The Department of Education (“ED” or the “Department”) issued its long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking[1] to amend regulations implementing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”) on November 29, 2018. Comments to the proposed regulation are due on or before January 30, 2019. Here are ten notice requirements the proposed regulation would impose on elementary and secondary schools if they become final.
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The Department of Education (“ED” or the “Department”) issued its long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend regulations implementing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”) on November 29, 2018. As the Department has acknowledged, the proposed rules would adopt standards that significantly depart from those set forth in prior ED regulations and guidance under Title IX. Although much of the debate regarding the proposed rules has focused on institutions of higher education’s treatment of sexual harassment, the proposed rules also would significantly impact elementary and secondary schools. Husch Blackwell’s education team offers the following overview of the proposed rules, with a focus on the Department’s regulation of K-12 institutions.
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In light of shifting federal guidance and heightened awareness of sexual harassment, school districts should be on high alert with respect to their internal Title IX policies, staff, and training.  Otherwise, they may face complaints with the Department of Education or litigation surrounding the incidents of alleged sex or gender discrimination, sexual harassment, or interpersonal violence.
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On Friday, September 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) and Q&A on Campus Sexual Misconduct. The DCL withdrew the 2011 DCL on Sexual Violence and the 2014 Q&A on Title IX and Sexual Violence issued by the previous administration. In the DCL, Candice Jackson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights stated, “[t]he 2011 and 2014 guidance documents may have been well-intentioned, but those documents have led to the deprivation of rights for many students-both accused students denied fair process and victims denied an adequate resolution of their complaints.” The Acting Assistant Secretary went on to state that the 2011 and 2014 guidance documents imposed regulatory burdens without affording notice and the opportunity for public comments.

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On June 6, 2017, Candice Jackson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education, sent the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Regional Directors a memorandum outlining how to evaluate and investigate complaints involving students who identify as transgender. Under the Obama Administration, the Department of Education and Department of Justice issued a joint Dear Colleague Letter which provided specific information regarding Title IX recipients’ obligations and examples of how transgender students’ complaints of sex discrimination should be evaluated. On February 22, 2017, the Department of Education withdrew  the 2016 Dear Colleague Letter, and now Jackson’s memorandum serves as guidance.
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In Salazar v. South Antonio Independent School District, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that an educational institution can be liable under Title IX for sexual misconduct committed by its employees only when an employee with power to correct the misconduct—other than the wrongdoer himself—is aware of the misconduct and is deliberately indifferent to it. Although the student plaintiff in the case argued an institution could be liable based on a principal’s deliberate indifference to his own misconduct, the court rejected this result as inconsistent with Title IX. The court held: “We discern no congressional intent in Title IX to provide a private cause of action for damages when the only employee or representative of [an institution] who had knowledge of the [misconduct] was the offender.” The court’s ruling ensures that an educational institution—including a college or university—will not be liable under Title IX someone other than the wrongdoer at the institution is aware of misconduct and the institution has a fair opportunity to respond to it, but nonetheless remains deliberately indifferent to it.

The facts of Salazar are tragic.


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Ladies room and mens roomThe extension of civil rights protections to transgender and gender non-conforming individuals is rapidly evolving.  These issues are playing out in schools across the country, and a recent Seventh Circuit decision seems to suggest that transgender students will be afforded Title IX and Fourteenth Amendment protections.

In Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School Dist. No. 1., No. 16-3522, 2017 WL 2331751 (7th Cir. 2017) the Seventh Circuit affirmed a Wisconsin District Court’s decision granting a transgender student a preliminary injunction to use the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity, rather than his biological sex. 
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Gavel On Rainbow FlagAs we noted was a possible outcome in our prior analysis of the Trump Administration’s withdrawal of the Obama-era guidance on facilities use by transgender students, the Supreme Court has remanded Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. without issuing a decision.  Prior to this remand order, the Court was set to decide whether Title IX

The Supreme Court of the United States somewhat unexpectedly agreed on Oct. 28, 2016, to take on the question of whether Title IX requires public school districts to allow transgender students to use single-sex restrooms corresponding to their gender identity rather than that of their birth sex. The issue has generated widespread controversy between the

Yesterday, the White House released a Fact Sheet: Ensuring Safe and Supportive Schools for All Students. The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) announced additional materials to help school districts address sexual assault misconduct in elementary and secondary schools. These resources demonstrate the continued commitment of the Department and White House to addressing the issue of sexual assault on campus. It also underscores that the Title IX requirements to prevent and address sexual misconduct are not just an issue for colleges and universities, but also for public school districts as well.
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