX. The organization can also be contacted for legal information about Title IX and filing a lawsuit.
- There are also organizations that can provide you a referral for an attorney specializing in Title IX cases:
- The American Bar association has a referral service in each state, specified by county (http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/lris/directory/)
- School Violence Law has worked on a number of Title IX cases and provides free consultations, including attorney referrals. You can contact the firm at (877) 927-4321.
- Useful Information for Your Attorney
- Before meeting with an attorney, make sure you have information about your college’s Title IX violations. This can include a list of examples of noncompliance. Also, thorough documentation is critical for a lawsuit. Make sure you have copies and records of interviews, meetings, letters, and any complaints that have been filed with the OCR (if you have filed a complaint) and/or with your college. If you have been in communication with any administrators at your college, make sure you document any communications (phone calls, letters, emails, and texts). For example, following a meeting with a college administrator, it can be helpful to send an email memorializing the content of your conversation.
- Is there a time limit for filing a Title IX lawsuit?
- Yes, all federal courts have a time limit for when you can file a Title IX lawsuit. The time limit depends on the state in which your college is located and what the state has determined to be the “statute of limitations” for Title IX cases: this ranges from about one year to six years.
- What are the available remedies for a Title IX lawsuit?
- If the court decides a college has violated Title IX, the most common remedies available are injunctive relief, monetary compensation and attorney’s fees. When the court grants injunctive relief, the college is commanded to perform or prevent an action — this relief aims to rectify the problematic conduct that led to the Title IX violations. If you are the victim of sexual harassment, you do not have to prove that your college had actual knowledge of the harassment to be awarded injunctive relief. Even if you have already graduated from college by the time the court decides to grant injunctive relief, it can still be ordered as long as there is a group of students that would still be positively affected by the injunctive relief. A court may consider not issuing injunctive relief if the school proves that there is no reasonable expectation that the violation will occur again.
- If you are a victim of sexual harassment, you can also receive money damages (compensation) if you can prove that your college intentionally did not comply with its Title IX obligations. This means that you must show that your college knew of the harassment and was deliberately indifferent to it.
- Further, if your Title IX lawsuit is successful, the court can order compensation for your attorney’s fees (the charges for legal services).
- Sometimes, the court will order a college produce a compliance plan that will outline the steps it must take to rectify the Title IX violations. The court then monitors the school to make sure it undertakes these steps.
- What are the Pros and Cons of Filing a Title IX Lawsuit?
- The victim has more control over the suit in contrast to a complaint filed with the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education. For example, in a lawsuit a victim can request for a certain type of relief from the court. In an Office of Civil Rights complaint proceeding, however, the Office of Civil Rights can negotiate with the school on how it can comply with Title IX without any input from the victim.
- It is possible for a lawsuit to provide immediate relief such as injunctive relief.
- Lawsuits can provide more types of relief in comparison to a Title IX complaint with the OCR. For example, the OCR cannot force a school to spend money to address sexual harassment while a victim can receive compensation if his or her Title IX lawsuit is successful.
- A favorable lawsuit outcome can be effective setting precedent and deterring schools from violating Title IX more so than a complaint filed with the OCR. The outcome of the OCR cases are specific to a particular school, while a lawsuit’s precedent can be binding to all schools who are covered by Title IX.
- If the outcome of a lawsuit is unfavorable, a victim has the opportunity to file an appeal and have a higher-level court review the case. While the OCR allows appeals for Title IX complaints, a case will only be reviewed once and the decision of the appeal will be final. For lawsuits, the hierarchy of federal courts allows victims more than one opportunity to file an appeal (however, after the first appeal a court has discretion to dismiss subsequent ones).
- Most lawsuits do not go to trial and end with both parties settling. This can be beneficial for the victim because he or she will receive some form of compensation from the school.
- A victim has more time to file a Title IX lawsuit than filing a Title IX complaint with the OCR. OCR complaints need to be filed within 180 days after the victim suffered discrimination. In contrast, the deadline for a lawsuit (while it varies by the state in which the school is located) typically ranges from 1 year to 6 years.
- In general, lawsuits can take a very long time (even years).
- Lawsuits can be expensive because of court filing fees and attorney fees. While a successful lawsuit can result in the victim not having to pay attorney fees, if the lawsuit is unsuccessful, then the victim could be forced to cover the costs. Unlike Title IX lawsuits, filing a Title IX complaint with the OCR is free.
- Only the victim (or the victim’s parents if he or she is under 18) can file the suit. For Title IX complaints with the OCR, anyone can file a complaint without having a direct stake in the claim.
- What a victim has to prove during a lawsuit can be harder than what a victim has to prove in an OCR complaint. For a Title IX lawsuit, the victim will have to show that the school had actual knowledge of the sexual harassment and deliberately ignored it. For an OCR complaint, a victim does not have to prove actual knowledge.
- Judges presiding over a Title IX lawsuit will likely not have the same Title IX expertise as an employee from the OCR presiding over a Title IX complaint.
- Title IX lawsuits generally attract media attention, which can negatively impact a victim’s privacy.
- If the outcome of a Title IX lawsuit is unfavorable to the school, the school may file an appeal, which could lead to an unfavorable result for the victim.
- If the court decides a victim’s Title IX lawsuit is frivolous, he or she may have to provide money to the school (such as paying for some of the school’s lawsuit costs).
- Perpetrators will not necessarily face justice.
Disclaimer: Although these resources have been written with the guidance of legal experts, we are not lawyers, and the information on this website does not constitute legal advice. We encourage you to contact a lawyer to discuss your complaint or suit.
Clery Act Q&A
- What is the Clery Act?
- The Clery Act was named after Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered in her dorm room by a fellow student on April 5, 1986. Her parents championed the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) in her memory. This Act is a federal law that requires colleges to report crimes that occur “on campus” and school safety policies.
- The Clery Act requires colleges and universities to do the following with regards to sexual assault reports: 1) Publish an Annual Security Report (ASR), 2) Disclose crime statistics for incidents that occur on campus, in unobstructed public areas immediately adjacent to or running through the campus and at certain non-campus facilities, 3) Issue timely warnings about Clery Act crimes which pose a serious or ongoing threat to students and employees, 4) Devise an emergency response, notification, and testing policy.
- The Clery Act also contains the Campus Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights, which requires colleges to disclose educational programming, campus disciplinary process, and victim rights regarding sexual violence complaints. The Clery Act was recently expanded by the Campus SaVE Act, which broadened Clery requirements to address all incidents of sexual violence (sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
- For more detailed information, check out:
- Overview of The Sexual Assault Victims Bill of Rights
- The “Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights,” enacted in 1992, exists as a part of the as the Jeanne Clery Act. Its aim is to combat the re-victimization of survivors who come forward and to ensure equality in an adjudication or hearing process. According to the Victims’ Bill of Rights, all institutions receiving federal funding must adhere to the following:
- Accuser and accused must have the same opportunity to have others present at a hearing or disciplinary procedur
- Both parties (alleged victim and alleged perpetrator) shall be informed of the outcome of any disciplinary proceeding
- Survivors shall be informed of their options to notify public law enforcement
- Survivors shall be notified of counseling services
- Survivors shall be notified of their options for changes in both academic and living situations
- All institutions should adhere to the above Bill of Rights when the crime of sexual assault is reported and/or during a university investigation, hearing, or adjudication process.
- When is a Crime Considered “On Campus”?
- Crimes that occur on schools grounds and within school owned building qualify for reporting under the Clery Act. Some schools may also be required to record crimes at certain non-campus facilities, like Greek houses or public property adjacent to the institution. Also some off campus properties qualifies as “on campus” under this Act, like remote classrooms and buildings owned by campus groups. Which locations qualify for reporting is very school specific, so if you are unsure if a location qualifies you should contact a lawyer or expert organization, like the Clery Center.
- What is a “Timely Warning”?
- Under the Clery Act, any time a crime has or is occurring that poses a serious or ongoing threat to the rest of the campus, the college must provide timely warnings in a way that is likely to reach every member of the campus community. This requires schools to assess the risk to public safety after an incident of sexual violence is reported. Often times, a stranger perpetrated sexual assault will trigger a timely warning. A school’s decision not to issue a timely warning is reviewable under the Clery Act by the U.S. Department of Education.
- How Does the Clery Act Help Me?
- The Clery Act requires schools to explain their policies and procedures on campus in the wake of sexual violence. This should include who you may report such an incident to and what possible sanctions may be imposed as a result. It should also list available resources (such as available medical care, mental health resources and other support options either on campus or within the local community) to victims on or around campus, as well as inform you of your right to request reasonable accommodations on campus in the wake of sexual violence. Such an accommodation could include changing housing or an academic schedule to avoid seeing the accused student. You also have several rights during campus disciplinary proceedings, such as being informed at every stage of the process, having the same rights as the accused to have an advisor present, to appeal a final decision, and to receive a final decision in writing at the same time as the accused.
- The Clery Act requires reported crime statistics to protect your confidentiality while alerting the public to possible safety risks or incidents on campus. The school has an obligation to inform you about your rights regarding to whom you can formally report sexual violence if you wish a criminal prosecution, to facilitate that process if desired, and to know you have a right not to report and still receive support from the school.
- Finally, the Act protects against retaliation, as does Title IX. Colleges cannot intimidate, threaten, coerce or discriminate against you for reporting either explicitly or implicitly. For example, no college employee may urge you not to file charges with police or a formal complaint with the school, your good academic standing or ability to graduate cannot be threatened, nor are you required to sign a non-disclosure agreement to get the results of a disciplinary hearing after you have made a formal report to the school.
- Is Your College Compliant with the Clery Act?
- The best way to find out is to review the school’s ASR. The ASR must be publically accessible on the school’s website and in an easy to understand form that includes the incidents of crime and its final disposition or current stage of the disciplinary/investigatory process. If the most recent ASR is not available on October 1st, or there is not notification to current students and employees that it is available on that date, your college is not in compliance.
- Campus police or security must provide information on recent reports within two business days, unless it jeopardizes and investigation or victim confidentiality, in their Clery Crime Log. If a report you made is missing from the log or is mischaracterized in the log then your college is not in compliance. Common violations include failing to list Greek houses or other locations that are not physically on campus, but still covered under the Clery Act. If you believe your school has left off crimes from locations related to campus, your school may not be in compliance.
- Listed crimes should include: murder, manslaughter, sex offenses, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglary, motor vehicle thefts, and arson. Schools are also required to report hate crimes, which include larceny-theft, simple assault, intimidation, destruction, damage, or vandalism of property, and other crimes regarding bodily injury when the victim was selected based on gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, or religion must be reported specifically as crimes of prejudice.
- How Do I Report a Clery Act Violation?
- The U.S. Department of Education enforces the Clery Act, so complaints can be filed through their Clery Act Compliance Division at: email@example.com. Schools that violate the Clery Act may face warnings, up to $35,000 per violation fines, the limitation or suspension of federal aid, or the loss of eligibility to participate in federal student aid programs. If you are unsure if your school has violated the Clery Act consider seeking a lawyer or non-profit, like the Clery Center, to review your case.
- How Do I File a Clery Act Complaint?
- When to file a Clery Act Complaint
- An individual can file a Clery Act complaint when he/she feels that any of their Clery Act rights have been violated by their institution. Most often individuals exhaust the options at the college/university level in regards to anything under Clery’s purview before pursing a complaint, but this is not always the case.
- How to File a Clery Act Complaint
- A Clery complaint can be submitted via US mail, facsimile (fax), or email. The easiest and most direct way is via email. The complaint can be submitted as an attachment, or if the file is too large, it can be submitted as a dropbox file. The first point of contact for all questions and complaints is Clery@ed.gov.
- Any individual may file a Clery complaint. There is intentionally no specific format or layout used when filing because Clery’s intention is to make the complaint option available to anyone, regardless of title, position, or legal experience. Legal language is not necessary; oftentimes survivors recount violations of Clery with their personal experiences in the form of narratives.
- Clery Complaint FAQs:
- Do I need a lawyer to file a Clery Act complaint against my school?
A: No, in fact most complaints do not involve lawyers at all. However, legal counsel is a personal choice and may work for some and not for others.
- Where can I find additional examples of Clery Act violations?
A: OSAC has a great website which addresses this: http://oxysexualassaultcoalition.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/why-is-osac-filing-complaints-against-occidental.pdf
- When will I hear back about my case after I file?
A: It depends; the Clery office is extremely busy and will probably prioritize cases that already have an ongoing investigation. One could hear back in less than three weeks or more than three months; there is no exact timeline
- Does filing a Clery Act complaint cost any money?
- Can I submit a complaint anonymously?
A: Yes, you can submit your story anonymously, but it is generally best to have at least one person who is willing to be a contact/point person. If you do not use your name, Clery can’t look at your individual case.
- Will Clery tell my parents or the media about the fact that I filed?
- Will Clery tell me school that I filed?
A: If you use your name and the school has a file from your case, Clery will request to see those files, but they are private and should not be shown to anyone else.
- I submitted my complaint, but then my college violated Clery again, do I submit a new complaint?
A: You do not need to submit a new complaint, you can just simply email Clery@ed.gov with the subject line of your school and update the information.
- Should I detail “more” or “less” information in the complaint?
A: Add as much as you feel comfortable. With Clery, unlike in a civil case, more information is better. The Dept. of Ed is supposed to be a neutral fact finder, therefore there isn’t a risk of “showing your cards,” you’re simply giving them information to help them investigate better.
- What will Clery “do” if my school is found in violation?
A: Clery has the capacity to fine up to $35,000 per violation
- What are the categories of crimes that must be reported?
- Sex Offenses
- Aggravated Assault
- Motor Vehicle Theft
- Hate crimes must also be reported by category, including by the following: Race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and disability.
Annie Clark, University of North Carolina/University of Oregon
Dr. Danielle Dirks, Occidental College
Dr. Caroline Heldman, Occidental College
Occidental Sexual Assault Coalition (OSAC)
Security on Campus Inc.
US Department of Education
- I Am Interested in Filing a Clery Complaint
- I can’t find the information on how to file a Clery complaint.
- Your complaint, as well as any questions you might have, can be submitted to Clery@ed.gov. You can also call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243). There’s no template or format to follow when writing your complaint, and you do not need to worry about using legal language. In fact, it is common for testimony to take the form of narrative accounts of personal experiences. There is also no length requirement – or limit – so you can be as thorough and detailed as you are comfortable being. Make sure to include your school’s name.
- I don’t know what information should be included in my complaint.
- You should include whatever information you feel comfortable sharing. Too many details are better than too few, as the details you give will help the Department of Education in its investigation. The focus of your testimony should be on how your school violated your rights. As such, you don’t necessarily need to give a detailed account of your original assault or harassment, though you can certainly include such information if you are comfortable doing so and feel that it would add to your narrative. If you can offer specifics – names, dates, locations – do so, but there’s no requirement to do so. Again, you don’t have to worry about legalese. The Department of Education wants anyone to feel able to submit testimony, regardless of background or training, so give your account in language that feels comfortable to you. If you want someone to read over your testimony, you can contact us. We promise to remain confidential.
- I am unsure whether I should submit my complaint anonymously or not.
- Though you can choose to submit your complaint anonymously, if you do so, Clery will not be able to investigate your individual case or ask to see school files related to your case. If you’re filing with a group of people, it is best to have at least one person include their name and serve as a point of contact for Clery.
- Even if you do include your name, Clery will not share your testimony, or the fact that you filed a complaint, with your school or anyone else. However, they may ask to see the school’s files related to your case. These files will not be shown to anyone else.
- I am afraid that my school will retaliate against me for filing a complaint.
- The Clery Act prohibits any form of retaliation. Of course, just because something is prohibited doesn’t mean it won’t happen, or else you wouldn’t be filing your complaint to begin with. If you believe your school is retaliating against you after you’ve filed your complaint, you can send an update to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your school’s name should be in your subject line.
- In the meanwhile, you may want to turn to other sources of support. You can also reach out to the Clery Center, who will help provide you with general legal information for no charge and can provide referrals for legal counsel and other advocacy providers. To contact the Clery Center, go to http://clerycenter.org/Node/5 .
- I submitted a Clery complaint, but haven’t heard anything back. How can I be sure my complaint is being investigated?
- The Clery Office is generally very busy and may take some time to get to your case; there is no set timeline on when they will respond and investigate. If you are concerned, you can email email@example.com. You can also contact the Case Management Team handling cases in the state of your school; you can find their contact information at http://www2.ed.gov/offices/OSFAP/services/casemanagement.html.
- I am concerned that my complaint might affect my school’s financial aid policies.
- An institution’s compliance with the Clery Act is tied to its participation in federal student financial aid programs, and Clery may be fined up to $35,000 per violation. If such fines are imposed upon the conclusion of a Clery investigation or if your school’s participation in these federal financial aid programs is affected, it will certainly impact your school’s budget. However, school budgets increase and decrease annually, and usually do so without substantially affecting financial aid awards. Your school is more likely to find money for financial aid elsewhere in its budget, because ceasing to offer sufficient financial aid awards after being found responsible in a Clery complaint would only further harm the school’s public image.
- Your legal rights should not be held hostage by your school or by your classmates. Ultimately, if Clery finds your school in violation, your school, and not you, is responsible for any repercussion for failing to follow the law and protect your rights.
- I am trying to find other survivors on my campus to see if they have had similar experiences and potentially file complaints with me, but am not sure how to go about doing this.
- Your school is likely to have a survivors’ group or advocacy group you can contact. You might also consider asking friends you trust if they know anyone who might be comfortable filing with you.