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OCR: Office for Civil Rights
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Dear Colleague Letter

OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY



Page 9

Prompt and Equitable Requirements

As stated in the 2001 Guidance, OCR has identified a number of elements in evaluating whether a school’s grievance procedures provide for prompt and equitable resolution of sexual harassment complaints. These elements also apply to sexual violence complaints because, as explained above, sexual violence is a form of sexual harassment. OCR will review all aspects of a school’s grievance procedures, including the following elements that are critical to achieve compliance with Title IX:

  • Notice to students, parents of elementary and secondary students, and employees of the grievance procedures, including where complaints may be filed;
  • Application of the procedures to complaints alleging harassment carried out by employees, other students, or third parties;
  • Adequate, reliable, and impartial investigation of complaints, including the opportunity for both parties to present witnesses and other evidence;
  • Designated and reasonably prompt time frames for the major stages of the complaint process;
  • Notice to parties of the outcome of the complaint;24 and
  • An assurance that the school will take steps to prevent recurrence of any harassment and to correct its discriminatory effects on the complainant and others, if appropriate.

As noted in the 2001 Guidance, procedures adopted by schools will vary in detail, specificity, and components, reflecting differences in the age of students, school sizes and administrative structures, State or local legal requirements, and past experiences. Although OCR examines whether all applicable elements are addressed when investigating sexual harassment complaints, this letter focuses on those elements where our work indicates that more clarification and explanation are needed, including:

(A) Notice of the grievance procedures

The procedures for resolving complaints of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, should be written in language appropriate to the age of the school’s students, easily understood, easily located, and widely distributed. OCR recommends that the grievance procedures be prominently posted on school Web sites; sent electronically to all members of the school community; available at various locations throughout the school or campus; and summarized in or attached to major publications issued by the school, such as handbooks, codes of conduct, and catalogs for students, parents of elementary and secondary students, faculty, and staff.

(B) Adequate, Reliable, and Impartial Investigation of Complaints

OCR’s work indicates that a number of issues related to an adequate, reliable, and impartial investigation arise in sexual harassment and violence complaints. In some cases, the conduct

24 “Outcome” does not refer to information about disciplinary sanctions unless otherwise noted. Notice of the outcome is discussed in greater detail in Section D below.


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Last Modified: 04/03/2011