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Title IX: A Shield Against Sexual Violence on College Campuses

A single instance of sexual violence on campus can start a chain reaction of negative consequences, creating a hostile educational environment for the victim.  A federal law known as “Title IX,” offers important protections and remedies for students in this situation.  Originally passed to discourage sex discrimination at schools and colleges, Title IX has been interpreted to shield all students from the threat of sexual violence.

What is Title IX?

Title IX is part of the federal Education Amendments of 1972.  The law is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and through private lawsuits filed in federal courts.  Title IX says that no one may be subjected to:

  • Exclusion from participation in any education program or activity on the basis of sex.
  • Denial of the benefits of any education program or activity on the basis of sex.
  • Discrimination under any education program or activity on the basis of sex.

Title IX applies to all U.S. education programs that receive federal financial assistance.  If any person issues a complaint or makes charges under Title IX, the institution cannot legally retaliate against that person.

What does Title IX cover?

Every institution that receives direct or indirect financial assistance from the federal government, including the vast majority of schools at the state and local level, is subject to Title IX.  It applies to thousands of local school districts, universities, colleges, charter schools, libraries, and museums.  It applies to every aspect of the educational experience, including recruitment, admissions, financial assistance, academic programs, athletic programs, sex-based harassment, and discipline.

How does Title IX protect college students from on-campus sexual violence?

Title IX has a broad scope when it comes to sexual harassment and sexual violence.  It requires schools to provide safe educational environments for their students or risk losing federal funding.  The statute requires not only that schools react properly to sexual harassment and assault, but also that schools take a proactive approach to ensure the campus is free of sex discrimination, harassment and assault.

Under Title IX, what do schools have to do about sexual violence?

Every school must have an established procedure in place to accept and investigate complaints of sexual violence, ensuring these complaints don’t fall on deaf ears.  If a student experiences sexual violence on campus, the school must take steps to ensure they do not have to share spaces, such as classrooms and dorms, with the assailant.  Schools are also able to issue a no-contact directive to the assailant, preventing that person from approaching or interacting with the victim.

Can I be expelled for making a complaint?

No.  Title IX prevents your school from retaliating against you for complaining of sexual discrimination, harassment or assault.  It even makes it illegal for the school to discourage you from continuing your studies.  The school has a responsibility to keep you safe from other revenge-motivated behavior or harassment.

How can I find out more about my Title IX rights?

John Howley has worked for more than 25 years to protect students’ rights right to study, work, and live without fear of sexual violence.  In addition to his work as a trial lawyer representing individual students, he has served as Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Skidmore College, as Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Northfield Mount Hermon School, and as a Trustee of New York Law School and the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities.

If you have experienced sexual discrimination, harassment or assault at a school, college or university, call our offices today at (212) 601-2728 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with John Howley personally.