On April 24, 2015, the United Stated Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) issued a Dear Colleague Letter (“DCL”) regarding Title IX Coordinators and a new Title IX Resource Guide.
The DCL reiterates many of the points addressed in previous guidance and provides some additional clarification regarding who should be designated as Title IX Coordinator, what his/her responsibilities are, and the support the institution must provide. The following are the most noteworthy points in the DCL stating that the Title IX Coordinator:
- should be independent and report directly to senior leadership (e.g. University President).
- is protected from retaliation, and the institution must not threaten, intimidate or coerce a Title IX Coordinator for the purpose of interfering with the performance of his/her job responsibilities.
- should not have other responsibilities that may create a conflict of interest (e.g. general counsel, dean of students, athletics director, disciplinary board member).
- should have adequate time to address all Title IX complaints thoroughly. At a large institution, this may require deputy Title IX coordinators assigned to certain subdivisions of the institution, but a single lead Title IX Coordinator must be designated. At a small institution, this may mean ensuring that the Title IX Coordinator does not have other duties that prohibit him/her from dedicating the requisite time and attention to Title IX issues.
- must be informed of all reports and complaints raising Title IX issues even if initially reported in another context.
- should monitor outcomes of complaints, identify and address patterns, and assess impact on campus climate.
- is not required to determine the outcome of complaints or the responsive actions but may have that responsibility, absent any conflict of interest.
- should be well-trained and be knowledgeable about policies and be involved in drafting and revising such policies and procedures to ensure compliance.
- should have access to and analyze information regarding enrollment, participation in athletics, administration of discipline, incidents of sex-based harassment.
- should be visible to the entire community. The Title IX Coordinator’s name and contact information should be widely disseminated and easily found on website.
In addition, a link to Title IX policies and grievance procedures should be prominently displayed on the institution’s website homepage.
The Resource Guide addresses the Title IX Coordinator’s responsibilities in a variety of areas, including, but not limited to, admissions, counseling, athletics, financial assistance, discipline, pregnant and parenting students, harassment and sexual violence, and retaliation. On the whole, the Resource Guide is a compilation and synopsis of previous guidance.
This DCL and Resource Guide are yet another reminder of OCR’s ongoing focus on Title IX, and the importance of regularly taking stock of your institution’s policies, procedures and practices to ensure continued compliance.