School Business Affairs July-August 2020

asbointl.org SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS | JULY/AUGUST 2020 37 LEGAL ISSUES Details of the long-awaited Title IX updates. An Update on Title IX and Sexual Harassment of Students By Charles J. Russo, J.D., Ed.D. and Suzanne Eckes, J.D., Ph.D.F A cting on behalf of the Depart- ment of Education, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on May 6, 2020, released the long- awaited new regulations overseeing the implementation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX). The 2,033 pages of regulations and related materials, which go into effect August 14, 2020, supersede earlier Obama administration guidelines for educational officials’ handling of sexual harassment complaints (Ali 2011). Title IX was origi- nally enacted to ensure gender equity in higher education, but because the law and its new regulations now apply to K–12 set- tings, this presentation will address four substantive areas of sexual harassment in schools. The first part of this column briefly exam- ines the background of Title IX, the primary federal statute on sexual harassment involv- ing students. As a significant aside, sexual harassment disputes involving employees are governed by Title VII, a topic beyond the scope of this column. The second section highlights the three Supreme Court cases that set the standards for dealing with sex- ual harassment of students in K–12 schools along with a brief summarization of subse- quent case law. In its third part, the column reviews the recent changes in Title IX’s regulations, explaining how educators in K–12 schools must address sexual harassment complaints. Because successful Title IX plaintiffs are typically entitled to substantial awards of monetary damages and attorney fees, thereby potentially making sexual harass- ment complaints costly, the fourth part offers recommendations for school business officials, their boards, and other education leaders to consider when updating their rel- evant policies. Legal History of Title IX Congress enacted Title IX to ensure gen- der equity in intercollegiate sports. Pursuant to Title IX, “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Fed- eral financial assistance. . . .”Accordingly, Title IX covers all public educational institu- tions, whether K–12 schools or colleges and universities. The first case to expand Title IX’s scope to cover sexual discrimination in educa- tional settings was Cannon v. University of Chicago (1979). In Cannon , a female appli- cant sued two private medical schools under Title IX alleging that as recipients of fed- eral financial assistance they discriminated against her and denied her admission due to her gender. Ruling in favor of the plaintiff, the Supreme Court found that because she was a woman, Cannon was a member of the class protected by Title IX. Thus, the Justices interpreted the law as being designed to per- mit individual claims, thereby allowing her suit to proceed because sex-based discrimi- nation concerned the federal government. Still, more than a decade would pass before the Supreme Court applied Title IX to sex- ual harassment in a school setting. Sexual Harassment of Students By Teachers In Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools (1992), a male teacher in Georgia developed a “special” friendship with a high school sophomore whereby he had private meetings with her, allowed her to BBOURDAGES/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

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