A recent investigation of the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has found that there is still widespread confusion about the scope of Title IX in the federal school system. Some school administrators, especially those in the primary and secondary education levels, did not even know it applied to their school districts.
The report is just another example of why the Title IX enforcement system needs an overhaul.
OCR Finds Staggering Misunderstandings About Title IX
The report was published by the nonprofit education advocacy site The 74. It describes documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act requests from some of the OCR's recent investigations into sexual misconduct. Those OCR investigations focused on the secondary school level and revealed some staggering and jaw-dropping situations where school administrators were completely ignorant of the law. Some of them included:
- An assistant high school principal who said that he would only call the Title IX coordinator about “unfairness in sports,” rather than issues of sexual misconduct
- Multiple school districts that took absolutely no action after receiving formal complaints about instances of sexual misconduct
- School superintendents who had no idea that their school needed to comply with Title IX
- The District of Columbia Public School system, which had a written policy to not investigate allegations of sexual misconduct – contradicting Title IX rules that require it to do so
Confusion About Title IX is Rampant
Simply put, confusion about Title IX is rampant, even in the school administrative offices that should have the firmest grasp of what the law requires. School officials have only the vaguest idea of what Title IX does, let alone what it requires them to do if they learn of sexual assault or misconduct in their schools. To make matters worse, many high school districts are struggling with extremely limited budgets.
When advocates for alleged victims claim that schools need to do more to protect against sexual misconduct, they are ignoring the fact that the Title IX system is incredibly misunderstood and beyond impractical for some schools' current situations. With poor guidance from the federal government and seemingly no interest in making sure schools of all levels understand their role in the system, it should not be entirely surprising how quickly Title IX breaks down.
Ironically, it is precisely the need for more rules and less guesswork that many due process advocates have been pushing for. When regulations are known and the lines in the sand are clear, students at all levels can have a firm idea of when they are approaching sexual misconduct, and steer clear.
Joseph D. Lento: A National Title IX Advisor
Joseph D. Lento is a national Title IX advisor who can also represent students who have been accused of sexual misconduct and are now facing Title IX charges. With his help and defense, you can raise your rights and navigate the difficult and often confusing Title IX investigation and hearing process. Contact him online or call attorney Lento at (888) 535-3686 for the legal guidance you need at this difficult time in your educational career.