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OCR: Office for Civil Rights
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OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY



Page 15

discussion of what constitutes sexual harassment and sexual violence, the school’s policies and disciplinary procedures, and the consequences of violating these policies.

The education programs also should include information aimed at encouraging students to report incidents of sexual violence to the appropriate school and law enforcement authorities. Schools should be aware that victims or third parties may be deterred from reporting incidents if alcohol, drugs, or other violations of school or campus rules were involved.40 As a result, schools should consider whether their disciplinary policies have a chilling effect on victims’ or other students’ reporting of sexual violence offenses. For example, OCR recommends that schools inform students that the schools’ primary concern is student safety, that any other rules violations will be addressed separately from the sexual violence allegation, and that use of alcohol or drugs never makes the victim at fault for sexual violence.

OCR also recommends that schools develop specific sexual violence materials that include the schools’ policies, rules, and resources for students, faculty, coaches, and administrators. Schools also should include such information in their employee handbook and any handbooks that student athletes and members of student activity groups receive. These materials should include where and to whom students should go if they are victims of sexual violence. These materials also should tell students and school employees what to do if they learn of an incident of sexual violence. Schools also should assess student activities regularly to ensure that the practices and behavior of students do not violate the schools’ policies against sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Remedies and Enforcement

As discussed above, if a school determines that sexual harassment that creates a hostile environment has occurred, it must take immediate action to eliminate the hostile environment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects. In addition to counseling or taking disciplinary action against the harasser, effective corrective action may require remedies for the complainant, as well as changes to the school’s overall services or policies. Examples of these actions are discussed in greater detail below.

Title IX requires a school to take steps to protect the complainant as necessary, including taking interim steps before the final outcome of the investigation. The school should undertake these steps promptly once it has notice of a sexual harassment or violence allegation. The school should notify the complainant of his or her options to avoid contact with the alleged perpetrator and allow students to change academic or living situations as appropriate. For instance, the school may prohibit the alleged perpetrator from having any contact with the complainant pending the results of the school’s investigation. When taking steps to separate the complainant and alleged perpetrator, a school should minimize the burden on the

40 The Department’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Violence Prevention (HEC) helps campuses and communities address problems of alcohol, other drugs, and violence by identifying effective strategies and programs based upon the best prevention science. Information on HEC resources and technical assistance can be found at www.higheredcenter.org.


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Last Modified: 04/03/2011