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Sex Discrimination
Frequently Asked Questions

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Below are Frequently Asked Questions on Sex Discrimination.




Frequently Asked Questions About Sex Discrimination- General

What is Title IX?

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits any educational institution that receives federal financial assistance (such as grants or student loans) from discriminating on the basis of sex. You can find the full text here.

Are all school districts, colleges, and universities covered by Title IX?

Generally yes. All public school districts are covered by Title IX because they receive some federal financial assistance and operate education programs. All public colleges and universities and nearly all private colleges and universities are covered because they receive assistance by participating in federal student aid programs. There are some private schools that do not receive any federal assistance, and Title IX does not apply to them. Additionally, some schools are specifically exempt from certain parts of Title IX. For example, Title IX includes an exemption for educational institutions that are controlled by a religious organization but only to the extent that Title IX’s application would not be consistent with the religious tenets of the religious organization. Please see Exemptions from Title IX for more information.

Are all programs in a school, district, college, or university covered by Title IX if any part of the school receives federal financial assistance?

Yes. All programs are covered if the school district, college, or university (“school”) receives federal financial assistance. Title IX covers all the operations of a school that receives financial assistance including academics, extracurricular activities, athletics, and other programs. Title IX applies to all operations of a school, including those that take place in the facilities of the school, on a school bus, or in a class or training program sponsored by the school at another location. A school is also obligated to respond to sexual harassment off campus when the school has substantial control over both the person accused of engaging in harassment and the context in which the harassment occurs. This includes sexual harassment that occurs in any building owned or controlled by a student organization that is officially recognized by a postsecondary institution.

Does Title IX protect only students?

No. Title IX protects everyone who interacts with a school from discrimination, including parents and guardians, students, employees, and applicants.

What types of Title IX cases does OCR handle?

OCR handles cases of sex discrimination involving a range of issues, such as discriminatory discipline, harassment and sexual violence, discrimination based on sexual orientation, discrimination based on gender identity, and unequal access to educational resources (such as STEM or career and technical education) or athletic opportunities.

Is there someone at my school who can help answer my Title IX questions?

Yes. All school districts, colleges, and universities receiving federal financial assistance must designate at least one employee to coordinate their efforts to comply with and carry out their responsibilities under Title IX. This person is often referred to as a Title IX coordinator.

Your school is required to publish your Title IX coordinator’s contact information in its handbooks and catalogs for students, employees, applicants, parents and guardians, and unions or professional organizations. The Title IX coordinator’s contact information must also be prominently posted on your school’s website. Title IX coordinators for public school districts can also be found on OCR’s coordinators website at Title IX coordinators for colleges and universities can also be found on the Office of Postsecondary Education's Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sex Discrimination- Athletics

How do I know whether an athletic program is providing an equal opportunity under Title IX?

If a school operates or sponsors an athletic program, it must provide equal athletic opportunities for students. In determining whether equal athletic opportunities are available, OCR considers whether an institution is effectively accommodating the athletic interests and abilities of students. OCR also considers whether a school is providing equivalent benefits, opportunities, and treatment to its students, specifically with respect to equipment and supplies; game and practice times; travel and per diem allowances; coaching and academic tutoring; assignment and compensation of coaches and tutors; locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities; medical and training facilities and services; housing and dining facilities and services; and publicity. The Title IX regulations specify that if a school awards athletic financial assistance, it must provide reasonable opportunities for awards for members of each sex in substantial proportion to the number of students of each sex participating in interscholastic or intercollegiate athletics. For more detailed information, visit our Athletic Equity Resources page.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sex Discrimination- Harassment

What is sex-based harassment?

Sex-based harassment can take multiple forms. Harassers can be students, school staff, or even someone visiting the school, such as a student or employee from another school. Sexual harassment (including sexual violence) is a form of sex-based harassment.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment refers to sex-based conduct that satisfies one or more of the following: (1) quid pro quo harassment by an employee of an educational institution—meaning that an employee offers something to a student or other person in exchange for sexual conduct; (2) unwelcome conduct that a reasonable person would find to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to an education program or activity; or (3) sexual assault (as defined in the Clery Act), dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking (as defined in the Violence Against Women Act). Each of these categories of misconduct is a serious violation that jeopardizes a victim’s equal access to education.

What are the responsibilities of school districts, colleges, and universities under Title IX to address sex-based harassment?

When a school has actual knowledge of sexual harassment in any of its programs or activities that take place in United States, it must respond promptly in a manner that is not deliberately indifferent. A school is deliberately indifferent if its response to sexual harassment is clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances. The Title IX Coordinator must promptly contact the complainant to discuss the availability of supportive measures, regardless of whether a formal complaint is filed, and to explain the process for filing a formal complaint.

In addition, if a formal complaint is filed, either by the complainant or the Title IX Coordinator, a school must:

  • offer supportive measures to the respondent, and
  • follow the Title IX grievance process specified by the 2020 amendments.

For more information on the obligations, see 34 C.F.R. § 106.44(a) and the Questions and Answers resource and Appendix on the Title IX Regulations on Sexual Harassment.

How do educational institutions balance their Title IX obligations with individuals’ First Amendment rights?

OCR has consistently reaffirmed that the Federal civil rights laws it enforces protect students from prohibited discrimination, including unlawful harassment, and are not intended to restrict expressive activities or speech protected under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

Schools can protect students from verbal harassment without running afoul of students’ and staff First Amendment rights. For instance, in a situation where the First Amendment prohibits a public university from restricting the rights of students to express persistent and pervasive derogatory opinions about a particular sex, the university can instead meet its obligation by, among other steps, communicating a rejection of stereotypical, derogatory opinions and ensuring that competing views are heard. Similarly, educational institutions can establish a campus culture that is welcoming and respectful of the diversity of all students and institute campus climate checks to assess the effectiveness of the school’s efforts to ensure that it is free from harassment. Schools can also encourage students on all sides of an issue to express disagreement over ideas or beliefs in a respectful manner. Schools should be alert to take more targeted responsive action when speech crosses over into direct threats or actionable speech or conduct. For additional information on OCR’s policies and the First Amendment, click here.

How does OCR address sexual harassment against students?

OCR investigates and resolves allegations that educational institutions that are recipients of federal funds have failed to respond promptly in a manner that is not deliberately indifferent to sexual harassment. Where OCR identifies concerns or violations, educational institutions often resolve them with agreements requiring educational institutions to adopt effective anti-harassment policies and procedures, train staff and students, address the incidents in question, and take other steps to restore a nondiscriminatory environment.

In addition to resolving investigations, OCR takes steps to inform schools of their obligation to provide a nondiscriminatory environment by issuing policy guidance.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sex Discrimination- Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Does Title IX Prohibit Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity?

Yes. Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. This includes situations where individuals are harassed; disciplined in a discriminatory manner; excluded from, denied equal access to, or subjected to sex stereotyping in academic or extracurricular opportunities and other education programs or activities; denied the benefits of a school’s programs or activities; or otherwise treated differently because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

For more resources for LGBTQI+ students, please click here.

Last Modified: 08/19/2021