Q: I’ve heard that there have been significant updates to Title IX recently. Are there any updates that we should be making to our policies and handbooks over the summer?
A: Yes, districts must revise their 2020-2021 Student Handbooks and Codes of Conduct to address the new Title IX regulations, which take effect on August 14, 2020. TASB will also be issuing updated board policies to reflect the new regulations this Fall.
Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities, including athletics, that receive federal financial assistance. In relevant part, Title IX provides:
No 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 federal financial assistance. 20 U.S.C. § 1681.
On May 6, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education released new (extensive) Title IX Regulations to address unsettled questions in the areas of student sexual harassment and assault in K-12 and postsecondary schools. The regulations and related guidance materials are available online through the Office of Civil Rights website and take effect on August 14, 2020. Among the most important changes brought about by the new regulations include a standard federal definition of sexual harassment (which did not previously exist), creation of a new grievance procedure for Title IX-related complaints, and new procedural requirements for annual notifications and District Title IX Coordinators.
Your district’s Student Handbook and Student Codes of Conduct should reflect these important changes. On June 4th, the TASB Policy Service released its 2020-2021 Model Student Handbook recommending that districts update their nondiscrimination statement and include additional contact information (email addresses) for Title IX Coordinators, as required by the new regulations. At this time TASB has only released an updated Model Handbook; however, an updated Code of Conduct is expected later this summer which will reflect the new definitions of sex-based discrimination (sexual harassment, assault, etc.). As is typical, TASB will also release updated Legal and recommended Local board policies this Fall. Pay close attention to policies FFH (Legal) and (Local), related to discrimination against students, as those policies will likely include significant updates in light of the new Title IX regulations.
Districts should be prepared to provide trainings to equip their administrators and employees with the knowledge and procedures to properly handle sexual harassment claims and grievances in light of the new Title IX regulations. If your district does not subscribe to TASB or use its Model Handbook or Code of Conduct, contact your school attorney for the requisite revised language. We also recommend dialogue with your school attorney if you receive a complaint or allegation of student sexual harassment or sexual assault this Fall to ensure that you are complying with the new regulations related to investigations and grievance procedures for such concerns.