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Office for Civil Rights Blog - 20200521


May 21, 2020
Protecting Students: Sex Discrimination


On May 12, OCR released a technical assistance document, Questions and Answers for Postsecondary Institutions Regarding the COVID-19 National Emergency, to assist postsecondary institutions with meeting their obligations under Federal civil rights laws during this difficult and unprecedented time.  The “Q&A” document covers a variety of civil rights topics that have come up as a result of institutions suspending instruction or offering only distance learning.  For example, OCR clarified postsecondary institutions’ obligations to continue investigations or proceedings during the current period:

  • Question 5:

    If a postsecondary institution has suspended instruction or is only offering distance learning, is the institution still required to continue with their investigations of harassment complaints pending or made under Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and other civil rights statutes?

  • Answer:

    Yes. The Department understands that, during this national emergency, postsecondary institutions may not be able to provide services in the same manner as they typically would. Institutions may not, however, adopt a blanket policy putting all investigations or proceedings on hold until campuses resume normal operations, or a policy of refusing to accept and respond to new complaints. Instead, institutions should make a good-faith effort (and document the steps the institution took) to respond promptly and effectively to reports of discriminatory harassment (for instance, on the basis of race, sex, or disability), and to conduct fair, impartial investigations of student and employee complaints of such harassment in a reasonably timely manner, while also taking into consideration the health, safety, and well-being of all their students and staff.


Last Modified: 05/22/2020