Title IX Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Case Letter Database

U.S. Department of Education

Title IX Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Case Letter Database

Below, you will find OCR campus sexual misconduct case investigation finding letters released under the Freedom of Information Act.

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ACLU Files Complaints Against Single-Sex Classes Idaho and Alabama

Title IX Blog

ACLU Files Complaints Against Single-Sex Classes Idaho and Alabama

Posted: 18 Dec 2012 04:02 AM PST

Earlier this month, the ACLU filed formal complaints (see here and here) with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, challenging single-sex educational programs at Middleton Heights Elementary in Middleton, Idaho and Huffman Middle School in Birmingham, Alabama.

Middleton’s program, in place since 2006, separates girls and boys into separate classrooms and teaches differently to each group.  Boys’ classrooms incorporate exercise and movement, while the girls are given a quiet environment.  Boys are not seated face-to-face, as girls are, on the theory that “boys are more competitive and should not be forced to make eye contact.” Boys receive more explanation for assignments, and the school makes efforts to bring in “male role models” to combat concerns about them having too many female teachers.  The school does not inform parents that the program is voluntary, and many believe they did not have a choice to opt out, which the law requires.  One final objection to Middleton’s program is that it has not caused any academic improvement, belying its justification in the first place.

In 2010, Huffman Middle School began separating boys and girls for all classes and activities, even lunch. It offers no coeducational alternative, which is a clear violation of Title IX’s regulations on single-sex education.  The curriculum in boys’ classes calls for “stressing ‘heroic’ behavior that shows what it means to ‘be a man.'” The ACLU complaint also criticizes the school for relying on a book “that teaches that boys are better than girls in math because their bodies receive daily surges of testosterone, while girls have similar skills only ‘a few days per month’ when they experience ‘increased estrogen during the menstrual cycle.'”  Huffman’s program, like Middleton’s is not supported by any evidence that academic achievement has improved.
According to its website, the ACLU wants OCR to investigate these cases and bring them into compliance with Title IX regulations, which only allow single-sex programs that have an academic justification.  The organization also wants OCR to clarify to school districts that sex stereotypes such as those reflected in Huffman and Middleton’s curricula are not justifications for segregation under the law.

Title IX and the Spending Clause

Posted: 17 Dec 2012 01:41 PM PST

What does Title IX have to do with Obamacare?  The answer is in the Constitution.  Congress can only pass legislation pursuant to one of its constitutionally enumerated powers, and for both Title IX and one provision in the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a/ Obamacare) Congress relied on the same provision — the Spending Clause.  This provision of the Constitution gives Congress broad power to spend money, and pursuant to this power, Congress can conditional spending on the recipients agreement to comply with certain conditions.  In the case of Title IX, recipients of federal education funding agree not to discriminate on the basis of sex.  In the case of the Affordable Care Act, one of its provision asked states who agree to take federal funding for Medicaid to expand its coverage to include individuals with a higher income level than the current eligibility level.  While the Supreme Court upheld most of the Affordable Care Act under a different constitutional provision (i.e., the Taxing Clause) the Court struck down the Medicare expansion as a violation of the Spending Clause.   Given that Title IX is also Spending Clause legislation, does the Supreme Court decision about Obamacare jeopardize Title IX as well?

In a recently published issue brief, the American Constitution Society and author Emily Martin explain that, notwithstanding the Court’s new Spending Clause jurisprudence, Title IX remains safe from attack.  Martin argues that Title IX is sufficiently different from the Medicaid provision of the Affordable Care Act to be affected by the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking it down.  First, the Medicaid provision in the ACA made conditional requirements on the states themselves, impinging on state sovereignty in ways that Title IX — which binds mostly private entities, along with state institutions but not the states themselves — does not.  Next, the amount of federal money subject to conditions in each of these laws differs by degree.  In the case of the Medicaid provision, enough federal money was at stake for the conditions to be deemed coercive — states wouldn’t have been able to say no to them with so much federal money on the line.  But in the education context, schools can (and a few even do) opt out of federal money in order not to have to comply with Title IX. The amount of money at stake is not enough to constitute coercion.  This distinction is further illustrated by the fact that Title IX contains a provision limiting the federal funds that are conditioned on compliance to only those funds that may be demonstrated to be supporting the discrimination at issue.

Finally, unlike the Medicaid provision of the ACA, Title IX is justified not only by the power vested in Congress by the Spending Clause, but also by the power vested in Congress by the Fourteenth Amendment as well.  Title IX overlaps with the Fourteenth Amendment when it comes to prohibiting sex discrimination by state educational institutions, and the extent to which Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination extends to private institutions as well, is still within the outer boundary of Congress’s enforcement power as defined by the Supreme Court.

Kudos to the American Constitution Society and Emily Martin for proactively addressing this issue and providing the response to any potential challenges to Title IX under the Court’s new Spending Clause jurisprudence.

ACLU takes on single sex classrooms. Is this a worthwhile fight?
Atlanta Journal Constitution


ACLU takes on single sex classrooms. Is this a worthwhile fight?

12:48 pm December 19, 2012, by Maureen Downey

The ACLU is going after two school districts for single-sex classrooms.

Having gone to a single-sex Catholic high school, I see a few benefits to all girl or all boy classes, although most research shows no compelling academic rationale.

As the National Association for Single Sex Public Education notes, the United States Department of Education published regulations governing single-sex education in public schools in 2006. The association has a good primer on legal issues, including updates from two court decisions.

According to the association:

The new regulations allow coeducational public schools (elementary and secondary schools) to offer single-sex classrooms, provided that the schools:

1) provide a rationale for offering a single-gender class in that subject. A variety of rationales are acceptable, e.g. if very few girls have taken computer science in the past, the school could offer a girls-only computer science class;
2) provide a coeducational class in the same subject at a geographically accessible location. That location may be at the same school, but the school or school district may also elect to offer the coeducational alternative at a different school which is geographically accessible. The term “geographically accessible” is not explicitly defined in the regulations.
3) conduct a review every two years to determine whether single-sex classes are still necessary to remedy whatever inequity prompted the school to offer the single-sex class in the first place.

Here is the ACLU statement on why it believes districts in Alabama and Idaho are violating federal law:

The American Civil Liberties Union filed complaints with the federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights today against two school districts in Alabama and Idaho running unlawful single-sex education programs.

Through information obtained through the ACLU “Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes” campaign, the programs appear to violate federal law by forcing students into a single-sex environment with little or no alternative options, rely on harmful gender stereotypes and deprive students of equal educational opportunities merely because of their sex.

“We understand that teachers and parents want to provide the best education for their children. But coeducation was never the problem with failing schools, and single-sex programs are not the answer,” said Christina Brandt-Young, attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “These programs are poorly designed and based on pseudoscience and stereotypes that do nothing to enhance learning, and only reinforce discredited ideas about how boys and girls behave.”

The complaints were filed in conjunction with the ACLU of Idaho and the ACLU of Alabama.

The programs in Middleton Heights Elementary in Middleton, Idaho, and Huffman Middle School in Birmingham, Ala., are based on the theories of Dr. Leonard Sax and other proponents of single-sex education, whose discredited theories on the supposed differences between boys’ and girls’ brains are rooted in archaic stereotypes.

In Middleton, the single-sex program has been in place since 2006, and draws on stereotypes that men are active and independent while women are passive and dependent. The school plans the boys’ day to include exercise and movement, while the girls are provided with a “quieter environment.”

Boys are seated shoulder-to-shoulder while girls are seated face-to-face on the theory that girls are more cooperative while boys are more competitive and should not be forced to make eye contact.

The program calls for “large amounts of explanation for assignments” for girls and “limited teacher explanation” for boys. Boys are permitted to play and exercise while girls must maintain a “quiet environment.”

The school put out a call for “male role models” for the boys out of concern that too many female teachers contributed to a perceived difficulty in teaching boys. No such request was made for female role models.

Although the school maintains its single-sex programs are voluntary, it provides no written information to parents about how to exercise their option to put their students in a single-sex or coeducational class. Internal polling of parents in 2012 found 48.6 percent believed they did not have a choice about the classroom type.

“The pervasive and unfounded idea that boys and girls learn so differently that every detail down to the temperature and the light in the classroom should be dictated by sex is ridiculous,” said Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho. “These programs have not made a bit of difference academically to the students of Middleton, but have supported archaic ideas of what is considered ‘normal’ for boys and girls.”

The single-sex program at Huffman Middle School has been in place since 2010. In violation of federal law, no comparable coeducational alternative is offered. Students who wish to be in coeducational classes must transfer to another school. Huffman students are separated by sex for all classes, even during lunch.

Instructions for teaching boys call for stressing “heroic” behavior that shows what it means to “be a man.” The school relied on a book that teaches that boys are better than girls in math because their bodies receive daily surges of testosterone, while girls have similar skills only “a few days per month” when they experience “increased estrogen during the menstrual cycle.”

Although Birmingham City Schools’ studied academic achievement at Huffman and concluded “[t]here is no definitive proof that the percentage of students scoring proficient [sic] is significantly impacted by students being taught in same gender classroom settings,” the single-sex program at Huffman continues.

“Every individual child learns differently, and no child should be forced to conform to one theory of how he or she should learn,” said Olivia Turner, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama. “Assuming that boys and girls learn according to their hormones is just an old-fashioned stereotype.”

The ACLU is asking the OCR to investigate the programs and bring them into compliance with the law. To address the problem more broadly, the ACLU wants OCR to provide guidance to all school districts and make clear that the 2006 Title IX regulations do not authorize schools to adopt programs based on gender stereotypes; instead, schools must provide specific justifications for every single-sex class offered.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog




Safety and Justice for All Americans


The following post appears courtesy of Roy L. Austin Jr.,  the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice

Last week, I attended the Ninth Anniversary of the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington, D.C., and delivered remarks about the Obama Administration’s commitment to safety and justice for all Americans, including transgender Americans.

LGBT equality has been a top priority of the Obama Administration and Attorney General Eric Holder. As President Barack Obama said in October 2011:

“Every single American – gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender – every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our society. It’s a pretty simple proposition.”

The Justice Department has a number of tools at our disposal to meet this important goal. In the Civil Rights Division, one way we do this is by ensuring that law enforcement officials treat everyone equally and are not violating the constitutional rights of the people they serve. The vast majority of police departments around the country work tirelessly to protect the civil and constitutional rights of the communities they serve. But when systematic problems emerge in a police department, the Civil Rights Division uses its statutory authority to hold them accountable, and to galvanize and institutionalize meaningful reform.

For example, after an investigation of the New Orleans Police Department, the Division found that, among other things, police officers were discriminating against and disproportionately punishing transgender individuals. To address these concerns, the police department will now be specifically trained on working with transgender individuals as part of an agreement we reached with the city of New Orleans in July. Puerto Rico has similar issues with violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals. We are working with the Puerto Rico Police Department to ensure better investigation of these crimes and to ensure that the police department treats victims and witnesses with respect.

We also investigate, address, and work to prevent hate crimes, including those targeting the LGBT community. The Justice Department enforces the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Obama signed into law in October 2009.  To date, we have brought 16 cases and charged 40 defendants under the Shepard-Byrd Act in 11 different states across the country. Thirty-six of those defendants have been convicted on a hate crime or a serious hate crime related charge, and five of these cases have involved the convictions of persons who physically attacked others due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Another significant accomplishment to come from the Shepard-Byrd Act has been the Department’s outreach. Since the enactment of Shepard-Byrd, the Department has provided hate crimes training to thousands of law enforcement officers and community activists around the country. We have made it clear what people should do when they believe that they have been a victim of or witness to a hate crime. And we have worked with law enforcement on the ways to properly investigate hate crimes. Among other things, this education spreads the message that our transgender community is a vital part of the American community and must be treated with respect.

Finally, we have led efforts to address the bullying and harassment that touches the lives of countless kids, their families, and their communities every school year. As we’ve seen all too clearly – and as many of us know from our own experience – bullying can have a devastating, and potentially lifelong, impact. Nearly one in three middle and high school students report being bullied, and over half of our children report that they witness bullying in school. For gender non-conforming and transgender students, it can be much worse.

The Administration takes this issue very seriously. Last year at the White House, the President and the First Lady held a conference on bullying and harassment in schools. The President has made clear that he doesn’t accept the idea that bullying is just part of growing up; rather, every child has a right to receive an education without fearing for their safety.

The Civil Rights Division is using every tool available to us to respond. We protect the rights of students who are being harassed because of their race, national origin, religion, disability, or sex – including if they are being harassed because they don’t act how their peers think a boy or girl is supposed to act.  Through this work we are seeing that two communities face a disproportionate amount of bullying and harassment in schools: Muslim students, and LGBT students.  And not only members of these communities—but also those who are perceived to belong to these communities—are at increased risk of being bullied.

Together with our federal partners like the Department of Education, we are exploring ways to hold schools accountable, and to stop harassment and bullying before it starts. This includes efforts in Tehachapi, California, where 13-year-old Seth Walsh, who was openly gay, took his own life after suffering verbal, physical and sexual harassment in school for over two years. Although the settlement we reached with the school district comes too late to help Seth, it hopefully will prevent harassment and bullying from recurring and create a more positive environment for all students in his district, as well as send a message nationwide.

All of these actions and policies are certainly promising steps in the right direction, but we also recognize there is still much work to be done. The Justice Department remains committed to equality under the law and will continue to be central to that effort over the years to come.


Title IX: Sex-Based Harassment: Anoka-Hennepin School District (MN) (#05115901):

OCR conducted an investigation of the Anoka-Hennepin School District to determine whether District students were subjected to peer-on-peer harassment based on not conforming to gender stereotypes, in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. OCR conducted the investigation with the U.S. Department of Justice. On March 5, 2012, the District entered into a Consent Decree in the U.S. District Court for the Minnesota District with OCR and the Department of Justice. On March 6, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Joan N. Ericksen granted the motion to approve the Consent Decree. Pursuant to the Consent Decree, the District, has agreed to take all reasonable steps to prevent and eliminate sex-based harassment, and to respond promptly and appropriately to all reports of harassment. To that end, the District has agreed, among other things, to: (1) review and improve its policies and procedures concerning harassment to address sex-based harassment, including harassment based on gender stereotypes, by working with an Equity Consultant; (2) hire or appoint a Title IX and Equity Coordinator to ensure proper implementation of the District’s harassment policies and procedures; (3) conduct training of all District faculty, staff and students on policies and procedures for reporting and responding to harassment; (4) hire a Mental Health Consultant to assist students who are subject to harassment; (5) create an Anti-Bullying/Anti-Harassment Task Force; (6) administer an Anti-Bullying Survey once per year; (7) identify harassment “hot spots” and assign personnel to monitor these trouble areas; (8) ensure that all of its middle and high schools have a peer leadership program addressing harassment; (9) convene annual meetings between the Superintendent and students at every middle and high school in the District; and (10) provide compliance reports to DOJ and OCR each trimester during the five year term of the Decree. OCR and the Justice Department will monitor the District’s actions in implementing the Consent Decree.   Read the Press Release download files PDF (114K)| Read the Resolution Letter download files PDF (105K) | Read the Consent Decree download files PDF(297K)


A HERO FOR DAISY – trailer



Featuring two-time Olympian and Yale rower, Chris Ernst, who galvanized her rowing team to protest the substandard conditions facing female athletes in the 1970s. On a cold rainy day in 1976, Ernst led her teammates to the athletic director’s office, where they stripped, baring bodies emblazoned with the phrase TITLE IX in blue marker. This event rocketed around the globle, leaving an indelible imprint on the nation in terms of what gender equity really meant. Directed by Mary Mazzio.

For more information, please visit: http://www.aherofordaisy.com


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