May 20 2019
Assistant Director of CARE Advocacy Services
Title IX Overview
Title IX is a federal civil rights law enacted in 1972. It reads: 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”. While most people understand Title IX within the scope of gender equality in sports, it has recently become known as it relates to the impacts of interpersonal violence (IPV) on college campuses receiving federal funding. IPV refers to sexual assault, dating/domestic violence.
In 2011, the Obama administration released a “Dear Colleague Letter”, illuminating Title IX’s mandate to investigate IPV incidents as they violate school policy and student conduct codes. With the understanding that these crimes are underreported for a variety of reasons, the Dear Colleague letter, among other things, sought to lower the evidence standards for Title IX offices from what was a “clear and convincing” standard to what is now a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. Meaning, the school’s Title IX office needs to demonstrate that an incident of IPV “more likely than not” occurred in order for them to substantiate a claim. This guidance, though not enforced, was widely adopted and is the current operating standard for the University of California system.
There has been much backlash to this in the intervening years, including arguments about due process for the respondents, arguments stating that the preponderance of the evidence standard increases the amount of false allegations, arguments stating that the school’s role in investigating these policy violations should be limited, inasmuch as they represent crimes that should be investigated by the police, and that the investigative procedures adopted by schools can lead to a student’s fate being decided in “kangaroo courts”.
Recent Changes to Title IX Policy
In September of 2017, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rescinded the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter while her office took time to draft new Title IX regulations. Ultimately, this gave power to individual colleges and universities to decide which evidence standard to use in their investigations. In November of 2018, DeVos released her proposed Title IX regulations. There was a brief comment period that followed, and currently the Department of Education is working on finalizing these regulations, some of which are summarized below.