In a recently released letter, OCR issued new guidance on how districts must respond to sexual violence under Title IX. The guidance reinforces the requirements established in OCR’s Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance: Harassment of Students by School Employees, other Students, or Third Parties (January 2001). 
 
Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence, is form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX. As used in the letter, sexual violence refers to “physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to the victim’s use of drugs or alcohol. An individual also may be unable to give consent due to an intellectual or other disability.” A number of different acts fall into the category of sexual violence including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion. Sexual violence can cause victims to fall behind academically, use drugs and alcohol, become depressed, or commit suicide. To avoid violating Title IX, districts are required to:
 
o   Promptly investigate allegations of sexual violence if the district knows or reasonably should know that sexual violence has occurred (preponderance of the evidence standard).  
o   Investigate regardless of whether the victim or someone else files a complaint and regardless of whether law enforcement is also investigating it.
 
OCR reminds districts that they must (1) respond to off-campus sexual violence reported to the district, (2) train staff to report sexual violence to appropriate school officials, (3) adopt and publish appropriate grievance procedures.
 
For more information, this OCR letter is available in the Guidance Documents section of this website.
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