The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education has wrapped up yet another Title IX investigation, this one into the Chicago Public School (CPS) system. The investigation took years, and is culminating in a sweeping change to the school system's Title IX process.
Chicago Public Schools the Subject of Sweeping OCR Investigation
The concrete details of the OCR investigation, including what triggered it in the first place, are underwhelming. The OCR's press release about the culmination of the investigation refers to two OCR complaints against CPS. Those complaints claimed that CPS failed to respond to allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault by both students and teachers. They were filed in May 2015 and November 2016.
What seems to have happened, though, is the OCR began digging into these two cases to discover that CPS' Title IX policies were nonexistent.
Soon after the investigation began, a series of feature articles published in the Chicago Tribune, “Betrayed,” shone a spotlight on the problems in the system, including the fact that police had investigated more than 520 allegations of sexual assault and abuse that happened in CPS schools.
As a result, the OCR investigation is not tailored to these two cases. Instead, it is system-wide and focuses on Title IX policies that apply to all of the schools in CPS.
CPS Accused of Systemic and Fundamental Title IX Problems
The fixes that the OCR demanded of the CPS system reveal how bad the problems had been. Reading between the lines of the investigation's resolution:
- CPS had to create a Title IX coordinator position in December, 2018. There had not been one since at least 1999
- Students who had complained about sexual misconduct were not notified about the status or the outcome of the investigations their reports had triggered
- Poor recordkeeping made it impossible to know the extent of the problems
The result was something that the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Kenneth Marcus, said was not just “minor tweaks to policy. We're talking about a substantial overhaul.”
Vague Federal Guidance Leads to Local Oversights Like These
The takeaway of the OCR's investigation is that CPS was not doing anything to comply with Title IX. As a result, sexual assaults in CPS schools were rampant.
But these kinds of local failures should be expected, considering how vague the federal guidance is, when it comes to Title IX law. The “best practices” of upholding Title IX regulations are no more than a list of vague priorities and generalized concepts. There are very few checklists of things to do. It should come as no surprise that some schools are so off base.
Joseph D. Lento: Title IX Defense Lawyer and Advisor
Joseph D. Lento is a Title IX defense lawyer and national advisor. He helps people who have been accused of sexual misconduct and who are facing Title IX action from their school. With his help, you can navigate the uncertain waters and protect your rights and your future.
Call his law office at (888) 535-3686 or contact him online.