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Sex-Based Harassment

Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence

Title IX protects both female and male students from sexual harassment connected to any school program or activity, regardless of where it occurs.  The 2008 Sexual Harassment:  It's Not Academic pamphlet  covers preventing, responding to, and reporting sexual harassment and defines sexual harassment as conduct that:

  • Is sexual in nature
  • Is unwelcome
  • Denies or limits a student's ability to participate in or benefit from a school's education program.

On Sept 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of Education withdrew the April 4, 2011 Dear Colleague letter on sexual harassment and sexual violence and the accompanying fact sheets and released new interim guidance while it seeks public input to inform new policy.

The interim guidance explains the Department's current expectations of schools and specifically addresses:

  • A school’s responsibility to investigate and respond appropriately to incidents of sexual misconduct when the school knows or reasonably should know about such conduct, regardless of whether or not a student files a complaint.
  • Interim measures that may be appropriate prior to or during an investigation
  • Criteria that the Office for Civil Rights uses to determine if grievance procedures are prompt and equitable
  • What constitutes an “equitable” investigation
  • Appropriate evidentiary standards
  • A school’s obligation regarding appeals and notifications to parties of the outcomes of disciplinary proceedings

In addition, the interim guidance reaffirms continued reliance on the following documents: 

Considerations for School District Sexual Misconduct Policies

In September 2016, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault issued Considerations for School District Sexual Misconduct Policies highlighting a number of factors to assist districts in drafting a sexual misconduct policy.  The Task Force recommends that districts consider developing a separate sexual misconduct policy or including a separate section in existing comprehensive anti-discrimination policy dedicated to addressing the unique issues of sexual misconduct.  Use of a comprehensive drafting process which considers the unique aspects of the district and consultation with legal counsel to ensure full compliance with all applicable laws are also recommended. 

Prevention and Education

The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students released the Safe Place to Learn online resource package to assist schools in the prevention of peer-to-peer sexual harassment and sexual violence.  This resource includes:  guidance for administrators, e-learning modules for school staff, a webinar discussion guide, a coordinated response team planning guide, a trauma sensitivity training module, as well as a number of other resources.

Gender-Based Harassment and Bullying

Gender-based harassment, also covered under Title IX, is unwelcome conduct based on an individual’s actual or perceived sex, gender identity, or nonconformity with sex stereotypes.  Gender-based harassment may include:

  • Acts of verbal, nonverbal or physical aggression
  • Intimidation or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping or failure to conform to perceived sex or sex-stereotypes

Such acts are considered to be gender-based harassment even if they do not involve conduct of a sexual nature because the conduct is sex-based.

Title IX prohibits sexual harassment and gender-based harassment of all students, regardless of the sex of the harasser or the target and regardless of the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the harasser or the target.

For more information on gender-based harassment, harassment and bullying, see:

Bullying Prevention and Education

For information on bullying prevention and education, see:

 

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