Photo of Jackie Gharapour Wernz

Attorney representing educational institutions in a wide range of education and employment law matters.

We’ve had a lot going on.

COVID-19. School reopening. Racial equity issues. And the cherry on top? Those Title IX Sexual Harassment regulations that we’ve been digging out from under since May 6.

With all that going on, I’d forgive you for feeling a bit like one of my favorite characters from Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson,

Today is the day. After almost two years of thinking about whether the proposed Title IX regulations would go into effect at all, starting today we are operating under the new rules at schools, colleges, and universities across the country. In addition to preparing for an unprecedented school year opening, we know you’re also on top of all the training and policy revisions needed for compliance. (You are, right? If not, find more information here.) But don’t forget the requirement to update your website with certain information, including your nondiscrimination statement, Title IX Coordinator information, training materials used to train your Title IX Team, and a provisional grievance procedure if your policies are not yet finalized, by today. In our experience, most higher education institutions already have extensive Title IX presences on their websites, so you may just need to make a few adjustments. But this requirement is just the kind that might slip under the radar for many K-12 schools. Our team at Franczek P.C. has put together website and procedural language to help schools easily comply. Reach out to us at titleIX@franczek.com for more information. The following are the requirements from the regulations as to what an institution must post on its websites by tomorrow to be in compliance.

Continue Reading We’ve Got You Covered: Website and Grievance Procedure Updates Required Today for Title IX Compliance

As we explained in an earlier blog post, one of the requirements of the new Title IX regulations–the mandate to post all materials used to train Title IX personnel on a school’s website–has understandably raised questions for K-12 and higher education institutions regarding copyright compliance. Today, I was thrilled to host Ashly Boesche, a

Almost one-and-a-half years after releasing its proposed rule, the U.S. Department of Education issued new Title IX regulations on May 6, 2020. Because the 2020 Title IX regulations become effective on August 14, 2020, educational institutions must move quickly to come into compliance during what are already particularly trying times. To assist your institution with

Come join us to unwind Title IX while also unwinding with colleagues and friends!

We know the challenges facing administrators responsible for Title IX compliance at the K-12 level, with the August 14 effective date for the new Title IX rules looming. We also know that collaboration with other K-12 Title IX administrators, though indispensable,

REGISTER HERE!
July 21, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. CT

In this session of Ankura’s monthly Title IX and Civil Rights Investigations webinar series, Dan Schorr and Alyssa-Rae McGinn will be joined by Franczek P.C. partner Jackie Gharapour Wernz for a discussion of the important issues related to complainant and respondent advisors in

When I was studying for the bar many, many years ago, I remember waking up about six weeks before the exam with a sinking feeling in my stomach, wondering “How am I ever going get this all finished in time?!” I can imagine many educational leaders are feeling the same dread looking at the calendar this week, wondering how in the world their institution is going to come into compliance with the new Title IX regulations by the August 14, 2020 implementation date. It’s not a matter of lack of effort–just like I did that summer before the bar, I know that you all have been working diligently to get everything done. But the sheer amount of work there is to do can be overwhelming. That morning, during my bar summer, after I woke up I sat down and came up with a plan for how to get everything done by the date of the exam, and began checking things off the list one by one. That, too, is the approach I recommend you take right now to help your educational institution down the path to compliance by August 14.  Here’s how to do it.

Continue Reading Six Weeks to the New Title IX: Here’s How Your Institution Can Meet the Deadline

ostrich head in sandFor anyone taking the ostrich approach to the Department of Education’s Title IX regulations—sticking their heads in the sand and hoping that a lawsuit will come along to blow these pesky regulations away—there may be some hope. Two recently-filed lawsuits, one by attorneys general from 17 states, including Illinois, and the District Columbia and another by the state of New York, seek to invalidate the new regulations under the Administrative Procedure Act or, at the very least, obtain an extension of the August 14, 2020 implementation date. Despite these and other pending lawsuits—including one from the ACLU filed in May—schools, colleges, and universities should continue to prepare to implement the new Title IX regulations on August 14, 2020. Educational institutions may wish to consider including language in new policies and procedures allowing quick changes if a challenge to the regulations proves successful. This would allow a return to governing documents currently in effect without normal delays inherent in educational policymaking if warranted by a court ruling.

Continue Reading Don’t Count on Lawsuits to Save Schools from the New Title IX Regs

It seems like all we talk about these days in the Title IX world is sexual harassment, as we scramble to implement new Title IX regulations that go into effect in August. Yet, this week brought significant news with respect to another side of Title IX—the rights of transgender students under the Federal law.

In a Letter of Impending Enforcement Action from May that came to light yesterday, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) threatened to take away federal funding from six Connecticut public high schools and the state’s athletics conference for allowing “biologically male” transgender female students to compete on girls athletic teams, which OCR found violates the Title IX rights of the cisgender female students on the teams. According to OCR, female students, unlike their male counterparts, were denied the ability to compete “on a level playing field” in athletics by not being allowed to compete against only cisgender female students.

We know that the Department has been pulling back on Title IX protections for transgender students for some time, so why is this news? Because as Title IX has become less useful for transgender advocates, they have turned to state laws (including in Illinois), which have been instrumental in the fight for access to facilities and activities based on gender identity in recent years.

Federal law generally preempts state law, however, so if Title IX prohibits providing equal access because of impacts on cisgender female students, schools may be required to disregard state law to avoid violating Title IX. Although the OCR decision appears to be limited to the realm of athletics, we have come to learn that with OCR these days, nothing is certain. This OCR letter, coupled with an imminent decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in the Title VII case Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, threaten to drastically upset the certainty for educational institutions regarding the laws governing transgender rights in schools.
Continue Reading More Title IX Turmoil: OCR Athletics Decision Puts Transgender Rights in Flux

Although some suggest that the Title IX rules issued earlier this month are a boon for schools, colleges, and universities, those of us working to help schools comply with the new rules know that they are anything but a blessing to educational institutions. Among the many prescriptive and confusing measures that will reign when the rules become effective on August 14, schools will be required to comply with numerous detailed procedural requirements to respond to a “formal complaint” of sexual harassment. The rules limit the ways in which a formal complaint can be initiated. Specifically, only an alleged victim of sexual harassment (a “complainant”) can “file” a formal complaint, which must be written. But a Title IX Coordinator also has the authority to “sign” a formal, written complaint. Either path initiates the formal complaint process required by the rules. Because OCR has made clear that it will scrutinize the decision to sign a complaint under the same standards as it will any other portion of an institution’s response to sexual harassment, schools, colleges, and universities must ensure they understand what factors a Title IX Coordinator should consider—and those they absolutely should not—when deciding whether to sign a formal complaint under the new rules.


Continue Reading A “Sign” of Things to Come: Title IX Coordinators and “Signing” Complaints