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OCR: Office for Civil Rights
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Dear Colleague Letter

OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY



Page 8

and findings as necessary for the Title IX investigation, so long as it does not compromise the criminal investigation.

(C) Grievance Procedures

The Title IX regulations require all recipients to adopt and publish grievance procedures providing for the prompt and equitable resolution of sex discrimination complaints.21 The grievance procedures must apply to sex discrimination complaints filed by students against school employees, other students, or third parties.

Title IX does not require a recipient to provide separate grievance procedures for sexual harassment and sexual violence complaints. Therefore, a recipient may use student disciplinary procedures or other separate procedures to resolve such complaints. Any procedures used to adjudicate complaints of sexual harassment or sexual violence, including disciplinary procedures, however, must meet the Title IX requirement of affording a complainant a prompt and equitable resolution.22 These requirements are discussed in greater detail below. If the recipient relies on disciplinary procedures for Title IX compliance, the Title IX coordinator should review the recipient’s disciplinary procedures to ensure that the procedures comply with the prompt and equitable requirements of Title IX.23

Grievance procedures generally may include voluntary informal mechanisms (e.g., mediation) for resolving some types of sexual harassment complaints. OCR has frequently advised recipients, however, that it is improper for a student who complains of harassment to be required to work out the problem directly with the alleged perpetrator, and certainly not without appropriate involvement by the school (e.g., participation by a trained counselor, a trained mediator, or, if appropriate, a teacher or administrator). In addition, as stated in the 2001 Guidance, the complainant must be notified of the right to end the informal process at any time and begin the formal stage of the complaint process. Moreover, in cases involving allegations of sexual assault, mediation is not appropriate even on a voluntary basis. OCR recommends that recipients clarify in their grievance procedures that mediation will not be used to resolve sexual assault complaints.

21 Id. § 106.8(b). Title IX also requires recipients to adopt and publish grievance procedures for employee complaints of sex discrimination.
22 These procedures must apply to all students, including athletes. If a complaint of sexual violence involves a student athlete, the school must follow its standard procedures for resolving sexual violence complaints. Such complaints must not be addressed solely by athletics department procedures. Additionally, if an alleged perpetrator is an elementary or secondary student with a disability, schools must follow the procedural safeguards in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (at 20 U.S.C. § 1415 and 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.500-300.519, 300.530-300.537) as well as the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (at 34 C.F.R. §§ 104.35-104.36) when conducting the investigation and hearing.
23 A school may not absolve itself of its Title IX obligations to investigate and resolve complaints of sexual harassment or violence by delegating, whether through express contractual agreement or other less formal arrangement, the responsibility to administer school discipline to school resource officers or “contract” law enforcement officers. See 34 C.F.R. § 106.4.


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Last Modified: 04/03/2011