The United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) recently announced a new initiative to combat sexual assault in K-12 public school districts. This new initiative is intended to enhance OCR’s enforcement of Title IX in public schools and strengthen the ability of public school districts to adequately respond to all incidents of sexual harassment and assault. It also comes on the heels of an increased amount of K-12 sexual harassment and violence complaints filed with OCR. OCR received fifteen times more complaints this past year than it received a decade ago.
OCR’s initiative will include the following activities:
- Compliance Reviews: OCR will conduct nationwide compliance reviews in schools and districts, examining how sexual assault cases are handled under Title IX, including sexual incidents involving teachers and school staff. OCR will work with school districts to identify and correct compliance concerns.
- Public Awareness and Support: OCR will focus on raising awareness of the issue of sexual assault in K-12 schools, including making information available to educators, school leaders, parents and families.
- Data Quality Reviews: OCR will conduct Data Quality Reviews (“DQRs”) of the data on sexual assault/offenses submitted by school districts through the Civil Rights Data Collection (“CRDC”). As a part of conducting DQRs, OCR will partner with the National Center for Education Statistics (“NCES”) and will work with districts to ensure that incidents of sexual assault/sexual offenses are being accurately recorded and reported through the CRDC.
- Proposed CRDC Data Collection: OCR has proposed, for the 2019-2020 data collection, to collect more detailed data on sexual assault. The proposed data collection includes incidents perpetrated by school staff or school personnel. If adopted, the inclusion of this data would make the CRDC collection the first universal collection to gather such data systemically by school.
We recommend reviewing District policies and procedures regarding Title IX and discrimination and harassment. Our office is available to review and revise these policies and procedures, as well as to train District staff on complying with the provisions of Title IX.
This update is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.