Know Your Rights at School: Title IX and Sexual Assault
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that receives federal funding.
Under Title IX, discrimination on the basis of sex can include sexual harassment, rape, and sexual assault. A college or university that receives federal funds may be held legally responsible when it knows about and ignores sexual harassment or assault in its programs or activities. The school can be held responsible in court whether the harassment is committed by a faculty member, staff, or a student. In some cases, the school must pay the victim money damages.
- Sexual harassment can qualify as discrimination under Title IX if it is "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim's access to an educational opportunity or benefit."2 Courts have generally found that even a single instance of rape or sexual assault by another student meets this standard.
- To be held responsible, the college or university must have authority over the harasser and over the environment in which the harassment takes place.3
- According to the Supreme Court, a school becomes legally responsible when the school's response to harassment "is clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances."4
- The Supreme Court has ruled that a college or university receiving federal funding may have to pay damages to the victim of student-on student sexual harassment or assault if the victim can show that the college acted with "deliberate indifference to known acts of harassment in its programs or activities."5
2. Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Educ., 526 U.S. 633 (1999).
3. Davis, 526 U.S. at 645.
4. Davis, 526 U.S. at 648.
5. Davis, 526 U.S. at 629, 633.