Review of Dept. of Ed, OCR, Title IX Coordinator DCL.

Dept. of Ed, Office for Civil Rights, Releases a Guidance Regarding Title IX Coordinators.

In a “Dear Colleague Letter” dated April 24, 2015, the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, provided additional guidance relating to educational institutions’ Title IX coordinators.  OCR states that the purpose of the letter is to provide additional clarification and recommendations relating to the responsibilities of a Title IX coordinator (while incorporating previously issued guidance documents about Title IX coordinators).  In particular this letter (1) outlines factors an institution should consider when designating a Title IX coordinator, (2) describes the coordinator’s responsibility and authority, and (3) reminds institutions that the coordinators are to be visible in the institution’s community and receive appropriate training.  A summary of the letter follows.

(1).  Designation of a Title IX Coordinator.  OCR reemphasized that an institution must have at least one person designated and actually serving as the Title IX coordinator at all times.  When designating a Title IX coordinator, institutions are urged to consider:

A. Independence.  The coordinator should be independent and report to senior leadership (i.e., the university president). Care should be taken to avoid designating an employee whose job responsibilities may create a conflict of interest (i.e., a disciplinary board member, general counsel, dean of students, or athletic directors may have conflicts of interest).

B. Full-Time Title IX Coordinator.  A full-time coordinator will minimize conflicts of interest and will help ensure that the coordinator has sufficient time to perform their responsibilities (if there is only one coordinator for an institution, it is critical that the coordinator have the qualifications, training, authority, and time to address complaints).

C. Multiple Coordinators.  For larger institutions a good practice may be to have multiple coordinators.  In these situations, there should be one designated lead coordinator who has ultimate oversight responsibility.

(2).  Responsibilities and Authority of a Title IX CoordinatorA coordinator must have the authority to coordinate an institution’s compliance with Title IX, including the grievance procedures for resolving Title IX complaints.  A coordinator is to be informed of all complaints and reports raising Title IX issues, even if filed with another individual or office, or the investigation will be conducted by another individual or office.  The coordinator is responsible for coordinating the response to all sex discrimination complaints (including monitoring outcomes, identifying and addressing any patterns, and assessing effects on the campus climate).  However, it is not specified who should determine the outcome of Title IX complaints.

OCR has specified the following regarding requirements for, and the role of, a coordinator: (1) knowledge of, and involvement in the drafting/revision of, an institution’s policies and procedures on sex discrimination; (2) coordinate data collection and analysis of climate surveys if conducted; (3) access to information regarding subject area enrollment, athletic participation, administration of school discipline, and incidents of sex based harassment.

OCR emphasizes that institutions should encourage its coordinator to help it comply with Title IX and promote gender equity in education.  OCR further cautions that coordinators are protected by Title IX’s anti-retaliation provision and an institution must not interfere with a coordinator’s performance of their job responsibilities.

(3).  Support for Title IX CoordinatorsTitle IX coordinators are to have the full support of the institution, which includes visibility in the community and ensuring the coordinator is knowledgeable about Title IX and the institution’s policies and procedures.  OCR notes that there are a variety of ways an institution can achieve these goals.

A. Visibility of Title IX Coordinators.  OCR specifies the following as institutional obligations to make the coordinator visible to the community: (1) posting and publishing [e.g. bulletins, publications, catalogs, application/recruitment materials, employment applications] notices of non-discrimination stating it does not discriminate on the basis of sex and that Title IX questions can be referred to the coordinator or OCR; (2) the notice is to include the name, address, telephone number, and email of the coordinator [a title may be used instead of a name in printed materials, but the website must have complete and current information]; (3) if there is more than one coordinator, the lead coordinator’s contact information must be included in the notice and the contact information of the other coordinators should also be included along with information that would help students and employees identify which coordinator to contact; (4) the coordinator’s contact information must be widely distributed and easily found on an institution’s website and in publications; (5) institutions are encouraged to have a webpage that includes the name and contact information of its coordinator, relevant Title IX policies and grievance procedures, and other resources related to Title IX compliance and gender equity, and a link to this page should be prominently displayed on its homepage.

B. Training of Title IX Coordinators.  Coordinators must be appropriately trained and possess comprehensive knowledge in all areas for which they are responsible.  The resource guide that accompanied the “Dear Colleague Letter” sets forth these key issues* (and the guide provides references to related federal resources).  The coordinator should also be knowledgeable about overlapping laws such as FERPA and the Clery Act.  OCR states that coordinators will most likely need to receive training, which should explain: (1) the different facets of Title IX, including the regulations; (2) applicable OCR guidance; (3) and the institution’s policies and grievance procedures.  These training obligations also apply to all employees whose responsibilities may relate to an institution’s obligations under Title IX.  In the letter OCR indicates where training resources may be available, and OCR goes on to state that “[i]n rare circumstances, an employee’s prior training and experience may sufficiently prepare that employee to act as a recipient’s Title IX coordinator.”

* The key issues identified in the 30 page “resource guide” are as follows:  (1) Recruitment, Admissions, and Counseling; (2) Financial Assistance; (3) Athletics; (4) Sex-Based Harassment; (5) Pregnant and Parenting Students; (6) Discipline; (7) Single-Sex Education; (8) Employment; and (9) Retaliation.

The link to these materials are found here: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/rights/guid/ocr/title-ix-coordinators.html

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