Main Content

Students' Rights

 

Know Your Rights: Title IX Requires Your School to Address Sexual Violence*

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination—which includes sexual violence—in educational programs and activities. All public and private schools, school districts, colleges and universities receiving federal funds must comply with Title IX. If you have experienced sexual violence, here are some things you should know about your Title IX rights:

Your School Must Respond Promptly and Effectively to Sexual Violence

  • You have the right to report the incident to your school, have your school investigate what happened, and have your complaint resolved promptly and equitably.
  • You have the right to choose to report an incident of sexual violence to campus or local law enforcement. But a criminal investigation does not relieve your school of its duty under Title IX to respond promptly and effectively.
  • Your school must adopt and publish procedures for resolving complaints of sex discrimination, including sexual violence. Your school may use student disciplinary procedures, but any procedures for sexual violence complaints must afford you a prompt and equitable resolution.
  • Your school should ensure that you are aware of your Title IX rights and any available resources, such as victim advocacy, housing assistance, academic support, counseling, disability services, health and mental health services, and legal assistance.
  • Your school must designate a Title IX coordinator and make sure all students and employees know how to contact him or her. The Title IX coordinator should also be available to meet with you.
  • All students are protected by Title IX, regardless of whether they have a disability, are international or undocumented, and regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Your School Must Provide Interim Measures as Necessary

  • Your school must protect you as necessary, even before it completes any investigation. Your school should start doing this promptly once the incident is reported.
  • Once you tell your school about an incident of sexual violence, you have the right to receive some immediate help, such as changing classes, dorms, or transportation. When taking these measures, your school should minimize the burden on you.
  • You have the right to report any retaliation by school employees, the alleged perpetrator, and other students, and your school should take strong responsive action if it occurs.

Your School Should Make Known Where You Can Find Confidential Support Services

  • Your school should clearly identify where you can go to talk to someone confidentially and who can provide services like advocacy, counseling, or academic support. Some people, such as counselors or victim advocates, can talk to you in confidence without triggering a school’s investigation.
  • Because different employees have different reporting obligations when they find out about sexual violence involving students, your school should clearly explain the reporting obligations of all school employees.
  • Even if you do not specifically ask for confidentiality, your school should only disclose information to individuals who are responsible for handling the school’s response to sexual violence. Your school should consult with you about how to best protect your safety and privacy.

Your School Must Conduct an Adequate, Reliable, and Impartial Investigation

  • You have the right to be notified of the timeframes for all major stages of the investigation.
  • You have the right to present witnesses and evidence.
  • If the alleged perpetrator is allowed to have a lawyer, you have the right to have one too.
  • Your school must resolve your complaint based on what they think is more likely than not to have happened (this is called a preponderance-of-the-evidence standard of proof). Your school cannot use a higher standard of proof.
  • You have the right to be notified in writing of the outcome of your complaint and any appeal, including any sanctions that directly relate to you.
  • If your school provides for an appeal process, it must be equally available for both parties.
  • You have the right to have any proceedings documented, which may include written findings of fact, transcripts, or audio recordings.
  • You have the right not to “work it out” with the alleged perpetrator in mediation. Mediation is not appropriate in cases involving sexual assault.

Your School Must Provide Remedies as Necessary

  • If an investigation reveals that sexual violence created a hostile environment, your school must take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the sexual violence, eliminate the hostile environment, prevent its recurrence, and, as appropriate, remedy its effects.
  • Appropriate remedies will generally include disciplinary action against the perpetrator, but may also include remedies to help you get your education back on track (like academic support, retaking a class without penalty, and counseling). These remedies are in addition to any interim measures you received.
  • Your school may also have to provide remedies for the broader student population (such as training) or change its services or policies to prevent such incidents from repeating.

If you want to learn more about your rights, or if you believe that your school is violating federal law, you may contact the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, at (800) 421-3481 or ocr@ed.gov. If you wish to fill out a complaint form online, you may do so at http://www.ed.gov/ocr/complaintintro.html.

* This document outlines your rights under Title IX. You may have additional rights under other federal and state laws. 


Download: Know Your Rights: Title IX Requires Your School to Address Sexual Violence (pdf)

  

Pregnant or Parenting? Title IX Protects You From Discrimination At School

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq., is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexincluding pregnancy and parental statusin educational programs and activities.

All public and private schools, school districts, colleges, and universities receiving any Federal funds (“schools”) must comply with Title IX.*

Here are some things you should know about your rights:

Classes and School Activities your school MUST:

  • Allow you to continue participating in classes and extracurricular activities even though you are pregnant. This means that you can still participate in advanced placement and honors classes, school clubs, sports, honor societies, student leadership opportunities, and other activities, like after-school programs operated at the school.
    • Allow you to choose whether you want to participate in special instructional programs or classes for pregnant students. You can participate if you want to, but your school cannot pressure you to do so. The alternative program must provide the same types of academic, extracurricular and enrichment opportunities as your school’s regular program.
  • Allow you to participate in classes and extracurricular activities even though you are pregnant and not require you to submit a doctor’s note unless your school requires a doctor’s note from all students who have a physical or emotional condition requiring treatment by a doctor. Your school also must not require a doctor’s note from you after you have been hospitalized for childbirth unless it requires a doctor’s note from all students who have been hospitalized for other conditions.
  • Provide you with reasonable adjustments, like a larger desk, elevator access, or allowing you to make frequent trips to the restroom, when necessary because of your pregnancy.

Excused Absences and Medical Leave your school MUST:

  • Excuse absences due to pregnancy or childbirth for as long as your doctor says it is necessary.
  • Allow you to return to the same academic and extracurricular status as before your medical leave began, which should include giving you the opportunity to make up any work missed while you were out.
  • Ensure that teachers understand the Title IX requirements related to excused absences/medical leave. Your teacher may not refuse to allow you to submit work after a deadline you missed because of pregnancy or childbirth. If your teacher’s grading is based in part on class participation or attendance and you missed class because of pregnancy or childbirth, you should be allowed to make up the participation or attendance credits you didn’t have the chance to earn.
  • Provide pregnant students with the same special services it provides to students with temporary medical conditions. This includes homebound instruction/at-home tutoring/independent study.

* A school that is controlled by a religious organization is exempt from Title IX when the law’s requirements would conflict with the organization’s religious tenets.

Harassment your school MUST:

  • Protect you from harassment based on sex, including harassment because of pregnancy or related conditions. Comments that could constitute prohibited harassment include making sexual comments or jokes about your pregnancy, calling you sexually charged names, spreading rumors about your sexual activity, and making sexual propositions or gestures, if the comments are sufficiently serious that it interferes with your ability to benefit from or participate in your school’s program.

Policies and Procedures your school MUST:

  • Have and distribute a policy against sex discrimination. It is recommended that the policy make clear that prohibited sex discrimination covers discrimination against pregnant and parenting students.
  • Adopt and publish grievance procedures for students to file complaints of sex discrimination, including discrimination related to pregnancy or parental status.
  • Identify at least one employee in the school or school district to carry out its responsibilities under Title IX (sometimes called a “Title IX Coordinator”) and notify all students and employees of the name, title, and contact information of its Title IX Coordinator. These responsibilities include overseeing complaints of discrimination against pregnant and parenting students.

Helpful Tips for Pregnant and Parenting Students:

  • Ask your school for helpmeet with your school’s Title IX Coordinator or counselor regarding what your school can do to support you in continuing your education.
  • Keep notes about your pregnancy-related absences, any instances of harassment and your interactions with school officials about your pregnancy, and immediately report problems to your school’s Title IX Coordinator, counselor, or other staff.
  • If you feel your school is discriminating against you because you are pregnant or parenting you may file a complaint:
    • Using your school’s internal Title IX grievance procedures.
    • With the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), even if you have not filed a complaint with your school. If you file with OCR, make sure you do so within 180 days of when the discrimination took place.
    • In court, even if you have not filed a complaint with your school or with OCR.
  • Contact OCR if you have any questions. We are here to help make sure all students, including pregnant and parenting students, have equal educational opportunities!

If you want to learn more about your rights, or if you believe that a school district, college, or university is violating Federal law, you may contact the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, at (800) 421-3481 or ocr@ed.gov. If you wish to fill out a complaint form online, you may do so at: http://www.ed.gov/ocr/complaintintro.html


Download: Supporting the Academic Success of Pregnant and Parenting Students (pdf)