Select Page

Title IX Ensures Every Student Is Safe and Supported at School

The Biden administration recently released a Title IX rule that restores protections for student survivors and clarifies protections for LGBTQI+, pregnant, and parenting students.  The new rule is an important step towards fulfilling Title IX’s mandate to protect all students from sex discrimination.

Even as the Biden administration considers further rulemaking on athletics, Title IX should be enforced to invalidate discriminatory policies and ensure all students – including transgender, nonbinary, and intersex students — have equitable access to educational opportunity throughout the entirety of their school experience.

Sex Based Harassment

  • The new rule restores schools’ obligations to address sex-based harassment when it impacts a student’s ability to learn and feel safe in school. For example:
  • Survivors will no longer be forced to endure repeated and escalating levels of abuse before they can ask their schools for help. 
  • Students can receive help when they are harassed or assaulted off campus, online, or while studying abroad and are required to attend classes with their rapist or abuser.
  • Colleges and universities can no longer ignore sex-based harassment just because it is reported to a lower-ranked employee, who might include a coach, athletic director, or professor.
  • Schools can no longer ignore a complaint just because it is filed by a survivor who has already dropped out of school due to the harassment.
  •  Schools must respond to sex-based harassment with “prompt and effective” action. For example:
  • Schools can no longer be able to mistreat and even punish survivors without consequence.
  • Schools must offer supportive measures (such as counseling, academic accommodations, changes to housing, no-contact orders, and more) to all students who report sex-based harassment, even if they do not want an investigation and even if their complaint is dismissed. 

 

  • Schools must use fairer procedures to investigate complaints of sex-based harassment. For example:
  • Colleges and universities can either (1) interview all parties and witnesses in individual meetings or at a live hearing; or (2) have the parties’ advisors to conduct cross-examination at a live hearing. This gives schools the flexibility to question students in a way that respects students’ constitutional equality and due process rights and ensures fairness for all students.
  • Schools must use the same standard of proof for all other types of harassment and discrimination instead of singling out sex-based harassment for a more burdensome standard of proof.

LGBTQI+ Students:

  1. For the first time, the Title IX rules explicitly define sex discrimination to include discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, sex characteristics (including intersex traits), and sex stereotypes. This affirms what the courts have already said for decades: that sex discrimination includes anti-LGBTQI+ discrimination.
  1. Schools cannot prevent a person from participating in a school program or activity consistent with their gender identity. This affirms that every student has the right to be who they are at school, including using school facilities, dressing, being addressed by staff and students, and otherwise participating in schools in a manner consistent with their gender identity.

Pregnant and Parenting Students:

  1. Schools cannot discriminate against students based on pregnancy, lactation, childbirth, termination of pregnancy, or recovery from these conditions. A school employee who knows about a student’s pregnancy or related condition must give the student the Title IX coordinator’s contact information, and the Title IX coordinator must inform the student of their Title IX rights. 
  2. Pregnant and parenting students cannot be excluded from school, but they can take voluntary leaves of absence. Specifically:
  3.        – Schools cannot require a pregnant or parenting student to get a healthcare provider’s approval to participate in school unless such approval is required of all students. This prevents schools from excluding pregnant and parenting students from activities like a science lab or physical fitness activity using regressive sex stereotypes that are not based in medical science.
  4. Schools must allow pregnant and parenting students to take a voluntary leave of absence for as long as is medically necessary and to reinstate them to their prior academic and, if possible, extracurricular status when they return. This ensures that pregnant and parenting students do not have to choose between their health (or the health of their pregnancy or child) and their education.

 

  1. Schools must accommodate pregnant and parenting students. Specifically:
  • For the first time, pregnant and parenting students have an affirmative right to “reasonable modifications” (like a bigger desk, footrest, elevator access, and more) instead of only being accommodated to the extent that their school accommodates students with temporary disabilities. 
  • Schools must provide a private, clean, non-bathroom space for students to lactate or breastfeed.

 

To learn more about these important rule changes, read this factsheet.

 

 

Where and How to File a Complaint

If you have experienced school-based bullying, harassment, or discrimination, you can file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

Things to know about filing a complaint:

  • You are entitled to file a claim. Nearly every public school receives some level of federal funding and is therefore covered by Title IX. That means public school students who experience, bullying, harassment, or discrimination may file a claim with the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Time is of the essence. A complaint must be filed within 180 days of when the bullying, harassment, or discrimination occurred.
  • Your confidentiality is assured. Every claim remains confidential and will not be shared without permission.
  • A third party may file a claim on behalf of another person. In other words, the person making the complaint doesn’t have to be the one who experienced the harassment. A friend, family member, or school faculty member can file the complaint.
  • Title IX makes it unlawful for the school to  retaliate against anyone who has made a complaint, or testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation or proceeding under the law.
  • You should complete the entire form-when filling out the report. Make sure to fill out the entire form. Incomplete information may result in a dismissal of your complaint.

How to file a complaint:

An electronic complaint form and detailed information about filing a complaint are available on the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education website.

Read the instructions and click “Continue to Complaint Form” at the bottom of the page to get started.

What You Can Do if You Experience Bullying, Harassment, or Discrimination

From Confronting Anti-LGBTQI+ Harassment in Schools: A Resource for Students and Families

  • Notify a teacher or school leader (for example, a principal or student affairs staff) immediately. If you don’t get the help you need, file a formal complaint with the school, school district, college, or university. Keep records of your complaint(s) and responses you receive.
  • Write down the details about what happened, where and when the incident happened, who was involved, and the names of any witnesses. Do this for every incident of discrimination, and keep copies of any related documents or other information.
  • If you are not proficient in English, you have the right to ask the school to translate or interpret information into a language you understand. If you have communication needs because of a disability, you have the right to receive accommodations or aids and services that provide you with effective communication.
  • Counseling and other mental health support can sometimes be helpful for a student who has been harassed or bullied. Consider seeking mental health resources if needed.
  • Consider filing a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice at civilrights.justice.gov (available in several different languages), or with the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education at www.ed.gov/ocr/complaintintro.html (to file a complaint in English) or www.ed.gov/ocr/docs/howto.html (to file a complaint in multiple languages).

Who Can Help

If you need more information, guidance on filing a complaint, or support in making sure your school is safe and supportive for everyone, these organizations can help:

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation. Anyone living in New England who experiences discrimination or harassment at school or who needs additional information about filing a complaint can contact GLAD’s free Legal Information Line, GLAD Answers: GLADAnswers.org or GLADAnswers@GLAD.org

GLSEN
GLSEN is a national 501©3 non-profit organization, leading the movement to create safe and inclusive K-12 schools and learning environments for all since 1990. We envision a world in which every young person learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, and in turn, is respected and accepted themselves. To make that vision a reality, we support local volunteer chapters, lead cutting-edge research, and create resources, like model school policies, that affirm and protect LGBTQ+ students and empower educators and advocates working to create safe, welcoming schools. We know that in order to achieve our mission we must advance intersectional equity, racial, gender, and disability justice outcomes in education systems. Learn more and connect at www.glsen.org

National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)
Serving all members of the LGBTQ community and allies, NCLR’s Legal Information Helpline provides basic information about laws that affect ALL LGBTQ people. If you feel like you’ve been discriminated against or need legal assistance, contact NCLR: nclrights.org/get-help

800-528-6257
INFO@nclrights.org

PFLAG
PFLAG is an organization of LGBTQ+ people, parents, families, and allies who work together to create an equitable and inclusive world. We are hundreds of thousands of people and hundreds of chapters from coast to coast who are leading with love to support families, educate allies, and advocate for just, equitable, and inclusive legislation and policies. Since our founding in 1973, PFLAG works every day to ensure LGBTQ+ people everywhere are safe, celebrated, empowered and loved. Learn more, find support, donate, and take action at pflag.org.

More Resources