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THE DEPT. OF EDUCATION’S NEW TITLE IX RULES

On April 19, 2024, the U.S. Department of Education issued its new rules overhauling Title IX. The new rules increase rights of sexual assault victims and LGBTQ and pregnant students.  The new rules are the most comprehensive reforms of Title IX since Title IX became law. Title IX attorneys recognize that these new rules make it much easier for someone claiming sexual harassment on campus to win their Title IX claim.

The new rules expand Title IX (1) to forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity; (2) to broaden the definition of sexual harassment to make it even easier to win a Tile IX claim; and (3) provide new procedural protections to victims alleging sexual harassment in schools. 

Title IX will now protect claims involving  “sexual orientation and gender identity.” and LGBTQ+ students in any school that receives federal funding. Pregnant students are also specifically protected by Title IX. 

It’s Now Easier to Prove Sexual Harassment

The rule expands what constitutes sexual harassment under Title IX.  Previously, Title IX defined sexual harassment as conduct that is “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive.”  The new sexual harassment definition includes any unwelcome sex-based conduct that is so “severe or pervasive” that it limits a student’s equal access to an education. Title IX attorneys recognize this means it will be easier for a school to find someone guilty of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct. 

New Procedural Rules Help Alleged Victims

Finally, under the new rules, schools are no longer required to hold live-hearings, which are now optional. Students will no longer have the right to cross-examine their accuser. Further, alleged victims have a new additional protection because schools must ban questions that are “unclear or harassing.” The new rules suggest that as an alternative to live-hearings, schools can interview students separately and allow each student to suggest questions to be posed to one another (instead of cross-examination). 

Due Process Protections for the Accused

Due process rules that remain include: the requirement that all students have equal access to present evidence and witnesses; all students be allowed to bring an advisor to campus hearings; and colleges must have an appeals process. Additionally, accused students generally cannot be disciplined until after they’re found liable for misconduct.  However, there is an exception for the  “emergency” removal of the alleged harasser from campus, if it’s a matter of campus safety.

The new rules go into effect on August 1, 2024. They apply to all colleges and elementary, middle, and high schools that receive federal money. 

If you have been accused of violating Title IX, or believe someone committed Title IX violations against you, contact one of our Title IX lawyers today.

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