Cyberbullying is nothing new. A majority of teens have experienced the phenomenon and college campuses certainly are not immune. Just because something is common does not make it simple to deal with, however. And this is especially true with cyberbullying when it is sex-based, because the complications of Title IX come into play. What are the key Title IX requirements to keep in mind when faced with a sex-based cyberbullying complaint?
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Last week, at an excellent and well-attended ATIXA conference at which I had the honor of speaking, ATIXA leadership reported hearing hints that the U.S. Department of Education intends to drop the new Title IX regulations at or near Thanksgiving. Why would they possibly do that? Because, as some speculate, we Americans are notoriously inattentive when we are stuffed with turkey and enjoying the company of our family and friends. If you’re going to release a cannonball of a regulation, the holidays are a great time to attempt to minimize the splash if ED wished to do so. Well, guess what? That prophecy looks like it might have some teeth.
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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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In our recent training on Title IX Foundations and Investigation Techniques here at Franczek P.C., we discussed that schools often use informal processes for certain types of sex discrimination complaints. Whether some concerns are less serious (verbal bullying versus sexual assault, for instance) or there are perceived benefits of having administrators familiar with a particular population of students conduct investigations (e.g., deans of students), there certainly are many conceivably appropriate reasons for having different paths for different types of Title IX complaints. From my experience investigating Title IX complaints at OCR, schools frequently do this and doing so does not always create a Title IX concern. But a recent court decision from the higher education context provides some important reminders for schools at all levels of best practices for such informal paths to Title IX compliance.

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