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Office for Civil Rights Blog - 20200623


June 23, 2020
Protecting Students: Sex Discrimination


Forty-eight years ago today, President Richard Nixon signed Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., into law. Title IX remains the most consequential civil rights legislation ever enacted with regard to sex discrimination in education.
The Trump Administration is committed to Title IX’s nondiscrimination mandate and remains steadfast in its full and fair enforcement of Title IX so that all students can pursue education free from discrimination on the basis of sex. In recent years, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has pursued several cases of systemic sexual violence against major postsecondary institutions and one of the country’s largest school districts, amended the Title IX regulations through formal notice-and-comment rulemaking, and launched a nationwide initiative to combat sexual misconduct in K-12 schools. 
Prohibited discrimination under Title IX can take many forms, including the failure to provide equal opportunity in athletics, discrimination in a school’s science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses and programs,  discrimination based on pregnancy, sexual harassment and sexual violence.
At the beginning of this administration, Secretary Betsy DeVos announced the Department’s intent to confront the issue of sexual harassment in schools head-on, through vigorous enforcement of Title IX and through notice-and-comment rulemaking. OCR has aggressively investigated schools that fail to protect students from sexual misconduct and to bring them into compliance with the law.
Since this administration took office, OCR has pursued a number of major systemic investigations involving sexual violence in our nation’s schools and required sweeping changes to schools’ Title IX procedures, most notably at Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Southern California, and Chicago Public Schools. OCR’s investigations uncovered inexcusably deficient responses to sexual harassment, which indicated that sexual violence continues to be a significant problem in our nation’s schools—in postsecondary institutions and K-12 schools alike. After concluding its investigations, OCR required these institutions to make sweeping changes to their Title IX reporting structures, procedures, and recordkeeping systems, consider sanctions against those employees who had notice of the incidents of sexual misconduct and failed to take action, and to increase awareness and strengthen staff training around the issue of sexual violence in schools.
In response to the disturbing issues brought to light by these major investigations and approximately 9,700 incidents of sexual assault, rape, or attempted rape reported in public elementary and secondary schools reported to the 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), in early 2020, Secretary DeVos directed OCR to undertake a Title IX enforcement initiative to combat the troubling rise of sexual assault in K-12 public schools. This initiative combines OCR’s enforcement, technical assistance, and data-gathering activities to correct longstanding, major compliance concerns in schools, proactively work with districts and local education leaders to follow Title IX, and raise public awareness of the issue. As part of the initiative, OCR launched a series of nationwide compliance reviews of school districts, which focused on examining how sexual assault cases are handled under Title IX, initiated Data Quality Reviews (DQRs) of the sexual assault and offenses data submitted by school districts through the 2017-18 CRDC, and proposed to collect more detailed data on sexual assault, including incidents perpetrated by school staff or school personnel in the upcoming CRDC.
Most recently, on May 6, 2020, the Department of Education took the historic step of issuing new final regulations that strengthen Title IX protections for survivors of sexual harassment, and ensure due process in campus proceedings so that all students can pursue education free from sex discrimination.  The final rule announced last month amends Title IX regulations that were issued by the former U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1975.
In the decades since the 1975 regulations, the Department addressed the subject of sexual harassment in part through sub-regulatory guidance—in a 2001 Guidance document, a 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, and a 2014 Questions and Answers document. Those documents may have been well-intentioned, but they led to the deprivation of rights for many students—not only accused students who were denied fair process but also victims who were denied an adequate resolution of their complaints. Under the Title IX Final Rule, the Department has enshrined a definition of sexual harassment into law, which includes all instances of sexual assault. The Title IX Final Rule also holds schools accountable for the failure to respond promptly and equitably to allegations of sexual harassment, and ensures a more reliable adjudication process that is fair to all students.  Under the Title IX Final Rule, schools must offer alleged victims supportive measures whether or not the school also investigates sexual harassment allegations.
The strides we have made since Title IX was enacted 48 years ago are significant, and the recent actions taken by the Department demonstrate, beyond any doubt, this administration’s commitment to the vigorous enforcement of Title IX and all federal civil rights laws on behalf of our nation’s students.
To provide more information on the new Title IX Final Rule, OCR has issued a number of resources including:

If you have questions for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), want additional information or technical assistance, or believe that a school is violating federal civil rights law, call your regional office or visit the website of the U.S. Department of Education’s OCR at You may contact OCR at (800) 421-3481 (TDD: 800-877-8339),, or contact OCR’s Outreach, Prevention, Education and Non-discrimination (OPEN) Center at You may also fill out a complaint form online at


Last Modified: 06/23/2020