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Message # 742 Sexual harassment: Education

mp3 #742 Sexual Harassment in Education (mp3 file)

If you experience sexual harassment in education, you may be protected by Title IX of the education amendments of 1972 that relate to sexual discrimination in education. This legislation reads:

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

As a student, you may have the experience of an instructor pressuring you for sexual activity, in return for a higher grade than you might otherwise receive.

What are your legal remedies? If you feel that you have experienced sexual harassment in education, you may contact the Title IX coordinator appointed for your school district. Any school official should be able to tell you how to contact this person. The coordinator is appointed to provide you with information and explain your legal rights.

Under Title IX, institutions receiving federal financial assistance must adopt grievance procedures for complaints of sex discrimination. If you do not choose to use these procedures, you can file directly with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights within 180 days of the date the discrimination is alleged to have taken place, or within 60 days of the last step in a grievance process provided you alleged sexual discrimination or harassment. Once this department receives a charge, it is required to investigate and reach findings whether the school is discriminating. If the findings are disputed a hearing may be conducted. If the results of this hearing are not acceptable to you, you may ask that a U.S. Federal Court review the U.S. Education Department's action. Under Title IX, the Department Of Education can cut off federal funds to the school. However, it is rare that you receive money damages, and the school cannot be ordered to stop discriminating.

The U.S. Education Department's regional Office For Civil Rights is located in San Francisco, at 50 United Nations Plaza, Room 322, San Francisco, California, Zip Code 94102. The telephone number is area code 415, 437-8310. They are also online at

The right to bring a private court action based on a breach of Title IX has been recognized by the courts; however, a private lawsuit entails costs. Under the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act the courts may or may not award attorney's fees to you if you are successful in a Title IX action.

What extra-legal tactics are available to you? First, document all incidents of sexual harassment and related events. Second, get witnesses and support. Third follow the general tactics and guidelines outlined in SmartLaw messages 743, 744, and 745 and apply them to your educational situation. Finally, contact a community organization that can give you practical information, referrals and support. T

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