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OCR: Office for Civil Rights
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Dear Colleague Letter

OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY



Page 13

occurred in a classroom during school hours with a single complainant.

(D) Notice of Outcome

Both parties must be notified, in writing, about the outcome of both the complaint and any appeal,31 i.e., whether harassment was found to have occurred. OCR recommends that schools provide the written determination of the final outcome to the complainant and the alleged perpetrator concurrently. Title IX does not require the school to notify the alleged perpetrator of the outcome before it notifies the complainant.

Due to the intersection of Title IX and FERPA requirements, OCR recognizes that there may be confusion regarding what information a school may disclose to the complainant.32 FERPA generally prohibits the nonconsensual disclosure of personally identifiable information from a student’s “education record.” However, as stated in the 2001 Guidance, FERPA permits a school to disclose to the harassed student information about the sanction imposed upon a student who was found to have engaged in harassment when the sanction directly relates to the harassed student. This includes an order that the harasser stay away from the harassed student, or that the harasser is prohibited from attending school for a period of time, or transferred to other classes or another residence hall.33 Disclosure of other information in the student’s “education record,” including information about sanctions that do not relate to the harassed student, may result in a violation of FERPA.

Further, when the conduct involves a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense,34 FERPA permits a postsecondary institution to disclose to the alleged victim the final results of a

31 As noted previously, “outcome” does not refer to information about disciplinary sanctions unless otherwise noted.
32 In 1994, Congress amended the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA), of which FERPA is a part, to state that nothing in GEPA “shall be construed to affect the applicability of title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, title IX of Education Amendments of 1972, title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination Act, or other statutes prohibiting discrimination, to any applicable program.” 20 U.S.C. § 1221(d). The Department interprets this provision to mean that FERPA continues to apply in the context of Title IX enforcement, but if there is a direct conflict between the requirements of FERPA and the requirements of Title IX, such that enforcement of FERPA would interfere with the primary purpose of Title IX to eliminate sex-based discrimination in schools, the requirements of Title IX override any conflicting FERPA provisions. See 2001 Guidance at vii.
33 This information directly relates to the complainant and is particularly important in sexual harassment cases because it affects whether a hostile environment has been eliminated. Because seeing the perpetrator may be traumatic, a complainant in a sexual harassment case may continue to be subject to a hostile environment if he or she does not know when the perpetrator will return to school or whether he or she will continue to share classes or a residence hall with the perpetrator. This information also directly affects a complainant’s decision regarding how to work with the school to eliminate the hostile environment and prevent its recurrence. For instance, if a complainant knows that the perpetrator will not be at school or will be transferred to other classes or another residence hall for the rest of the year, the complainant may be less likely to want to transfer to another school or change classes, but if the perpetrator will be returning to school after a few days or weeks, or remaining in the complainant’s classes or residence hall, the complainant may want to transfer schools or change classes to avoid contact. Thus, the complainant cannot make an informed decision about how best to respond without this information.
34 Under the FERPA regulations, crimes of violence include arson; assault offenses (aggravated assault, simple assault, intimidation); burglary; criminal homicide (manslaughter by negligence); criminal homicide (murder and non-negligent manslaughter); destruction, damage or vandalism of property; kidnapping/abduction; robbery; and forcible sex offenses. Forcible sex offenses are defined as any sexual act directed against another person forcibly or against that person’s will, or not forcibly or against the person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent. Forcible sex offenses include rape, sodomy, sexual assault with an object, and forcible fondling. Non-forcible sex offenses are incest and statutory rape. 34 C.F.R. Part 99, App. A.


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Last Modified: 04/03/2011