A timeline of court rulings and evolving regulations that have affected how schools respond to student sex assault allegations:
– 1967: The Office for Civil Rights is created as a federal agency to enforce school desegregation, three years after passage of the Civil Rights Act. OCR eventually assumes responsibility for a half-dozen civil rights laws at educational institutions receiving federal funding.
– 1972: Congress passes Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs or activities.
– 1980: The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Alexander v. Yale University, recognizes sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.
– 1981: The OCR issues a policy memo that, for the first time, lists sexual harassment as a form of discrimination under Title IX.
– 1992: The U.S. Supreme Court, in Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools, says a student subjected to “coercive intercourse” is a victim of sex discrimination, eligible for monetary damages under Title IX.
– 1997: OCR issues sexual harassment guidance for schools on how to deal with victims and suspects, detailing grievance procedures, response, prevention and First Amendment rights.
– 1998: The U.S. Supreme Court, in Gebser v. Lago Independent School District, establishes a three-prong liability standard for schools: The sexual harassment must be severe enough to undercut educational opportunities, someone in authority must have “actual knowledge” of the harassment and be “deliberately indifferent” in responding.
– 1999: The U.S. Supreme Court, in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, affirms that schools must address student-on-student sex harassment, including sexual assault, under Title IX.
– 2001: OCR updates its 1997 guidance on Title IX, saying schools risk losing federal funding if they don’t follow the guidelines for investigating student sexual harassment complaints.
– 2006: In a letter to more than 20,000 school districts, colleges and universities, OCR reiterates their Title IX responsibilities to stop student sexual harassment, prevent its recurrence and remedy its effects.
– 2008: OCR publishes a pamphlet noting that sexual harassment includes “criminal” conduct and that schools are not relieved of Title IX obligations simply by notifying police.
– 2009: The White House Council on Women and Girls is created by executive order to focus on issues ranging from equal pay to violence. OCR begins tracking sexual violence complaints as a distinct form of harassment.
– 2011: OCR issues another letter , focusing on student-on-student sexual violence. It recommends schools use a civil litigation standard of proof in investigating cases and warns of lost federal funding if they fail to prevent and address such abuse.
– 2014: The Council on Women and Girls creates a task force to protect students from sexual assault and a website of resources. OCR issues further guidance on the Title IX responsibilities of all schools, elementary to university level.
– 2016: The task force launches an online toolkit for elementary and secondary school districts that helps create policies that distinguish “sexual misconduct” from bullying and harassment.
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