Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dep't of Ed Says Schools Potentially Liable for Cyber-Harassment

The Department of Education addressed for the first time whether schools could violate Title IX by failing to respond appropriately to sexual harassment on-line, according to advocacy group Security On Campus.

The agency was adjudicating charges that Hofstra University did not adequately protect a female student from sexual assault that followed a barrage of sexual harassing comments about her on a now-defunct gossip website called Juicy Campus. Though the agency did not find sufficient facts to determine that Hofstra was deliberately indifferent to the harassment the student was facing, it did emphasize that schools have the same responsibility to respond to internet harassment as it does to harassment that is spoken or posted on the physical campus.

This clarification puts universities on notice that indifference to online harassment could result in liability under Title IX.