New recommendations on Title IX enforcement may have educational and training implications for coaches and student-athletes.
In a “Dear Colleague Letter ” issued Monday, the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said schools should implement preventative education programs and make victim resources available.
Schools may elect to include this information in orientation programs and in training for student-athletes and coaches. OCR also recommends that “schools develop specific sexual-violence materials that include the schools’ policies, rules and resources for students, faculty, coaches and administrators.”
The letter also makes clear that “schools should assess student activities regularly to ensure that the practices and behavior of students do not violate the schools’ policies against sexual harassment and sexual violence.”
This is the first OCR guidance specifically advising schools, colleges and universities that their responsibilities under Title IX include protecting students from sexual violence. It is also the first time the office has detailed enforcement strategies that schools may use to end sexual violence, prevent its recurrence and remedy its effects.
“Today we are strengthening our response to sexual assault in schools and on college campuses,” Vice President Joe Biden said in a press release. “Students across the country deserve the safest possible environment in which to learn. That’s why we’re taking new steps to help our nation’s schools, universities and colleges end the cycle of sexual violence on campus.”
In the letter, the OCR makes clear that schools have an obligation to respond to allegations of sexual harassment even if that harassment took place off-campus or during school-sponsored events such as athletics.
Schools are further required to “publish a notice of nondiscrimination and to adopt and publish grievance procedures.” Those procedures apply to all students, including athletes.
“If a complaint of sexual violence involves a student-athlete, the school must follow its standard procedures for resolving sexual violence complaints,” the letter said. “Such complaints must not be addressed solely by athletics department procedures.”
The Department of Justice’s Campus Sexual Assault Study reports that one in five women have experienced an attempted or completed sexual assault during college. Six percent of college-aged men will be a victim of attempted or actual sexual assault.
“Every school would like to believe it is immune from sexual violence, but the facts suggest otherwise,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Our first goal is prevention through education. Information is always the best way to combat sexual violence. Our larger goal is to raise awareness to an issue that should have no place in society and especially in our schools.”
NCAA President Mark Emmert has been a vocal advocate for violence prevention on campus. At the NCAA Convention in January he hosted a panel exploring how violence affects student-athletes and how campuses and the NCAA can prevent and deal with such incidents.
As a follow-up to that conversation, the NCAA will host a summit Friday that will focus on the prevention of interpersonal violence, along with intervention techniques when it does occur. The summit, which will be streamed live on NCAA.org, will feature presentations from experts in the field of violence prevention.
The OCR’s Adele Rapport will address those guidelines and further clarify their implications for athletics. For more information and to register for the summit, visit www.ncaa.org/violenceprevention.