Protections for Students Experiencing Financial Harm as a Result of Gender-Based Violence

As a result of the gender-based violence they experienced, some student survivors may suffer financial costs, including lost tuition and expenses for services such as counseling and tutoring that may be essential for students’ ability to continue to learn. These costs may impede survivors’ access to education, and students may struggle to stay in school and keep up academically without these accommodations. To fulfill their Title IX responsibilities to students, then, it is clear that schools must provide such services without burdening survivors with financial costs.

If you’re a campus survivor, here’s what you should know about your rights:

Accommodations

If you require accommodations to continue accessing your education after experiencing violence, you should not be required to pay for these accommodations.

If your school knows or reasonably should know of a hostile environment, it has a responsibility to take “prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the sexual violence, eliminate the hostile environment, and prevent its recurrence.” That means, your school should provide you certain accommodations, like counseling or tutoring, and your school should not require you to pay for these accommodations.

Accommodations might include:

  • providing an escort to ensure that you can move safely between classes and other activities
  • ensuring that you and your perpetrator do not attend the same classes
  • moving you or your perpetrator to a different residence hall or, in the case of an elementary or secondary school student, to another school within the district
  • providing counseling services
  • providing medical services
  • providing academic support services, such as tutoring
  • arranging for you to retake a course or withdraw from a class without academic or financial penalty, including ensuring that any changes do not adversely affect your academic record

Not every accommodation listed above is required in every circumstance: the services your school needs to provide and pay for, if any, will depend on your particular circumstances and what kind of support you need in order to learn.

If your school doesn’t provide you the accommodations you believe you’re due, know that: 1) you’re not alone, and 2) you can push back against any school decisions, choose to consult an attorney, and/or file a Title IX complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Part of any resulting Title IX investigation by the OCR will involve government officials deciding what accommodations they believe you need to access a full range of educational opportunities.

Tuition reimbursement and student loan interest

In some instances, schools are required to reimburse survivors for:

  • lost tuition
  • expenses incurred due to violence
  • accrued student loan interest

According to OCR, “The scope of a school’s responsibility is tied to the scope of a school’s culpability.” For example, when your school’s failure to remove your perpetrator from your class meant that you were forced to take classes with your perpetrator for several weeks and your grades suffered, or you had to take time off from school as a result, your school should reimburse your lost tuition or allow you to retake the class free of charge. Or, if you needed counseling to stay in school and your school denied you access to it such that you had to take time off from school, your school should reimburse your tuition.

In contrast, if your school takes prompt and effective steps to eliminate the violence and prevent its recurrence, your school would not usually be expected to reimburse lost tuition and related expenses. For resources to deal with student loan repayment If you are thinking about taking a leave of absence, leaving your school, or transferring schools, check out our resource “Dealing with Student Loans.”

OCR has made clear that it may require schools that violate Title IX to reimburse survivors for lost tuition and related expenses. As a result, filing an OCR complaint or making a request to your school through an attorney may be the most effective way to compel action from your school when other attempts to secure reimbursement and accommodations have been unsuccessful.

Know Your IX and the United States Student Association are not attorneys and this document does not constitute legal advice. We encourage you to contact a lawyer to discuss your complaint or suit.