The Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education (“OCR”) announced on September 22, 2017 that it is withdrawing its statements of policy and guidance contained in the Dear Colleague Letter on Sexual Violence, issued on April 4, 2011, and its Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence, issued on April 29, 2014.
”[T]he Department has decided to withdraw the above-referenced guidance documents in order to develop an approach to student sexual misconduct that responds to the concerns of stakeholders and that aligns with the purpose of Title IX to achieve fair access to education benefits.”
Effective immediately, OCR will no longer depend on these withdrawn documents in its enforcement of Title IX and will instead utilize the following resources:
- Withdrawal Announcement Letter, issued on September 22, 2017
- Q&A on Campus Sexual Misconduct, issued with September 22, 2017 letter
- Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance, issued in 2001
- Dear Colleague Letter on Sexual Harassment, issued in 2006
Public schools must still comply with Title IX’s requirements that they identify, train, and appoint a Title IX Coordinator and they adopt grievance procedures providing for prompt and equitable resolution of student complaints. Therefore, public schools should continue to implement their existing Title IX policies. However, among other changes, public schools may now consider changing the burden of proof standard from a “preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence,” and may now take more than 60 days to reach a “prompt and equitable” resolution of student complaints. Lastly, to the extent that any schools reached resolution agreements with OCR under the framework of the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, those resolutions remain binding and must be complied with.
Greg Vanden-Eykel, an attorney at Barton Gilman, successfully represents Massachusetts and Rhode Island schools, students, and families before federal and state courts and administrative agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, the Rhode Island Department of Education, and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. He also regularly drafts and provides counsel related to education policies and procedures to ensure compliance with federal and state laws.