When Should You Review Your School’s Sexual Misconduct Policies?

By: CLC Staff

iStock_000077148641_Large-454569-edited.jpgSexual misconduct and Title IX policies are constantly changing as institutions strive to create the best possible environment for their students and staff.

Fortunately, a great number of resources that can help inform sexual misconduct policies and procedures on campus are available to student affairs professionals. In order to stay well informed and in compliance with the latest Title IX measures, faculty and staff should make use of these resources and constantly compare the results found therein with their own policies.

Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Guidance on Title IX policies

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which enforces Title IX, has periodically issued guidance documents that contain valuable information on Title IX policies and suggestions on how to effectively implement them. The most recent document, issued in April 2015, focused on both the need for and the role of Title IX coordinators on campus, including necessary training procedures and the kind of authority these coordinators should expect to wield.

An essential point to remember when reviewing these guidance letters is the choice of directives used by the documents’ authors. Must versus should is a matter of great importance; whereas the latter indicates something that is certainly advisable, the former marks a procedure or policy that the OCR has found necessary for matters of sexual safety on campus, and should be implemented as soon as possible by the professionals on staff. These guidance documents can be found on the OCR website.

Title IX Compliance Institute: Essentials 4-Day Intensive

Understanding legislation and litigation measures for Title IX

Student affairs professionals also should strive to stay informed on legal measures that involve Title IX policies, regardless of whether or not these measures directly affect your school. A number of wide-ranging policies either have been legislated recently or are in the legislative process.

One example of the latter is the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would require institutions to include new information in their annual security report, such as:

  • The number and nature of sexual offenses on campus
  • Information on student amnesties for alcohol and drug violations that may surface during a sexual misconduct investigation

Staff professionals should ensure that their policies and procedures reflect those mandated by any new legislative measures.

Litigation cases at other institutions can also be effective sources of information for staff responsible for Title IX concerns. While no school wishes to find itself in the midst of a legal battle, the results of these lawsuits should be closely monitored in order to compare institutional policies and see how certain policies hold up under the legal process, or if they are understood to be fundamentally fair.

A recent report from United Educators contains information on sexual violence claims made against a number of higher education institutions. This information includes the basis for each claim, such as:

  • Title IX violations committed by the institution for discouraging pursuit of a case (from complainants)
  • Negligence of the adjudication process (from respondents)

This important body of information can be accessed via the United Educators website.

OCR resolution agreements

Another crucial resource is the set of resolution agreements drafted by the OCR and various institutions (these agreements can also be found on the OCR’s website). As the enforcing body for Title IX, the OCR plays a central role in investigating complaints and conducting compliance reviews at educational institutions. After an investigation or review, the OCR and the school in question usually enter a “voluntary resolution agreement,” which lays out any violations found by the OCR and the measures that should be taken to correct them.

While these agreements are institution-specific, student affairs professionals at your school should review their contents in order to compare the sexual misconduct policies of both schools and to align those of your own institution with those recommended by the OCR.

Taking these kinds of proactive measures will help guard against procedural violations down the road and will put your school in a better position to combat and handle sexual misconduct on campus.  

Do you have any suggestions or resources to add? Share in the comments below.

November 2015. “Campus Sexual Misconduct Policies and Procedures: When Should a School Revise?” NACUA presentation by Mary Dunnewold.

Subscribe to Campus Law Considered

Posted in Title IX

Subscribe to Campus Law Considered Blog