What is Title IX?
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that receives federal funding. Sex discrimination includes sexual harassment, sexual battery, sexual assault, and rape that are “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit.” Even a single instance of rape or sexual assault by another student, faculty, or staff member could meet this standard.
What is a Title IX Complaint?
A Title IX complaint is a document that details the ways in which you believe your college has violated Title IX. This complaint can involve a single case or multiple cases. The length of this document varies, depending upon the number of cases and the level of detail provided. Complaints include appendices with supporting documents (e.g., student newspaper articles, hearing board documents, emails, photographic evidence of retaliation). Each complainant in a Title IX complaint is a student, staff, or faculty member who has experienced sexual harassment, sexual battery, sexual assault, or rape, or has faced retaliation for speaking out about sexual assault issues. Complainants can either be named or anonymous, and they can include as much or little detail about their case as they would like. Since Title IX focuses on the college’s handling of sexual misconduct, complaints detail experiences with the college/university. Survivors do not have to recount their experience of sexual misconduct in the complaint.
Some campus activists have also included violations of additional laws in their Title IX complaints (e.g., Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that bans retaliation and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act for failing to provide adequate mental health accommodations to rape survivors or other mental health-related discrimination).
How do I file a Title IX complaint?
You can mail, FAX, email, or file a Title IX complaint online:
- Mail and FAX: Title IX complaints should be sent to the regional Department of Education office that has jurisdiction over your college/university. A list can be found at: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/addresses.html
- E-mail: To file a Title IX complaint by email, send a message to the regional office (see above) and to email@example.com
- Online: You can submit your Title IX complaint online at: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html
Most complaints are too large to send as one attachment, so we suggest sending the complaint and appendices as separate documents.
Who is eligible to file a Title IX complaint?
Anyone who believes that a college/university that receives federal funding (e.g., financial aid) has engaged in discrimination on the basis of sex can file a Title IX complaint against the institution. The person or group filing the complaint does not have to be a sexual assault survivor or even a student. Student allies, faculty, alums, and other concerned people can file a Title IX complaint on behalf of survivors.
What happens after I file a Title IX complaint?
The Department of Education (DOE) should acknowledge receipt of your complaint within two weeks of filing by emailing you and/or sending you a letter in the mail. You will likely be contacted by lawyers from the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for clarifying information about your complaint. They will either decide whether to open an investigation, which entails contacting the school to request documents and speaking to administrators listed in the complaint. It may take several months for the OCR to make this determination.
Is there a statute of limitations for filing a Title IX complaint?
There is a 180 day statute of limitations for Title IX complaints, meaning that for each case submitted, some event had to have happened in the past 180 days (e.g., leaving school due to experiencing a sexual assault, the outcome of adjudication, an email denying an appeal). Cases older than 180 days can be included to demonstrate a pattern at the college/university.
How long will the Title IX process take?
There is no set timeline for processing Title IX complaints. In our experience, the Office for Civil Rights decides whether to take a case within four months of filing. Once an investigation is open, it could take several years to complete if numerous complainants are involved. It’s been our experience that the OCR attorneys start their investigation promptly (e.g., request documents from the institution), and they visit campus to interview the complainants (who want to be interviewed) and college/university staff within four months.
Should I be a named or anonymous complainant?
The OCR will not publicly release any names in the complaint, but in rare instances, a complaint gets leaked to the press from someone, and named complaints become known. In our experience, complainants should file anonymously if they are concerned about their story being public. The lead complainant(s) are typically named so they can publicly discuss the case.
What should I do if I face harassment/retaliation after I’ve filed?
Lead complainants should send regular email updates to the OCR with details of new violations and/or updates on cases already filed. Instances of retaliation should be documented in these regular email updates, and if the retaliation reaches a crisis level, complainants should immediately contact the OCR attorneys assigned to their case.