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Sex-Based Harassment

First Biennial Summit on Sexual Misconduct

In July 2021, in a collaboration between K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) hosted the first ever Biennial Summit on Sexual Misconduct. There were a wide range of topics, including a number of sessions pertinent to K-12 schools and districts.  The presentation schedule and a report summarizing the event are posted at the CDHE 1st Biennial Colorado Summit on Sexual Misconduct website

NEW (2020) Title IX Regulations Regarding Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence

On May 6, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education released the Department's final Title IX rule which amends the regulations implementing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The final regulations specify how recipients of Federal financial assistance, including elementary and secondary schools, must respond to allegations of sexual harassment and assault consistent with Title IX’s prohibition against sex discrimination. Title IX Coordinators should work with district legal counsel to understand how the new regulations affect the district’s Title IX policies and procedures and make revisions, as necessary.  The new regulations went into effect Aug 14, 2020. July 2021, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released a Question and Answer document to clarify how the OCR interprets schools and districts obligations under the 2020 amendments to the Department’s Title IX regulations, including areas in which schools have discretion in their procedures for responding to reports of sexual harassment.  The focus is on questions related to the most recent amendments to the regulations (the 2020 amendments).  The appendix includes sample policies and information on parent/guardian rights.

For more information on the Office for Civil Rights Outreach, Prevention, Education, and Non-discrimination (OPEN) Center, see the press release on the New, Proactive Civil Rights Compliance Center

Webinar Series

An Overview of the New Title IX Rule: What it is and Steps to Take

This two-part informational webinar series was delivered virtually Oct 2020, by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), in collaboration with the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB).  For more information, or to request a copy of the series, please contact Rebekah Ottenbreit at

Review of the 2020 Regulations

The U.S. Department of Education is in the process of conducting a comprehensive review of its current Title IX regulations as amended in 2020, following President Biden’s March 8, 2021 Executive Order on Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free from Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity. The process and implications are further explained in the April 6, 2021 Letter to Students, Educators, and other Stakeholders re Executive Order 14021. On May 17, 2021, there was a formal Announcement of Title IX Public Hearing where stakeholders would have the opportunity to submit written or oral comments.  The hearing was held June 7-11, 2021. The purpose of the hearing was:

  • to ensure that schools are providing students with educational environments free from discrimination in the form of sexual harassment, which encompasses sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence
  • to ensure that schools have grievance procedures that provide for the fair, prompt, and equitable resolution of reports of sexual harassment and other sex discrimination, cognizant of the sensitive issues that are often involved
  • to address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in educational environments 
The transcript is posted for public viewing.  Following the hearing, multiple guidance and resource documents were issued, including: 

While this review is ongoing and until any new regulations go into effect, the 2020 amendments remain in effect.

Sexual Harassment

The 2020 Title IX Regulations' definition of sexual harassment replaces the previous Title IX definition of sex-based harassment. Under the new regulations, sexual harassment, as defined by Title IX, is conduct on the basis of sex that meets one or more of the following descriptions:

  • A school employee conditioning an educational benefit, service or an individual’s participation in an educational activity upon unwelcome sexual conduct (“quid pro quo”)

  • Unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” that it effectively denies the victim access to the school’s education programs

  • “Sexual assault,” “dating violence,” “domestic violence,” or “staking” as those terms are defined under the Clery Act and the Violence Against Women Act

Anyone, regardless of race, sexual orientation, disability status, or gender identity might be a victim or perpetrator of sexual harassment.

Prevention and Preventative Education

The Office for Civil Rights requires preventative education that includes:

  • What constitutes sexual harassment under the new Title IX Rule
  • The school’s/district's Title IX policy, grievance procedures, and consequences
  • How to report sexual harassment
  • For all K-12 staff, students, and parents/guardians

Annual Training for Title IX Personnel

Under the 2020 Regulations, Title IX personnel should receive annual role specific training, conducted by Title IX professionals with experience in Title IX investigations.

How to Report Sexual Harassment

All of the educational community needs to know how to report sexual harassment.  Under the new Title IX Rule, schools must notify all applicants for admission or employment, students, parents or legal guardians of K-12 schools, employees, and unions or professional organizations holding collective bargaining agreements that:

  • The school/district does not discriminate on the basis of sex
  • It is required under Title IX not to discriminate on the basis of sex
  • This requirement extends to admissions and employment
  • Inquiries may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator, to the Office for Civil Rights, or to both

For more information, see the Office for Civil Rights Short Webinar on How to Report Sexual Harassment