Harassment and discrimination on sexual basis has become pervasive in all walks of life. Schools and colleges are not untouched by this malaise either.
Ever increasing incidents of sexual misconduct and other Title IX violations that affect schools and colleges need urgent intervention from staff and specialists who are well-trained and informed on how to respond appropriately. The focus in this article is specifically on the education of those key leaders who must assume responsibility to effectively address and manage sexual harassment and other complaints under Title IX and State Education Codes. They must also evaluate and manage incidents that violate policies and procedures. Within educational institutions the administrator/coordinator for Title IX services has the role of a gatekeeper. For violations that go beyond the powers of the gatekeepers, services of a title ix defence attorney would be required.
What the Title IX states
According to the title ix, there should no discrimination based on sex, in any educational program or activity that receives federal assistance. No person in the United States shall be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of such programs on the basis of sex.
Colleges, universities and P/K-12 school districts are increasingly getting involved in complaints and litigation related to title ix violations. Victims of sexual harassment and those accused of other title ix violations are using both, the school protocols and the legal system, with help of title ix defence lawyers, to take remedial actions. The situation is quite complex and worrisome.
Who is a Gatekeeper
It is important for colleges and school districts to put in place specific policies and procedures defining rules of student conduct and disciplinary procedures. Unfortunately, many school districts and colleges still do not have well-defined policies and procedures. This is a major problem throughout the country and, as a result, there are often unwarranted delays and false situations created while taking the steps to investigate and address alleged violations. In every school and college there are people who are considered “responsible employees.” The general practice is always to have a person/administrator/coordinator designated as the responsible employee. The common role of that responsible employee is that of a gatekeeper.
A gatekeeper has the actual authority to address alleged violations of Title IX and/or other forms of harassment and initiate or supervise the process to remedy the situation. He/she has the duty to report and assist in properly resolving Title IX violations or other forms of harassment.
Schools and colleges must ensure that their employees are well-trained on how and when to report harassment cases to the gatekeeper or register a complaint for proper processing. To facilitate the timely and effective handling of alleged violations of Title IX and the Education Codes, responsible administrators should be trained and designated as gatekeepers.
Roles of a gatekeeper
In the case of a student versus student complaint, role of a gatekeeper is to:
- Document the initial statements and determine if jurisdiction exists over both parties.
- Conduct informal interviews of both the parties to determine if it is actually a case of harassment.
- Refer the case to the Title IX Coordinator and/or BIT (Behavioural Intervention Team) for formal investigation.
- If no violation is found, provide individualised counselling and other services designed to provide care and comfort.
- Prepare a written Gatekeeper’s report of findings for future reference.
In student versus employee complaints, if it is actually a case of harassment, the gatekeeper should report the matter to the senior human resource officer. All other roles remain the same.
These days, independent investigations and reporting to gatekeepers is quite common. Proper investigations bring justice to both the reporting and responding parties. In addition to the practical role of the gatekeeper in colleges and schools, it is important to foster self-respect and confidence in all parties. This is critical in achieving a fair and useful outcome. The intention should be to provide and preserve positive learning environment for students and staff.
We must create and implement clear policies and procedures to address Title IX and Civil Rights allegations and ensure that those responsible for implementing those procedures are properly educated and trained to handle such cases with discernment. This discernment is paramount in the core development of identity within each individual and stakeholder involved.
With the explosion of allegations and complaints reaching across society, demand for title ix attorneys has increased tremendously. It is, therefore, all the more important to have an institutional Behavioural Management System, guided and managed by properly trained gatekeepers.