Title IX Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

National Representation in Title IX Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Claims


KCNF understands that going to school with your rapist, abuser, or sexual harasser makes it nearly impossible to focus on learning. That’s why we represent student survivors, irrespective of the grade or educational level when they were abused, who need help reporting harassment to their schools, going through the hearing process, or holding their schools accountable for violating Title IX. Survivors deserve to feel safe at school, and gender equity in education requires effective enforcement of Title IX.


To contact KCNF for assistance, click here.


Rights under Title IX


Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 provides that:


No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.


This prohibition on sex discrimination requires education institutions, including most private and religious schools, to respond promptly and effectively to reports of sexual harassment. When a school learns of sexual harassment—which includes rape, sexual assault, relationship and domestic violence, sexual abuse, and stalking—it must take action to make sure the survivor can safely and fully access education and all its benefits in the wake of that harassment. This includes carrying out a prompt and equitable investigation into a formal report and issuing appropriate discipline against any party found responsible. This range of measures ensures that survivors can keep learning, and schools that fail to respond appropriately may be in violation of Title IX.


While protections for survivors look different depending on the circumstances, students from pre-K through graduate and professional school have the right to learn in an environment free from sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, and must not face retaliation for reporting any form of sexual harassment or discrimination. The same is true for school employees and faculty, so long as the sexual harassment or retaliation impacts their ability to access some education program or benefit.


Reasonable Accommodations


Survivors are entitled to reasonable accommodations to ensure their safety and continued ability to learn and work in the school environment in the wake of sexual harassment. A school’s Title IX coordinator is responsible for facilitating access to those accommodations, which may include extensions on assignments, remote test-taking, dorm reassignments, and more. Survivors do not have to file a formal complaint in order to obtain these accommodations.


If a school fails to provide reasonable accommodations, it may be in violation not only of Title IX but also of the Cleary Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. KCNF’s attorneys can advocate for survivors’ rights under each.


Reporting Sexual Harassment


All schools bound by Title IX must have in place a mechanism for receiving and investigating reports of sexual harassment. When a school official with the authority to take corrective action has “actual knowledge” that sexual harassment may have occurred, it must respond in a manner that is not “clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances.” This includes informing a complainant—the person reporting sexual harassment—of their right to pursue an investigation through the school, so long as the school exercised “substantial control” over both the accused—called the respondent—and the context in which the harassment occurred.


What that investigation involves, however, varies according to age; for instance, while college- and university-age complainants and respondents must testify and be subject to cross examination at a live hearing, younger complainants may answer written questions with written answers. KCNF’s attorneys can help at any stage in the process.


Suing Under Title IX


As a result of two U.S. Supreme Court seminal Title IX decisions, a plaintiff may sue an education institution for intentional discrimination under Title IX. A school is liable for deliberate indifference to sexual harassment—of which it has actual knowledge—so long as that harassment “is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive the victim[] of access to educational opportunities or benefits.” Courts have construed education benefits broadly to include classes, dorms, sports, and more.


The Supreme Court has also ruled that Title IX prohibits retaliation. When someone asserts their Title IX rights or raises concerns about Title IX violations, their school cannot penalize them.


KCNF’s attorneys have decades of experience litigating discrimination and retaliation cases. If you’ve faced sexual harassment that impacted your education, or if you’ve reported or opposed such harassment and faced retaliation, contact KCNF to learn about your options.