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Sex-Based Harassment

New Civil Rights Initiative to Combat Sexual Assault in Public Schools

February 27, 2020, Secretary De Vos announced a new civil rights initiate to combat sexual assault in public schools which will include the following activities:
  • Compliance Reviews: to be conducted by the Office for Civil Rights
  • Public Awareness and Support: to be provided by the Office for Civil Rights
  • Data Quality Reviews: to be conducted by the Office for Civil Rights
  • Proposed CRDC Data Collection: OCR has proposed, for the 2019-2020 data collection, to collect more detailed data on sexual assault.  The proposed data collection includes incidents perpetrated by school staff or school personnel.  If adopted, the inclusion of this data would make the CRDC collection the first universal collection to gather such data systemically by school.

Read the Press Release at Civil Rights Initiate to Combat Sexual Assault in Public Schools


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 issued a Dear Colleague Letter withdrawing the April 4, 2011 Dear Colleague Letter on sexual harassment and sexual violence and the April 29, 2014 Questions and Answers on Title IX Sexual Violence 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: 

Draft rule was released for public comment Nov 29, 2018-Jan 28, 2019.  The U.S. Department of Education is in the process of reviewing the public comment.  For more information on the proposed Title IX rule, go to the Title IX homepage

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 provides a FREE online training program to assist schools in the prevention of peer-to-peer sexual harassment and sexual violence. Safe Place to Learn 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.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a FREE online course targeted to middle and high school teachers on teen violence prevention.  Dating Matters  includes: a capacity assessment and planning tool, an interactive guide on informing policy, case scenarios, information on evidence-based programs, as well as a number of other resources.
  • The Colorado School Safety Resource Center offers a number of FREE and low cost trainings both face to face and online.  Adult Sexual Misconduct training can be requested FREE of charge for groups of twenty-five or more.

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: