Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ottawa College to add wrestling

Two of the many things we at the Title IX Blog are interested in are: 1) the reasons behind why schools choose to add specific sports; and 2) wrestling programs.
The news that Ottawa College in Kansas is planning on adding both women's and men's wrestling to its roster of intercollegiate athletics, then, caught our attention.
Wrestling, of course, has been central in many of the debates about Title IX with some supporters arguing that the decline in wrestling programs at the intercollegiate level has been caused by the legislation, despite evidence to the contrary.
We have seen, though, that non-Division I schools are considering wrestling a viable option when adding sports and that women's wrestling can help preserve Title IX compliance and, at times, men's wrestling. This is not the case at Ottawa which will begin both programs from scratch.
The school, which will introduce the sport in the 2014-15 academic year, has begun looking for a head coach and student-athletes.
One of the reasons why the school chose wrestling is because administrators are committed to maintaining a high level of student-athlete academic achievement and wrestling. They found that elite high school wrestlers at the national championships maintain an average 3.0 GPA. Additionally they see the promise in women's wrestling, which continues to grow.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A new complaint and activist connections across colleges

The last year plus has been a watershed one in terms of the attention to and awareness of sexual assault on college campuses. It is difficult--and likely unnecessary--to figure out which set of complaints, which campus activism set off the firestorm. And new complaints are emerging at a fairly steady pace. Erin wrote about the group of complainants that came forward at UConn just this week. We can also add Emerson College to the list of schools dealing with complaints. A student came forward this fall stating in a complaint that the school had taken a long time to investigate her claim of sexual assault against a fellow student in the fall of 2012 and that during that time he assaulted her again. The college responded to Sarah Tedesco's inquiries about the process by telling her to stop making such a big deal out of it even as she continued having to live in the same residence hall and when she began receiving anonymous threats. They encouraged her to handle the matter the internally and not involve local police. The school eventually found the accused not responsible. Tedesco is joined in the complaint by other Emerson students who also recount some serious mishandling of cases and some pretty heinous judicial processes.
Tedesco, like many other women and men who have been part of the complaint process nationwide, have joined others across the country to raise awareness not just of their respective schools, but of the problems institutions of higher education seem to have with informing their own staff about how to handle cases of sexual assault and harassment and creating a non-hostile environment on their campuses.
This solidarity has been quite productive and, I would imagine, quite healing for survivors. One of these women, Angela Epifano, a former Amherst College student who came forward with her story of sexual assault and the subsequent mishandling of her case, spoke about the new community that has emerged in just the past year around activism  to fight sexual violence on campuses. "I never thought it would go viral" she said of her account in the school paper. But the visibility of her case created greater visibility for others. One of the women who is part of the complaint at University of North Carolina, Annie Clark, has been part of the rapidly growing community of activists who have been communicating through various channels for less than a year.
"Before this movement, I had never even heard of Occidental College. Now, I've helped them write their own complaint, and I now have best friends there. The connections have been amazing."
While it is hard to enjoy the growth of the movement because it means so many people have been victims, it is  encouraging to see effective activism at work.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

UConn Women File Sexual Assault Complaint

A group of female students and former students at the University of Connecticut have filed a complaint with OCR, alleging that the university failed to adequately protect them or respond to instance of campus sexual assault. One of the students alleges that she rebuffed by campus police, who did not take serious the threats of rape she received after publicly criticizing the university athletic department for not adequately addressing instances of assault instances involving male athletes. Another claims she was victim-blamed by a campus police officer, who told her that "women need to stop spreading their legs like peanut butter, or rape is going to keep on happening until the cows come home." That same student alleges that she was not notified when the university revoked the sanction of expulsion it had initially applied to her assailant, and she had to confront him in the dining hall.  A third student also reports that campus police ignored her complaint that she had been assaulted by a male student athlete.  If an OCR investigation determined that these allegations are true, it could use its Title IX enforcement power to require the university to improve its sexual assault policies and practices.

The students are represented by attorney Gloria Allred, who also represented the students from Occidental College in a similar matter.  Occidental recently paid a financial settlement to avoid a lawsuit with the complainants.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Know Your IX (in less than 90 seconds!)

The Know Your IX activists have produced this video which is a quick guide to an individual's legal rights and a school's responsibility. (More detailed information is at their website.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

In Forthcoming Article, Law Professors Argue Public Single-Sex Education is Unconstitutional

Professors David Cohen and Nancy Levit's article on the constitutionality of public single-sex education, which is forthcoming in the Seton Hall Law Review, was recently posted on SSRN.  The authors conclude that neither of the commonly cited justifications for segregating classrooms -- presenting a diversity of education options and research into sex-based differences in learning styles -- warrant a sex-based classification under the Equal Protection Clause.  Here is the abstract:
Since federal regulations authorized single-sex education in 2006, there has been an explosion of single-sex schools and classes. Although the Supreme Court has not ruled, three federal court decisions have addressed the constitutionality of single-sex classes, and the issue will percolate toward Supreme Court review soon. The arguments are that parents should have choices and “diversity” of educational options, that “brain research” shows that boys and girls are so biologically different to need sex-specific educational environments, that educational outcomes are better, and single-sex learning environments allows boys and girls to break through gender stereotypes. This article dissects these arguments within the context of the constitutional doctrine of sex classifications, concluding that none is an “exceedingly persuasive justification” for the pernicious harms that are associated with sex segregation.

The article demonstrates that “diversity” was never intended to support segregation. It explains that parental choice does not eliminate the problem of state-sponsored segregation based on sex. Courts must address whether single-sex education is supported empirically before allowing it as a publicly funded option. The article reviews studies showing that most sex-differentiated behavior is learned, and biological differences do not justify sex-specific teaching methods. The article also examines studies of academic and emotional outcomes in single-sex and coeducational environments which confirm that the vast majority of outcomes do not support single-sex education.

The article then explores the formation of gendered behaviors and attitudes. The way that schools have been implementing single-sex education promote gender essentialism. Sex-segregation increases students’ and teachers’ stereotypes about sex and gender, gives them outlets for expressing those beliefs, and creates opposition between the groups. In short, sex segregated education violates the Equal Protection Clause, it has no “exceedingly persuasive justification” and instead exacerbates “outdated stereotypes” while “create[ing] [and] perpetuate[ing] the legal, social, and economic inferiority of women.”

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Girls charged as juveniles in Florida bullying case

In a case of bullying that stands out because, as some experts note, of the length of time and the number of students involved in the bullying of a 12-year old girl who killed herself last month, criminal charges have been filed against two of the alleged perpetrators.
The details of the case are not particularly unusual (we have certainly heard worse) and seem to involve a boy who was a romantic interest of the victim and one of the alleged bullies who was the apparent mastermind of the constant verbal, emotional, and physical abuse of the victim.
What I found interesting about the reporting of the case. First, just how unusual this case is in terms of length of bullying and the number of students involved is probably up for debate. Given the long-held beliefs that bullying is just part of growing up, the ineffectiveness of many schools in intervening, the prevalence of cyberbullying that goes unchecked by parents and school administrators I would guess that there have been other (unreported/underreported) cases of long-term, mob-like bullying that have not made national news.
Second, I was very surprised by the lack of discussion about the role of school administrators in this case. The victim did switch schools at some point to physically get away from the bullying, but it continued online (this cyber trail was what alerted authorities). The victim's mother only said that the school district did not do enough to stop the bullying. The original school did change the schedules of the victim and the primary bully because of the prevalence of physical fights between the two.
But the lack of school involvement and discussion of the apparent laissez-faire attitude is surprising. While the two girls who have been arrested should be held accountable if they are found guilty, some additional attention needs to be placed on the school, its teachers and administrators. Florida, as a state, has not ignored the issue of bullying. They have an anti-bullying law, which the legislature even updated this past summer to include cyberbullying. And so it is surprising that the school did not intervene more.
Though the focus now remains on the two main bullies and their pending trial in juvenile court, I hope that attention is turned to the role the school played--or should have played--in this case.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Title IX Godmother Inducted to Hall of Fame

Over the weekend, Title IX advocate Bernice Sandler was inducted to the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY, alongside other notable women including Nancy Pelosi, Betty Ford, Kate Millett. Sandler has spent a lifetime challenging sex discrimination in education, inspired by her own experience in 1969 of being told she was not considered for a faculty position because she reportedly came on "too strong for a woman." Sandler realized that an executive order signed by President Johnson in 1968, which barred government contractors from discriminating on the basis of sex, could be used to challenge gender quotas in higher educational admissions and hiring.  Sandler and the Women's Equity Action League (WEAL) used that strategy to file complaints with the Department of Labor against hundreds of universities -- an effort that also served to underscore efforts in Congress to codify a ban on sex discrimination into law. Sandler worked with Representative Edith Green, Senator Birch Bayh, and other congressional leaders to add the provision we now call Title IX to an omnibus educational bill that was enacted in 1972 -- a role that earned her the nickname "Godmother of Title IX."  She's been a defender of the law and an advocate for its enforcement ever since, and today serves as a senior scholar at the Women's Research and Education Institute in Washington.

Congratulations to Dr. Sandler for this most deserved honor!  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fault admitted in California

Both Occidental College and the University of Southern California have said that they violated the Clery Act by underreporting sexual assault on their respective campuses as well as improperly handling some cases of reported sexual assault.
Occidental--on the advice of an outside consultant, according to school officials--reported a total of 19 incidents over a three-year period rather than reporting incidents per year, as required.
At USC more than a dozen anonymous complaints from 2010 were not reported. 
Clery Act violations incur fines of up to $35,000 per violation. There has not been any official figure provided by the currently shut-down government and it is unclear how these admissions will affect the investigations triggered by student-driven complaints.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Settlement Binds D.C. Public Schools to Compliance Plan

Well we aren't expecting much news from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights this week, due to the government shutdown.  Not surprisingly, Title IX enforcement is one of the many casualties of the political situation in Washington. 

But there is some news to report, in that just prior to the shutdown, OCR entered into a resolution agreement with the D.C. Public Schools.  As the Washington Post reported on Tuesday, the agreement settles one of two pending complaints against DCPS alleging gender inequity throughout the city's high school athletic programs. The settlement requires DCPS to gather information about the number of participation opportunities available for girls and boys and to monitor girls' interests in sports that the schools do not yet offer. This information, which DCPS must report to OCR on an annual basis, will form the basis for its obligation to respond to the gender gap in opportunities by adding appropriate new opportunities for girls.  As we noted in an earlier post, at most of the D.C. high schools, a double-digit disparity separates the percentage of athletic opportunities for boys from the percentage of opportunities for girls.

The complaint against DCPS was filed by Herb Dempsey, whom the Post described as "a retired educator and activist in Washington state" who is the "head of a loose coalition of retired men that calls itself 'Old Guys for Title IX'" that has filed thousands of similar complaints across the country.  Another Title IX complaint against  DCPS  filed by the National Women's Law Center on similar grounds remains pending. It is not yet clear how the recent settlement will affect the resolution of that case. 

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Students Claim Retaliation for Complaining About Hazing Assault

A family has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Tennessee, alleging that two daughters were kicked off of the Siegel High School basketball team in retaliation for complaining about an incident in which they and another were the victims of sexual contact initiated by another player on the team. The complaint claims that the reprisal against their daughters constitutes a violation of Title IX by the Rutherford County School Board. 

The Board agrees that an offensive incident took place last year, but denies that it was sexual in nature, referring to it instead as "goosing" or "poking them between the buttocks."  The Board also denies that the decision to remove the girls from the team had anything to do with their complaint, arguing instead that it was the consequence of the girls having repeatedly missed practices and other conduct issues.  The Board's claim that they investigated and reprimanded the offending student after it was reported could also cast doubt on the plaintiffs' theory of retaliation, since often in retaliation cases the purpose of reprisals is to suppress whistleblowing on an institution's failure to address the underlying offense.  It's hard to imagine what would motivate the school to retaliate against the girls if it indeed took seriously their reports of the offense.