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.
The 4 Equity Assistance Centers are funded by the U.S. Department of Education under Title IV of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. They provide assistance in the areas of race, gender, national origin, and religion to public school districts to promote equal educational opportunities.
Region I | Region II | Region III | Region IV |
Bill Howe, Ed.D., State of Connecticut Title IX Coordinator (Retired), CT State Department of Education Connecticut is recognized nationally for its model implementation of Title IX in PK-12 schools. From its extensive website, training programs, Title IX database, technical assistance and enforcement activities, it stands as a model for the nation. Using a combination of lecturette, case studies, simulations and quizzes, this program will offer insight into the state’s Title IX Coordinator training, annual survey of school districts, enforcement and technical assistance functions and overlay of the importance of cultural competence in compliance positions.
Register – https://atixa.org/
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MScottGR or Facebook
According to ATIXA, the average Title IX lawsuit settlement is $200,000.
Forest Hills Schools settles sex assault suit for $600K
Dani Carlson and 24 Hour News 8 web staff Published: June 17, 2015, 10:17 am Updated: June 17, 2015, 7:26 pm
ADA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A student who sued Forest Hills Public Schools after claiming she was sexually assaulted by a classmate will be paid a $600,000 settlement.
The student claimed that the school district did not protect her from harassment after she filed a complaint, and instead protected the suspect, who was an athlete. She was 15 at the time of the incident in 2010.
Settlement agreements obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show the school district’s insurance carrier agreed to pay the victim $600,000 to settle the lawsuit. The plaintiff will have to pay her attorney costs and taxes from that sum.
A federal judge had previously ruled that the school district failed to train its staff in how to properly handle Title IX allegations. Under the settlement agreement, Forest Hills Public Schools “will sponsor Title IX training as part of its existing Global Learning Initiative program.”
Part of Title IX requires that school districts “take prompt and effective corrective action,” which includes conducting a separate investigation that may not wait until after a criminal investigation is complete.
“The school cannot just throw up their hands and say, ‘Hey, criminal act, we’re out of it. Call the cops. Our job is done.’ That’s just not the law,” said attorney Genie Eardley.
Eardley is suing Grand Rapids Public Schools on a different alleged Title IX violation.
But Charyn Hayn, an attorney with Varnum LLP, a law firm that represents other school districts, said that school investigations don’t have the same power as criminal ones.
“The district should, at the same time the criminal investigation is ongoing, continue their own investigation. I think the disconnect — if you can call it that — comes just the fact that the internal investigation done by these schools Title IX coordinator is limited,” Hayn said.
She said the districts don’t have subpoena power and the administrators, and teachers investigating may have training but not day-to-day experience.
“The process they have to follow, they don’t have to do it very often, thank goodness. I mean, this is not a daily experience for any district,” Hayn said.
The student, identified as Jane Doe in legal documents, claims she was sexually assaulted by classmate and star basketball player Marques Mondy in a band practice room in 2010.
Prosecutors originally chose not to pursue the case, but later filed charges against Mondy after another student came forward with allegations that he inappropriately touched her, as well.
Mondy was charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, but pleaded to a juvenile charge of assault and battery and was sentenced to probation.