Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in K-12 schools, online schools, colleges, and universities that receive funding from the federal government. It also requires gender equality in all areas of education, and although Title IX is often cited for its protections around sexual assault, it also protects survivors of sexual harassment, dating abuse, and intimate partner violence (IPV).
Title IX protects survivors regardless of gender identity, sexuality, or citizenship status, as well as faculty at educational institutions. The law was passed as a supplement to the criminal legal system to focus on the needs of survivors, and has become the defining legal guideline for responding to abuse at school.
Survivor rights under Title IX
Title IX provides for certain rights retained by survivors, the exercise of which may be used to take action against someone who has discriminated against or abused you.
Examples of a survivor’s rights under Title IX include:
The right to reasonable, free accommodations such as counseling, health services, and tutoring.
The right to be protected against retaliation for exercising your rights.
The right to know your legal options.
The right to request a No Contact Order from your school.
Campus No Contact Orders are different from restraining or protective orders in that they only apply to campus interactions and hold different consequences if violated; survivors can pursue No Contact Orders independently from other legal actions.
The right to file a complaint against the person violating your Title IX rights, including people who abuse or harass you.
Title IX reporting options
If you’ve experienced abuse while attending a school that receives federal funding, you have the option to report the incident to your school under Title IX. To file a complaint, you can report the incident to certain people employed by the school:
- Title IX Coordinator
The Title IX Coordinator is a staff member specifically hired by your school to ensure that all the requirements of Title IX are being met. Once an incident is reported to the Title IX Coordinator (either directly or through another reporter), it’s their job to ensure that the school follows the investigation process laid out by the law.
Good Title IX Coordinators will make every effort to ensure that you receive the support, resources, and accommodation you need and that the school honors your wishes throughout the process, but you should keep in mind that they’re technically allowed to move forward against a survivor’s wishes. Once an incident is reported to the Title IX Coordinator, the school will initiate an investigation; the outcome of that investigation is ultimately beyond your control.
Your school’s Title IX Coordinator should be listed on its website and known by any administrative staff member you ask.
- Responsible Employees
Responsible Employees are school staff who are required to report incidents of abuse to your school’s Title IX Coordinator as mandated reporters of assault, abuse, or violence. These tend to be teachers, coaches, advisors, and other administrative staff. Under Title IX, investigations into reports made by Responsible Employees should follow a specific timeline.
- Confidential Employees
Confidential Employees have more discretion in reporting and may not required to report incidents to the Title IX coordinator, though they can help you file a report if you ask them to. These employees tend to be faith counselors, licensed therapists, and other medical staff.
After an incident is reported to a Confidential Employee, survivors should be offered accommodations and services without a formal report; this does not waive the survivor’s right to file a report separately, but if you don’t know whether you want to file a formal report or not yet, consider talking with a Confidential Employee before contacting a mandated reporter.
Remember: making a report to school authorities isn’t the same as filing a police report, which requires entering the criminal legal system.
Each school is different and there’s no universal rule about which employees are designated how, but it should be listed in your school’s Title IX policies online. You can also ask a staff member whether they’re designated as Confidential or Responsible under Title IX before disclosing your abusive situation. If you’re not sure and want to be cautious with details, you should assume they’re Responsible Employees and mandated reporters.
If you just want to discuss your situation in a judgement-free space, you can contact love is respect to confidentially speak with supportive advocates 24/7.