I wrote earlier that Wheaton College entered into a Settlement Agreement with the Department of Justice to resolve a Title IX sex discrimination investigation and compliance review. A subject area that formed the basis of the agreement were particular items regarding Title IX training to be provided by Wheaton to its campus community.
Although not an official policy pronouncement by either DOE’s OCR or the DOJ, it might be instructive for colleges and universities to review the Wheaton agreement’s training requirements for the purpose of benchmarking the sufficiency of their own campus Title IX training programs. With the immediately preceding caveat in mind, for your benefit as follows is a summary of the Title IX training obligations agreed to by Wheaton.
A. Wheaton agreed to revise its Title IX training and provide the training to its Title IX Coordinator, Case Investigators, members of its Sexual Misconduct Hearing Board, and any other Wheaton employees directly involved in processing, investigating, and/or resolving sex discrimination complaints or will otherwise assist in the coordination of Wheaton’s compliance with Title IX. Significantly it was agreed that the training is to be conducted in person, and is to cover:
- the roles and responsibilities of the involved individuals, how to assess victim responses to sexual assault, and how to assess credibility;
- how to recognize and respond to sex-based discrimination allegations, reports and complaints, including conducting interviews of victims in a fair, non-biased and objective manner that does not discourage victims from reporting or continuing with their complaints (the training is to include role playing and other practice activities);
- how to conduct and document Title IX investigations, which is to include the appropriate legal standards to apply in a Title IX investigation, how it differs from a criminal investigation, and how to collect and weigh different types of evidence;
- how to notify students of the right to file a criminal compliant and how to file one;
- the College’s definition of retaliation and the need to investigate and take action to end retaliation;
- the need to investigate allegations of no-contact order violations and take action if there is a violation;
- a refresher training or other summary review that is to be provided at the time Case Investigators or disciplinary hearing panel members are called upon to serve in those capacities;
- a written assessment requiring participants to demonstrate they they learned the material covered in the training.
B. Wheaton committed to providing training to all employees who are likely to be the first to receive complaints or other reports of sex discrimination, such as resident assistants, preceptors, the Counseling Center, and Academic Advisors. Again, this training must be in person and provide instruction on recognizing and responding (in a trauma informed manner that does not discourage reporting) to initial allegations, reports and complaints of sex discrimination. It was agreed this training is to cover:
- how students can initiate a Title IX complaint and procedures, and the employee’s responsibility to facilitate the filing of such complaints;
- examples of actions that may constitute sex discrimination and retaliation and what may provide the basis for a Title IX complaint;
- how a Title IX process differs from a criminal process, how to notify a complainant of the right to file a criminal complaint and how to file a criminal complaint;
- how to contact the Title IX Coordinator; and
- which employees that are designated as confidential resources, which are responsible employees, how responsible employees are defined and designated by Wheaton, and what information regarding sex discrimination allegations must be shared by responsible employees with the Title IX Coordinator.
C. Wheaton agreed to provide revised Title IX training to its students and provide it on an annual basis to all new students. Again it was agreed that this training would be in person and cover:
- how students can initiate Wheaton’s Title IX complaint and grievance procedures;
- examples of actions that may constitute sex discrimination in Wheaton’s programs and activities (including different types of harassment and retaliation, and what can provide the basis for a Title IX complaint);
- how the Title IX process differs from the criminal one;
- how to contact the Title IX Coordinator;
- Wheaton’s prohibition of retaliation; and
- no-contact orders and the consequences for violating no-contact orders.
In summary, institutions of higher ed might want to use to the terms of the Wheaton agreement to benchmark the sufficiency of the composition of their training programs. This suggestion is made with the caution that the Wheaton training requirements are not a part of an official DOJ or OCR policy pronouncement and are applicable to one institution, and thus some elements may not be appropriate or reasonable for other institutions.