Photo of Emily Tulloch

Attorney advising and representing K-12, community college, and higher education clients.

The Title IX world is abuzz with expectation about the release of regulations from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The general consensus is that even if the Department makes some changes based on the 100,000+ comments it received on the proposed rules, any final rules released will roll back many Obama-era protections for students reporting sexual misconduct. Yet, even as the Department continues with its plans to lighten the load on institutions in the Title IX sphere, it recently issued a “blistering” report finding numerous Clery Act violations at the University of North Carolina, many of which have implications for Title IX compliance. This situation shows that institutional consequences are still alive and well in Betsy DeVos’s Department of Education, and it’s not the first time in recent history that we have seen this to be true—we’re thinking of the oddly intense decisions from OCR against Chicago Public Schools and Michigan State University. No matter how confusing the Department’s actions may be, it is our job to try to understand and follow the rules, whatever they may be. What can we learn about responding to sexual misconduct and Title IX from this recent Clery report?
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What do many of the highest-profile sexual assault cases in our country have in common? Whether it is the high-profile case involving a Stanford swimmer or the contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, we have seen the evolving understanding of “consent” take center stage in many of the most notable recent cases.

Consent education has evolved over time from the rhetoric of “no means no,” with its focus on express refusal as a precursor to stopping sexual conduct, to “yes means yes,” which requires affirmative consent to continue with sexual activity. Advocates argue that sexual education around consent must reflect these changes and nuances.

In Illinois, legislators responded to this call by passing Public Act 101-0579 (which began as House Bill 3550) in late August. The law amends the School Code to require Illinois public schools that offer sex education in grades six through twelve to provide lessons on the issue of consent. Training under the law does not necessarily check all the boxes required by Title IX, however. Read on for key takeaways for school leaders.


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The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on October 8 in three closely watched cases addressing whether Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination “because of … sex,” covers discrimination based on LGBT status. Commentators have recognized that these decisions may have important implications for Title IX, which prohibits discrimination “on the basis of sex” in education programs and activities receiving federal funds. As with Title VII, it is currently unsettled whether Title IX protects LGBT individuals. And courts interpreting Title IX often rely on decisions interpreting Title VII in reaching their decisions. In the oral argument in one of the cases, Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, questions by the Supreme Court Justices gave us even more reason to believe the case will impact the interpretation of Title IX as applied to transgender students.
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With the start of the school year well underway and the many things to remember and think about that come with it, it can be easy to forget some of the most essential elements of Title IX compliance. For example, when is the last time you checked to ensure that employees who are involved in Title IX investigations are clearly identified and appropriately trained on the requirements of Title IX? We all assume these ducks are in a row, but we’ve seen OCR find issues with these responsibilities time and again in Title IX complaints. The real rub: even if you handled the specific complaint that led to an OCR investigation perfectly, if your notice and training requirements are lacking you might still find yourself staring down months or even years of OCR monitoring for a procedural violation. What can you do now to protect against that dreaded outcome?
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