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Five Story Ideas: Sexual Assault & Title IX

  1. Legal battles: The courts have become a main battleground over interpretation and enforcement of Title IX, noted R. Shep Melnick, the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Professor of American Politics at Boston College and author of “The Transformation of Title IX: Regulating Gender Equality in Education.”  So monitoring lawsuits can generate fresh coverage. Case law driven by complaints moved the needle in Title IX’s authority over cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault, for example, Melnick says.
     
  2. Expanding scope – to clothes? The history of Title IX is one of a broadening scope, and one new aspect of student life that Title IX may soon be interpreted to address is clothing. Dr. Nan D. Stein, senior research scientist with Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, says a big driver of change often comes from K-12. One area now gaining traction is students claiming dress codes, which often target girls, are sexist. She said these are typically seen as a First Amendment issue, but she sees dress code protest as an intersection of free speech and Title IX, which she calls “an exciting frontier.”
     
  3. Gender and sexuality: Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, who reports on state and federal policy for Higher Ed Dive, notes that Title IX is increasingly being cited in debates over the treatment of LGBT students. In June 2021, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued a notice clarifying Biden’s January Executive Order affirming that Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, stemming from the June 2020 Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clay County.  On Aug. 30, Tennessee and 19 other states sued the Department of Education seeking to overturn its interpretation that Title IX offers protections to gay and transgender people in schools. “There are definitely going to be court battles over how much Title IX extends these protections,” Bauer-Wolf says.
     
  4. Rights of the accused:  Emily Yoffe, contributing writer to The Atlantic, who has covered Title IX issues for nearly a decade, says one often overlooked story is what happens to those who’ve been accused of harassment or assault. One important consideration: whether broad definitions of what constitutes “harassment,” and enforcement powers given to schools creates opportunities for biased and racist punishment.
     
  5. Are private schools subject to Title IX? Some private K-12 schools that previously did not fall under Title IX rules because they didn’t take federal funding became subject to enforcement during 2020 if they accepted COVID-19 pandemic aid in the form of PPP loans from the Small Business Administration. Accepting federal funding means they’re required to conduct Title IX investigations. Reporters can check with these institutions to see if they have Title IX coordinators, and are following other related rules, including conducting Title IX investigations when there are complaints of sexual harassment or sexual assault.

 

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