Title IX and Private K-12 Schools

Source: http://stopsexualassaultinschools.org/guest/title-ix-and-private-k-12-schools/

Stop Sexual Assault in Schools

Educating students, families, and schools about the right to an equal education free from sexual harassment

Title IX and Private K-12 Schools

by Christine Garner, with input from Bill Howe and SSAIS.

This FAQ is about Title IX and private K-12 schools. It is not intended as definitive legal advice. We recommend that you contact an attorney to review your specific situation. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) continues to change its guidance. This information is based upon guidance provided prior to March 10, 2018.

Is a private K-12 school required to comply with Title IX?

Title IX states that “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.”  If a private school receives any federal financial assistance then it must comply with Title IX, unless the school has a legitimate religious exemption (see below).

The courts have ruled that even if one department of a school receives federal financial assistance, the entire school must abide by Title IX.  If a private school is part of an entity with more than one school, then all schools within the entity must adhere to Title IX, even if only one of the entity’s schools receives federal financial assistance.

Does a private religious school have to comply with Title IX?

If a private religious school accepts federal financial assistance, then it is required to comply with Title IX. A religious school can claim an exemption from Title IX requirements that it believes would be inconsistent with its religious tenets. Religious schools may apply to the Department of Education for exemptions to Title IX requirements, but a school is not required to file a written claim for an exemption to be valid.  The school can raise the religious exemption in response to a Title IX complaint.

The most common religious exemptions apply to sports, pregnant students, or LGTBQ rights. It is difficult to envision a valid religious tenet that would exempt a school from having to address sexual harassment or sexual assault.  If a religious school claims an exemption, you could still file a complaint, and OCR will decide if the exemption is valid.

What qualifies as federal financial assistance?

The Department of Justice (DoJ) defines federal financial assistance as “the award or grant of money.” The DoJ definition continues:

However, federal financial assistance may also be in nonmonetary form… [F]ederal financial assistance may include the use or rent of federal land or property at below market value, federal training, a loan of federal personnel, subsidies, and other arrangements with the intention of providing assistance. Federal financial assistance does not encompass contracts of guarantee or insurance by the federal government. It is also important to remember that not only must an entity receive federal financial assistance to be subject to Title IX, but the entity also must receive federal assistance at the time of the alleged discriminatory act(s) except for assistance provided in the form of real or personal property. In this situation, the recipient is subject to Title IX for as long as it uses the property.

Private K-12 schools usually receive financial assistance from the Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture, or the Department of Health and Human Services.  Private schools might also receive financial assistance from other federal agencies.

If a student or teacher at a private school receives Title I or special education services from a public school, does that mean the private school is a recipient of federal financial assistance?

Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) require public school districts to provide eligible students with special education resources and also to provide “equitable services” to eligible children in private schools. If a private school student or teacher receives “equitable services” from a public school, that does not mean that the private school is a recipient of federal financial assistance.  Department of Education policy does not consider services provided to private school students or teachers under ESEA Title I or IDEA as federal funds given to the school.

How do you know whether your private school receives federal financial assistance?

First, ask the private school administration if they receive federal financial assistance. The school should know because they are required to sign an Assurance of Compliance prior to receiving the funds. The assurance of compliance states only that the school “assures” the federal agency that the school complies with Title IX and the other federal civil rights laws. The signed assurance of compliance does not mean the federal agency has audited to see if the school is truly in compliance.

If the school refuses to answer or you do not trust their answer, you can search USAspending.gov (see instructions below) or the Federal Audit Clearinghouse. These databases show the federal financial award amount and the agency that provided the money. Even if the school does not appear in one of these databases, it still might receive federal financial assistance.

If you cannot verify whether your private school receives federal financial assistance, you can still file a Title IX complaint with OCR, and they will determine if the school receives funds from the Department of Education. It’s best to consult with an attorney first to determine the best course of action because you can lose valuable time waiting for a determination from OCR.

If my private school does receive federal financial assistance, how do I a file complaint under Title IX?

If you are not able to resolve your complaint with the private school, you can file a lawsuit or file a complaint through the civil rights department of the federal agency that provided the school with financial assistance. The three most common sources of federal financial assistance to private K-12 schools are the Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture, and Department of Health and Human Services.

Here are the links to file complaints:

OCR sets the standard for review of a Title IX complaint, even if another federal agency is processing that complaint. If a private school receives funds from more than one federal agency, you only need file a complaint with one agency. It’s preferable to file a complaint through the Department of Education if your school receives funds from the Department of Education.

When must I file my Title IX complaint?

You must file a Title IX complaint within 180 days of the latest occurrence of the discrimination.  If you filed a complaint through your school’s grievance process and you feel your Title IX rights were violated, you can file a complaint with OCR within 60 days after the last act in the school’s grievance process. OCR sometimes grants a waiver of the 180-day filing period, but it’s best to submit your complaint within that time frame. Because discrimination can be ongoing, discuss your filing deadline with an attorney as soon as you discover the discrimination.

What if my private school isn’t required to comply with Title IX?

You do not need to rely only on Title IX to prove sexual harassment and sexual assault are wrong. Even if your private school is not required to comply with Title IX, you can still demand that it address these issues and live up to Title IX standards. If a student is a victim of sexual assault at a private school, the action is still wrong and the school should respond to protect and help the victim. Depending on the facts, a private school might be liable for breach of contract, negligent supervision, or some other legal theory that would be best discussed with an attorney.

As noted in the Assurance of Compliance, schools must also comply with other civil rights laws and an incident could violate more than one law. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. Discrimination based upon disability is prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Age discrimination is prohibited by the Age Discrimination Act of 1975.

Most states have their own anti-bullying laws. These statutes define bullying in different ways. Check with an attorney about whether a private school must comply with anti-bullying laws in your state.

In conclusion, if a student has been a victim of sexual harassment, do not give up. You have the right to demand protection and help from your private school.

Legal disclaimer



Instructions on how to conduct a search on the USA Spending website:

  1. Browse to USAspending.gov advanced search webpage.
  2. On the left side, in the Filters box, under Time Period, select All Fiscal Years.
  3. In the Filters box, click Award Type, and select all of the categories (ContractsGrantsDirectPaymentsLoans, and Other).
  4. In the Filters box, click Recipient, and in the Recipient Name search box, enter the name of the school or portion of the name, and then click the search icon (magnifying glass).
  5. Scroll to the top or to the bottom of the Filters box, and then click Submit Search.
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Idaho Elementary School Found Non-Compliant with Title IX Due to Sex-Segregated Classrooms

by FEMINIST NEWSWIRE on Dec 6, 2016 • 11:08 AM No Comments

Last week the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the US Department of Education (ED) determined that Idaho’s Middleton School District was in violation of Title IX for segregating elementary school students into all-girl and all-boy classrooms.

A complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleged that since 2006, Middleton Heights Elementary School separated 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders into classrooms by sex under the debunked theory that boys’ and girls’ brains are fundamentally different, and therefore they need to be taught in different ways.

According to the ACLU, “The school did this by, for example, providing boys with more space to move around, asking boys questions about actions in English class and girls questions about characters’ emotions, and emphasizing competition for boys and cooperation for girls.” There is no evidence that this type of education benefits children of either sex, and, in fact, this model can contribute to illegal sex discrimination and stereotyping.

Not only was the school unable to justify the sex-segregated classrooms, but the ED’s investigation discovered that the practice led to discriminatory educational opportunities. For example the student-to-teacher ratio was lower in almost all of the boys’ classes than it was in both the girls’ classes and the coed classes.  Similarly, there was no adequate justification for single sex instruction in any subject based on beginning year sex differences or on comparative improvement data from previous years. Also for many years the school failed to notify parents that the single-sex classes were completely voluntary or to obtain their consent for their child’s participation.

The Middleton Heights Elementary School returned to co-educational classrooms at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. Under the OCR resolution agreement the school will provide public website notification that it is discontinuing the single sex classes and remain under ED supervision until 2020.  It must also provide Title IX training and other justification requirements if it plans to re-institute any single sex classes.

The Feminist Majority Foundation’s (FMF) 2014 report “Identifying K-12 Public Schools with Deliberate Sex Segregation” identified 699 coed public K-12 schools offering some type of all-boys and all-girls classrooms and 106 public single sex schools.

In December 2014 OCR issued guidance on justifications needed for single-sex public education. Title IX Coordinators and educators with questions about what constitutes an adequate justification for single-sex classrooms can access the OCR Questions and Answers guidance here.

The 2016, the FMF report on “Reinvigorating the Role of the Title IX Coordinator” describes how to find the names and contact information for 23,000 school district and post-secondary education Title IX Coordinators.

Visit the FMF Title IX Coordinators web page and the sex segregation web page, and sign up for FMF’s Title IX Network emails.

Media Resources: ACLU 11/30/16; OCR 11/14/16, Feminist Majority Foundation 10/13/16.

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Considerations for School District Sexual Misconduct Policies

Considerations for School District Sexual Misconduct Policies highlights issues for K-12 districts to consider when bringing together a multi-disciplinary team to develop sexual misconduct policies as part of their overall response to sexual misconduct. By using this document as a guide, it will enable K-12 teams to include all the essential components of a comprehensive sexual misconduct plan. The document covers reporting options, support services for victims, definitions, confidentiality, the grievance process, and other critical areas. It also provides links to Federal government resources for those wanting further detail on a particular topic.

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School districts ramp up training after Forest Hills sex assault lawsuit, federal investigation

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – After watching Forest Hills Public Schools undergo a federal investigation and lawsuit for its handling of a student’s campus sex assault allegations, school districts in the region are being more proactive about training employees.

“What was and is a difficult situation for Forest Hills is a learning opportunity for other school districts,” said Coni Sullivan, assistant superintendent for Human Resources and Legal Services for the Kent Intermediate School District. “We want districts to be proactive in approaching any type of harassment, not just Title IX.”

Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in all education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. While most commonly known for promoting gender equality in sports participation, it protects against any type of sex-based harassment, such as sexual violence.

On Wednesday, Forest Hills Superintendent Dan Behm confirmed the district settled the federal lawsuit regarding the 2010 alleged sexual assault of a 15-year-old at Forest Hills Central by a student athlete for $600,000.

Related: School pays former student $600K for sex assault, harassment claims

Under Title IX, schools districts are required to respond promptly and effectively to student-on-student sexual harassment and assault to mitigate the effects of the hostile learning environment.

This spring and summer, the Kent Intermediate School District and other ISDs, as well as individual school systems, are doing extensive Title IX compliance and investigation training. On Wednesday, Katie Broaddus, an attorney with Thrun Law Firm, trained all Byron Center schools’ administrators and directors.

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In March, U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney ruled Forest Hills failed to train school workers on response to complaints of sexual assault and harassment. And the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights said the 10,000-student district failed to properly investigate claims by the girl in its report.

Related: Former Forest Hills student’s report of sex assault, harassment a challenge for families, district

Sullivan said the ISD held April and May training and one is scheduled for August that will continue to drill down on Title IX, all related laws and how to conduct thorough investigations. She said school leaders know now that OCR expects a parallel investigation to what law enforcement is engaged in if the case is criminal – and that it needs to be timely.

“When it comes to investigating alleged sexual harassment that also could be a crime, you can’t just punt to police,” said Lisa Swem, an attorney with Thrun Law Firm, who conducted Title IX training sessions for KISD.

“School officials are committed to complying with Title IX. “I think the OCR position is challenging, particularly when it involves an alleged crime. The fact of the matter is educators are not trained criminal investigators or forensic interviewers.”

Swem said Title IX cannot be looked at in a vacuum. She said there are many layers because of the different laws that can come into play, such as Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which generally prevents the disclosure of confidential information about other students.

School districts are sending more staff to be trained now, not just the designated Title IX coordinator or human resources staff,

“Once the news about Forest Hills came, I knew we had to train all our principals and directors,” said Byron Superintendent Dan Takens about Wednesday’s district training and sending staff to ISD sessions. “We all need to know what to look for and the appropriate steps to take.”

Northview Superintendent Mike Paskewicz said district administrators will undergo training in August. He said Forest Hills thought they were following appropriate procedures but everyone is aware now that OCR is expecting something more rigorous.

“Districts have to be very specific about their sexual harassment policies and be prepared to investigate,” he said.

Forest Hills said that a Kent County sheriff’s detective told them not to conduct their own investigation – a claim authorities later denied.

Swem is encouraging school leaders to be proactive and meet with their local law enforcement to better understand one another’s roles and responsibilities and to educate them on their federal responsibilities under Title IX.

The Ottawa and Muskegon ISDs will host a one-day training on June 24 to ensure that “reports and complaints are adequately, reliably and impartially investigated.”

Monica Scott is the Grand Rapids K-12 education writer. Email her atmscott2@mlive.com and follow her on Twitter @MScottGR or Facebook

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What happens when your son tells you he’s really a girl?

Source: http://www2.macleans.ca/2014/01/13/what-happens-when-your-son-tells-you-hes-really-a-girl/

What happens when your son tells you he’s really a girl

Inside the families embracing the new world of gender variance

by Cathy Gulli on Monday, January 13, 2014 10:25am – MacLean’s Magazine

Since the summer of 2012, Olie Pullen has kept in her bedroom closet a Wonder Woman costume, which she loves, but has struggled to actually wear. The plan had been to don it on Halloween two years ago, but when that day came, Olie, now 11, chose to be a vampire instead. Dressing up in the red and blue costume would have exposed her at school and around her Montreal neighbourhood in a way that didn’t feel right yet: Olie was, after all, born a boy. Oliver.

When he was a toddler, at his own insistence and to the surprise of his parents, Oliver began playing with princess dresses and dolls. He wore skirts, first at home and then out, along with glittery shirts and skinny jeans, and eventually grew his blond hair long. Recently, Oliver started wearing a padded bra and taking hormone blockers to suppress male puberty. He had his name legally changed to Olie, and only responds to female pronouns. Oliver the boy is now Olie the girl. And for the first time ever, she’s comfortable. “The best part is that I feel I’m in the right body,” says Olie. “I feel like, well, I feel good.”   read more ………… 

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