How Title IX Applies To Elementary And Secondary Schools

By Carissa C. Sterling
July 14, 2020

Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs or activities operated by federally funded institutions, applies to colleges and universities as well as elementary and secondary schools. Recently, Betsy Devos, the Secretary of Education, announced new regulations that will govern how schools investigate, adjudicate, and discipline sexual harassment claims. K-12 schools will be responsible for adhering to most of the same Title IX regulations that apply to colleges and universities. Below are some of the key differences for Title IX’s application to elementary and secondary schools as compared to colleges and universities.

K-12 Schools
  • No live hearing required.
  • Imputed to have actual knowledge of allegations when a student reports conduct to any employee.
  • Parents can act on behalf of their children with regard to any Title IX matter (If they have the legal right to do so).
Colleges & Universities
  • Live hearing required which permits cross-examination of witnesses and questioning of evidence by advisers representing the parties involved.
  • Imputed to have actual notice of allegations when the Title IX Coordinator or any recipient who has authority to initiate corrective measures receives notice of the allegations.

Parents of K-12 students, as well as the institutions themselves should be aware of the (1) name or title, (2) office address, (3) e-mail address, and (4) telephone number of the employee(s) designated as the Title IX Coordinator. Reports to the Title IX Coordinator can be made in person, by mail, by email, by telephone, or by any other means that result in the Title IX Coordinator receiving the verbal or written report of the allegations.

It is important for institutions and parents alike to familiarize themselves with these new regulations. If a student is found responsible for conduct that violates Title IX, he or she may face consequences including a verbal or written warning, suspension, expulsion, or other disciplinary actions deemed appropriate by the school. Furthermore, schools that fail to comply with the new federal regulations risk losing federal funding.

The new regulations will become law on August 14, 2020. They have been met with both praise and criticism. Champions of the new reforms have hailed them as providing due process protections for the accused while opponents have criticized them as weakening protections for survivors. Undoubtedly, they will require schools to change how they approach Title IX claims.

Carissa C. Sterling is a law student at Washington University in St. Louis and a summer associate at Carmody MacDonald in St. Louis where she focuses her work on litigation.

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