Title IX in High School: The Basics

This is part of our toolkit for high schools student survivors. Return to the landing page here, learn your Title IX rights here, and see answers to frequently asked questions here. We are always looking for feedback — email us at knowyourix [at] gmail [dot] com. 

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Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments is a powerful tool for combating gender violence in school. The law requires schools receiving federal funding to combat sexual violence and harassment, and respond to survivors’ needs in order to ensure that all students have equal access to education. Students who have used Title IX — either by filing federal complaints or civil lawsuits — have created meaningful change in their schools.

If you are a student at an elementary, secondary, or post-secondary school receiving federal funding, here are your nine key Title IX rights:

  1. Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in any educational program receiving federal funding (including all public schools and private schools that participate in the federal free lunch program or receive other federal funding). Title IX requires protections for pregnant and parenting students, women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs, and survivors of sexual harassment, including victims of attempted or completed rape or sexual assault, stalking, voyeurism, exhibitionism, verbal or physical sexuality-based threats or abuse, sex-based bullying, and intimate partner violence. Perpetrators of violence or harassment can include (but are not limited to) teachers, coaches, administrators, students, boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, and friends.
  1. Title IX does not apply to female students only. Title IX protects any person from sex-based discrimination, regardless of their sex, gender identity, and/or gender expression (and regardless of the sex, gender identity, and/or gender presentation of their perpetrator/harasser). Female, male, and gender non-conforming students, faculty, and staff are protected. More information is available here.
  1. Your school must have a clear, well-publicized procedure for responding to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence. Your school’s policy should cover how, where, and with whom to file a complaint; how the investigative and decision-making process will proceed; the possible penalties for misconduct; and how to appeal a decision. Your school must investigate harassment promptly, thoroughly, and fairly and, if your school finds that sexual harassment has occurred, it must take steps to end it and keep it from happening again. Investigations should take no longer than about 60 days. Mediation may be offered to (but not forced on) survivors in some sex discrimination cases; it is never, however, appropriate in sexual assault cases.
  1. Your school must be proactive in ensuring that your campus is safe for you. If you have suffered harassment (including cyber-harassment), bullying, stalking, or violence, your school may not discourage you from continuing your education, such as by telling you to move to another school in the district, or by forcing you to quit a team, club or class. You have the right to remain at your school and have every educational program and opportunity available to you. Accordingly, your school should provide reasonable accommodations to help you get your education back on track: for instance, academic tutoring; the opportunity to retake a class without financial or academic penalty; changes to course schedules, assignments, or exams; counseling and health services; and, if appropriate, housing accommodations. In addition, your school should provide security or protection at locations or activities where the violence occurred, and can issue a no-contact directive to prevent your attacker from approaching or interacting with you. School Resource Officers (SROs) can and should enforce such directives. (SROs are school-based law enforcement officers.) This is not a court-issued restraining order, but your school should provide you with information on how to obtain such an order and facilitate that process if you choose to pursue it. Finally, your school must make you aware of your right to report a crime to local law enforcement.
  1. Your school or school district must designate at least one employee as a “Title IX coordinator,” whose job is to make sure your school is following the law. Your school must prominently post your Title IX coordinator’s contact information on your school’s website, as well as publish it in your school’s notice of nondiscrimination. More information is available here.
  1. Regardless of the outcome of any investigation, your school may not retaliate against you for filing a complaint and must keep you safe from retaliatory harassment or behavior from your perpetrator or a third-party. Any retaliation can and should be reported in a formal Title IX complaint to the U.S. Department of Education.
  1. A school’s responsibility to address harassment and violence is not limited to conduct that occurs at school during school hours. Schools must also address harassment and violence that occur “off campus,” such as on the school bus, during field trips, and during extracurricular activities.  Schools must also respond to online harassment, if it is reasonably foreseeable that such harassment would create a substantial disruption at school.
  1. Your school should provide age-appropriate training to students on Title IX, sexual violence, consent, the school’s grievance procedure, reporting options, and bystander intervention. In addition, your school should provide training on how to receive sexual violence reports to teachers, coaches, administrators, counselors, health personnel and, when appropriate, parents. Learn more on pp. 38-42 here.  
  1. Your school must provide you the accommodations and services you need to stay in school — free of charge. Learn more about your school’s obligations here.

If your school is violating your Title IX rights, talk to a lawyer about your options. You can file a complaint (with or without an attorney) with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights here. (Please note that you have only 180 days since the last act of discrimination to file a complaint with OCR.) You can also file a lawsuit against your school in federal court.

–Dana Bolger and Mahroh Jahangiri

We are not lawyers, and the information on this website does not constitute legal advice. We encourage you to contact a lawyer to discuss your complaint or suit.