What is Title IX?

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational institutions that receive federal funds. Most people know Title IX for its provisions eliminating sex-based discrimination in athletics. However, Title IX has several other important aspects to consider.

Title IX and Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of prohibited sex-based discrimination. It can include touching of a sexual nature, sexual comments and gestures, displaying or circulating sexually explicit materials, and public or online rating of sexual activity. This behavior can occur between school employees, employees and students, and between students. Title IX does not limit sex discrimination to male-female behavior and can include male-male or female-female discrimination as well. Finally, Title IX requires that the discriminatory behavior occur within a context under a school’s control. One of the main issues for schools to determine is whether or not the sexual harassment is of a type that denies the student the ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s programs. Schools must take action to end the harassment and remedy its effects if the harassment occurs within the school’s provision of programs and services to the student. Title IX also prohibits gender-based discrimination if students are harassed by other students, employees, or third parties within the school context for failing to conform to sex-based stereotypes as long as such conduct creates a hostile environment for the student. Such harassment can take the form of verbal or physical threats, intimidation, hostility, and other forms of aggression.

Grievance Procedures and Training

Schools must take action when an employee knows or reasonably should know of student harassment. The school must publish an anti-discrimination policy and establish grievance procedures to resolve complaints and appoint a Title IX coordinator to ensure that the grievance procedures are followed and records are maintained. All school employees should be trained to identify and report harassment. This training should be given to those who are most likely to witness or receive reports of harassment, including teachers, aides, administrators, and health personnel. Training topics should cover identifying sexual harassment, the school’s policies and grievance procedures, and the consequences of violating those policies. For further recommendations, see http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/ocrshpam.html.

Title IX and Employee Discrimination

Title IX has provisions designed to protect employees from sex-based discrimination in the workplace, including different treatment based on sex regarding benefits or services, sanctions, employment offers or terminations, and pay. Additionally, schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on marital status, parental status, or whether an employee is the head of the household or primary earner. The exception for sex-preferential treatment in employment is if sex is a bona fide occupational qualification. Title IX also prevents discrimination based on an employee’s pregnancy. If a school does not have a leave policy or does not qualify for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), then an employee without sufficient leave time may take a reasonable unpaid leave for pregnancy or childbirth reasons. After leave, the employee should be reinstated to their former position or at least to a comparable position with rights and benefits. If an employee believes that s/he has been discriminated against on the basis of his or her sex, then s/he should follow the school’s grievance policy. The employee may also file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights within 180 days of the incident or, if filing a grievance and a complaint both, within 60 days of the last grievance proceeding. For more information on how to file a complaint with the OCR, see http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/howto.html.