- Occidental College Conceals Sexual Assaults
- No discrimination found in Jackson State case
- Temple University Cuts Seven Teams
- Breaking news: Former OU grad student loses case
- No charges for Winston; for FSU?
- Was FSU delinquent in investigation?
- Harassment cases roundup
- Colorado State University's Athletic Scholarships Found to Violate Title IX
- Title IX Violations Alleged at Amherst and Vanderbilt
- Montana HS Football Program Mishandled Funds to Avoid Title IX
- More evidence at Tennessee
- Whitman College Debate Team Addresses Title IX Issues
- OCR Concludes Independent Title IX Investigation of SUNY System
- Ottawa College to add wrestling
- A new complaint and activist connections across colleges
- UConn Women File Sexual Assault Complaint
- Know Your IX (in less than 90 seconds!)
- In Forthcoming Article, Law Professors Argue Public Single-Sex Education is Unconstitutional
- Girls charged as juveniles in Florida bullying case
- Title IX Godmother Inducted to Hall of Fame
- Fault admitted in California
- Settlement Binds D.C. Public Schools to Compliance Plan
- Students Claim Retaliation for Complaining About Hazing Assault
- Agreements reached...
- Straight Talk from Rutgers AD on NCAA Stipend Proposal
Occidental College in Los Angeles has been publically associated with campus sexual assault since April, when it was the subject of a high-profile Title IX complaint with the Department of Education that challenged the way it handles reports of sexual violence. This fall, the college admitted to underreporting instances of reported sexual assault as required by the Clery Act, but the extent of that underreporting was recently exposed by investigative reporters at the L.A. Times, who found 27 additional assaults that the college did not disclose in 2012, beyond the two dozen that the college originally acknowledged had been omitted from their reports. The Times article further reports that "dozens more" may have also been ignored by the Dean of Students because they were filed anonymously. The Times reporters also reviewed the initial complaint, and report that it accuses Occidentals President, Dean of Students, and General Counsel of deterring students from reporting sexual violence and retaliating against those that do. For example, an official in the Dean of Students office allegedly tried to talk a victim out of reporting, saying "Are you sure you really want to go through with this? It is a really long and hard process, and it may cause you more pain and suffering." Occidentals continued response to the issues of sexual assault since last springs complaint has also drawn criticism. A professor told the Times that the campus safety logs, while now include anonymous complaints, regularly "downgrade" sexual assault to sexual battery. In an even more bizarre example of obstructionism, the General Counsel, who has since resigned, reportedly organized a group of male student-athletes to stand up for themselves against anti-rape "activists."While Occidental paid a financial settlement to the initial complainants in order to prevent them from filing a lawsuit, the Department of Educations investigation is still underway. An enforcement action by the agency could subject the College to fines and other requirements to remedy violations of Title IX and the Clery Act.
Former Jackson State basketball coach Denise Taylor won part of her lawsuit against the university last week. The jury found that there was breach of contract in Taylors case but did not find evidence of discrimination or retaliation. Taylor, in her claim against her former employer, stated that she was fired after threatening to file a Title IX complaint. Taylor will received $182,000; the amount left on her contact at the time she was fired. None of the published reports discussed the evidence provided at the trial by either side, only that both called former JSU players to testify. the university contended that Taylor had misappropriated funds and engaged in "sexual gender stereotyping."
On Friday, officials at Temple University announced that they were cutting seven athletic teams, reducing their varsity sport programs from 24 to 17. The board of trustees made the decision recently at an emergency meeting, though it is also reported that it followed a "seven month detailed analysis." According to a spokesperson, the motivation for cutting teams was the institutions inability to provide "the quality of student athlete care that we would like to have for a Division 1 athletic program with this amount of sports being sponsored" and that they also considered finances, facilities, and Title IX compliance. I looked at Temples reported athletics data in order to evaluate the likely role Title IX played in the decision. Presently, the schools student body is 51.3% female, and it offers 49.2% of athletic opportunities to women. These numbers are close enough that Temple could make a strong case for compliance with the proportionality prong. So theres no basis to believe that Title IX played a strong role in the decision to make cuts in the first place. In fact, the universitys stated rationale of having too many teams, more than it can afford to maintain at a high level of quality, rings true given that 24 varsity programs is above average (20) for a Division I school in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Moreover, Temples cuts affect both mens and womens teams: baseball, softball, mens and womens rowing, mens gymnastics, mens indoor track and field and mens outdoor track and field, a total of 172 for men and 84 opportunities for women, producing a distribution of athletic opportunities that are 59% female, 41% male. If Title IX was a dominant consideration, the cuts would have stopped at a ratio much closer to 51.3% female, 49.2% male. Given the minor role that Title IX seems to have played, the cuts seem more likely to belie the speculation that Temples new athletic administration is "betting big on football," which would explain the elimination of teams as way to redistribute financial support to it biggest team, which is losing both games (2-10) and money right now.
The 5-year case of a former doctoral student who sued the University of Oregon under Title IX is now over. In her lawsuit, the student claimed the College of Education retaliated against her after she complained about the lack of female faculty in the department. At that point, she claimed, faculty members refused to work with her thus preventing her from completing her degree. There is very little news about the case right now. The brief report I read said the judge concluded that sex discrimination and retaliation were not successfully proven. (It also continues to perpetuate the myth that this is the first case where Title IX has been used to address an issue outside of athletics. Hopefully the local news outlets in Eugene will remedy this in future stories.)
Just when my conspiracy theories were starting to foment, the Florida State Attorneys office announced that it will not bring charges against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. So although the investigation by this office took a long time given that the incident was reported just under a year ago, investigators did not wait until FSU was safely through football season to release the report. Of course the findings, as presented, were good for Winston and, by extension, the FSU football community. (One student fan, a sport management major, said the last few weeks have been quite stressful.) The investigative process itself was problematic (length of time to complete/act), the way the accuser is being treated is more discouraging. Unconfirmed reports that she and her family were encouraged not to make an issue of this in a football town in combination with the reports that she has memory lapses in regards to the events of that night and was drinking at a bar all create a disconcerting feeling about this case. Given the stories we are hearing from college women across the country regarding how they are treated by officials when they report sexual assault, it is not hard to imagine that the accuser was either not taken seriously or ignored. (She has since left the university.) And though Winston has been cleared, the university is not free and clear. A lawsuit or complaint could put the spotlight on the universitys policies around and procedures for handling reports of sexual assault.
When we hear about charges of sexual assault against a male athlete, we usually get details about how police investigations are proceeding or when charges may or may not be brought, potential penalties, etc. Some of this is happening in regards to the accusations of sexual assault against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. For example, prosecutors investigating the claims (almost a year after they were brought to the Tallahassee police which encouraged the alleged victim to not pursue the issue) say that they will not let the football schedule (or the fact that Winston is a Heisman contender) influence the pace of the investigation which seems to be moving slowly. Though, I would think this would be beneficial to Winston and FSU generally. Nothing formal happening while FSU could contend for the national championship would seem like a good thing him and the team and the school. Alas, the school itself is under scrutiny because the victim reported the incident, which Winston states was consensual after it was leaked that his DNA was found on the accusers underwear, when it happened--a year ago. The school was supposed to, under Title IX, investigate within a 60-day window. It is unclear whether that happened, but concern is certainly raised by a school investigation that would be still be ongoing a year later. School officials seemed to suggest that investigations and their pace are a case-by-case consideration, which is actually not the case. And given, well the law, and the visibility of so many instances of institutional indifference and mishandling of sexual assault cases, no school can claim that they just didnt know. So whatever happens with the criminal investigation, the accuser might have a case against FSU.
Here are summaries of November decisions in Title IX sexual harassment cases: A federal judge in Massachusetts refused to dismiss a Title IX case against Stoughton Public Schools, stemming from an incident in which students circulated nude photographs of the female student plaintiff, precipitating name-calling like "slut" and "whore." The judge agreed that the plaintiffs allegations, if proven to a jury, could satisfy both the requirement of hostile environment, given that many students were involved and that the hostility was prolonged over many months, as well as deliberate indifference, since the plaintiff claims that the school did not impose any discipline on the students involved, or even call their parents. Doe v. Town of Stoughton, 2013 WL 6195794 (D. Mass. Nov. 25, 2013). A federal judge in Arizona determined that a graduate student plaintiffs entire Title IX claim against the Arizona Board of Regents was timely, even though some of the instances of harassment and retaliation she experienced after breaking off a relationship with a faculty member were outside the two-year statute of limitations. Hostile environment harassment claims constitute a "continuing violation." Under this designation, since some components of her hostile environment claim took place within two years before she filed suit, the court will consider the entire timeline of harassing events. Kunzi v. Arizona Board of Regents, 2013 WL 6178210 (D. Ariz. Nov. 25, 2013). Similarly, a case against the University of Michigan was allowed to proceed despite a motion for the university that argued that the case was untimely. There, the plaintiff, a female engineering graduate student, alleged that she was subjected to severe and pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination by her male peers, as well as retaliation by university faculty and employees. The court denied the universitys motion to dismiss because even though the harassment began earlier than the statute of limitations period, the plaintiff alleged some instances of harassment, deliberate indifference, and retaliation that occurred within the limitations period. Dibbern v. University of Michigan, 2013 WL 6068808 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 18, 2013). A students Title IX case against the Board of Education in Prince Georges County, Maryland, was dismissed after a court ruled that a reasonably juror could not find evidence of deliberate indifference on the part of school officials. In this case, the plaintiff was sexually assaulted by another boy after experiencing (and reporting) several earlier instances of sexualized misconduct by that same boy. Yet school officials responded to each earlier instance in a reasonable manner, addressing them by such means as talking to the offending student, assigning the offending student to separate classes, requiring that he serve a five-day in-school suspension. According to the court, imposing liability on the school on these facts would discourage schools from imposing any punishment other than expulsion for any instance of sexual harassment regardless of its nature. Doe v. Bd. of Educ. of Prince Georges County, 2013 WL 6065269 (D. Md. Nov. 18, 2013). A female wrestlers Title IX claim against her school district can go forward, after a court determined that her complaint adequately alleged that she had put proper school officials on notice of sexualized and gender-biased harassing comments by the wrestling teams two assistant coaches. Moeck v. Pleasant Valley Sch. Dist., 2013 WL 6048131 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 14, 2013).
The Department of Educations Office for Civil Rights recently confirmed that it had found Colorado State University in violation of Title IX by offering too few athletic scholarships to its female student-athletes. The law requires scholarship dollars to be proportionate to the gender ratio of athletes. 48.5% of CSUs student athletes are female, but women receive 42.73% of the universitys athletic scholarship dollars. The school has reportedly decided to correct this inequity by replacing its womens water polo team with a womens soccer team, because the NCAA allows up to 14 scholarships in womens soccer, while only 8 in womens water polo. University officials explained that they lacked the financial resources to keep water polo _and _add another womens sport to which it could allocate more scholarship money. Theres no mention of CSU having considered scaling back scholarship dollars available for mens sports. This would be permissible under NCAA rules, which only cap scholarships and do not require them.
Last week, Amherst College in Massachusetts and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee were each alleged to have violated Title IX in they way they handled students reports of campus sexual assault. On Thursday, six Vanderbilt students filed a complaint with the Department of Educations Office for Civil Rights. As an example of Vanderbilts alleged violation, one of the complainants states that the university did not take any action against the students alleged stalker once they had pressured her into letting the school handle it rather than going to the police. That same day, two Amherst students filed a similar complaint. One of the allegations it contained is that the school responded to a report of rape by admitting the victim to a hospital psych ward while letting the accused student go unpunished. While Vanderbilt is a new name on the list of institutions with apparently problematic sexual assault policies and practices, Amherst has been the poster-college for this issue since last fall, when a student editorial accused the college of suppressing reporting by victims and treating accused students with leniency. Since then, the college has been responding by revising its policies and by hiring a fill time Title IX Coordinator. I think that OCR will look favorably on these efforts in any investigation and compliance action that might be forthcoming in response to the complaint. At the same time, the agencys involvement will likely help ensure that the changes promised by the college are both substantive and lasting.
The Manhattan (Montana) School District is reportedly under fire from the states interscholastic athletic association after officials there received a tip that the high school football coach was hiding the proceeds of a team fundraiser to avoid having to comply with Title IX. Over the last three years, head coach Dale McQueary has withheld $8400 from a team fundraiser (selling gift cards) in order to spend that money without authorization. His subterfuge included getting students to falsify the number of cards they had ostensibly sold. This financial mismanagement violates state athletic association rules that requires fundraising proceeds to be reported, so that the school district can ensure that athletic spending overall is equitable on the basis of gender. The coach purchased equipment and meals for his team from this secret stash, ensuring that his team received benefits that necessarily would have been _on top of _whatever the school had determined was footballs fair share. Now that the coachs action has been exposed, the state athletic association has asked the school superintendent to present a "corrective plan" for the associations approval. The association could also impose any number of penalties ranging from a public reprimand to suspension and forfeiture of games. Meanwhile, however, the school districts reaction to McQueary has come under fire. Parents successfully challenged the schools decision to suspend McQueary from his coaching position for the remainder of the season, so that he would be available to coach the teams final game. (Really parents!?) And McQueary is reportedly challenging the schools decision not to reinstate him as coach next year.
The attention to issues of sex discrimination within University of Tennessee athletics a year ago waned rather quickly, but the department and university is coming back into the media spotlight with news that additional. The two lawsuits filed against the university emerged after complaints of inequitable pay between employees in the mens and womens athletic departments respectively--which Tennessee attempted to justify. The "football makes money defense" is not likely to hold up in court, though. Also not helping the Vols is the current lack of female leadership in the merged athletic department. In addition to the dismal numbers (which includes a below average percentage of female head coaches at 38.5) are the stories of former employees. It seems that the narrative about Pat Summitt being pushed out of her head coaching job will come under additional scrutiny should the lawsuits go to trial. Also, one of the plaintiffs, during the merger process, was told not to bother applying for the new merged position in media relations because the football coach would not work with a woman. Usually proving discrimination is much more difficult; but when it is announced, well.... The discrimination is quite pronounced as noted by lawyer Kristin Galles, a Title IX expert: "its all so obvious. Its a window into the discriminatory decision-making that happens every day in college athletics. And the fact that its happening at a school like this really highlights the extent to which discrimination is a problem everywhere." The merger is a case study in discrimination within athletic departments.
Now, whether it actually makes it to the courts is uncertain. It would likely be a big media relations disaster for the university given what we have already learned from court filings. And if the dominant narrative that comes out is about how one of the most revered coaches in basketball was forced out of her job against her will, that will be even worse for Tennessee and call into question all the praise they have heaped on Summitt and the credit they have received for advancing womens athletics more generally.
The college newspaper at Whitman College in Washington state reported in some detail on some Title IX issues that have arisen in the context of their competitive debate team. According to a recent article, the debate team was the subject of a Title IX complaint filed in August. (The article does not mention OCR, so I am interpreting this to mean an internal complaint.) The specific contents of the complaint have not been disclosed, but the resulting investigation has prompted the university to suspend the teams travel privileges, which is a big deal to the team since it means forfeiting fall and winter tournaments. Additionally, the team has committed itself to a plan to address what it admits is a "a culture and climate of inequality, particularly for women." The team has agreed to develop stronger policies addressing harassment and inclusion, to participate in training and education sessions conducted with an external expert on sex and race discrimination, to recruit in a manner designed to attract a more diverse team, and to support female students coming up through high school debate programs. In addition, the teams published plan of action includes such specific measures as agreeing to conduct all official team functions in an alcohol-free environment, to provide a more formal mentoring of younger students, and even to use headphones "when listening to music that might be perceived as offensive." When we talk about Title IX issues in the context of particular student organizations or teams, it is usually fraternities and athletic teams that we focus on. This article reminds us that those organizations do not have a monopoly on the kind of climate that supports exclusion, hostility, harassment, and even violence towards women. Its also a good lesson how to customize a remediation plan to the particulars of an institution. The students who developed that plan had clearly engaged in some detailed introspection into what unique aspects of their culture (e.g., music with offensive lyrics; the particular places where they recruit for members) need to be addressed. It would be great if all student groups could proactively engage in this kind of soul-searching, rather than in response to a complaint. At the same time, the fact that a student felt comfortable filing this complaint, and that it was effective in generating this kind of response, is a sign that Whitman College is doing something right.
In December 2010, the Department of Educations Office for Civil Rights initiated an independent investigation of Title IX compliance at the State University of New York System and its twenty-nine campuses, to evaluate their policies and practices regarding sexual harassment and assault. (An independent investigation is one that is not prompted by a complaint, but by OCRs own initiative.) Yesterday, the agency announced some findings of noncompliance and published the resolution agreement that SUNY has committed itself to in order to ensure compliance going forward. Here is a summary of some of the major compliance issues addressed in the findings and the agreement: * The SUNY System and some of the SUNY campuses did not have designated Title IX Coordinators, so the Agreement requires SUNY to ensure that SUNY’s administrative office and each SUNY campus has designated a Title IX Coordinator, and that notice is provided to students and staff ofthat persons contact information. The agreement requires the SUNY System to revise its grievance procedures, as well as the individual campus procedures, to ensure that these comply with the requirements of Title IX. In addition to looking at written policies, OCR examined how four of the 29 SUNY campuses handled reported cases in recent years. OCR found several problems with the Systems procedures, including not expressly stating their application to complaints of sexual harassment committed by third parties, not include assurances "that SUNY will take steps to prevent further harassment and correct its discriminatory effects, as appropriate," not providing express protection against retaliation for reporting sexual harassment; failing to include examples of harassing conduct and a definition of sexual assault/violence; and failing to address interim measures for keeping the complainant safe during the investigation and resolution of her complaint, among other problems. * The individual campus-wide procedures contained many of the same problems, as well as such additional issues as failing to ensure a prompt time frame for investigating complaints or a full independent investigation of a students complaint, not using a preponderance of evidence standard for evaluating evidence against the accused student, and not providing notice of a hearings or notice of outcomes to the complaining student as well as the accused student. * The four campuses selected for review of recent complaints will reexamine those complaints to determine whether each as handled according to procedures as required by Title IX. Those schools must take appropriate action to correct the problems identified. * The agreement calls for enhanced training of all staff responsible for recognizing and reporting incidents of sexual harassment, and to people with Title IX compliance and implementation responsibilities, as well as campus-wide training directed at students to teach them how to recognize and report sexual harassment and sexual assault. * Each campus will conduct annual climate checks and report results to OCR for the next three years.
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 womens and mens 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 womens wrestling can help preserve Title IX compliance and, at times, mens 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 womens wrestling, which continues to grow.
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 Tedescos 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, Ive 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.
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.
The Know Your IX activists have produced this video which is a quick guide to an individuals legal rights and a schools responsibility. (More detailed information is at their website.)
Professors David Cohen and Nancy Levits 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.”
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 victims 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.
Over the weekend, Title IX advocate Bernice Sandler was inducted to the National Womens 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 Womens 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." Shes been a defender of the law and an advocate for its enforcement ever since, and today serves as a senior scholar at the Womens Research and Education Institute in Washington. Congratulations to Dr. Sandler for this most deserved honor!
Both Occidental College and the University of South 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.
Well we arent expecting much news from the Department of Educations 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 citys 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 Womens Law Center on similar grounds remains pending. It is not yet clear how the recent settlement will affect the resolution of that case.
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 Boards 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 institutions _failure _to address the underlying offense. Its hard to imagine what would motivate the school to retaliate against the girls if it indeed took seriously their reports of the offense.
...in Portland, Maine where an investigation by OCR found that girls received fewer opportunities for participation in interscholastic sports than their male peers. The investigation also revealed some disparities in facilities. Under the agreement, the district will add girls volleyball for the 2014-15 season and ensure equitable locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities. Administrators will also begin a process of assessing whether the district meets either prong one (proportionality) or prong three (interest) in determining the sport opportunities girls in Portlands schools receive. ...in the Union County (South Carolina) School District. Interestingly chairperson of the school board BJ McMorris announced at a meeting last week that OCR found no merit to a complaint filed in December 2012. Curious announcement given that a voluntary resolution agreement would not seem necessary for a complaint with no merit. Sure, some things will be improved, the public was told at last weeks meeting, but nothing was ever really wrong was the message (along with a little passing of the buck--see below). One of the issues with the resolution agreement process is the "no fault" aspect. Whatever semantic dance administrators--at all levels--are doing, an agreement means something was wrong that needs to be fixed. What happened in South Carolina was that one part of the complaint in which the complainant argued that there were gender-based differences in punishments meted out to student-athletes was found to have no merit. Other aspects of the complaint and the OCR investigation did not, however, find Union County to be in tip-top Title IX shape. Superintendent Kristi Woodall said she felt bad for the taxpayers who have to foot the bill for the work the district had to do compiling documents and otherwise accomodating OCR during the investigation. It was a throw-OCR-under-the-bus move. There have been plenty of times that OCR does not invesitgate a complaint because it does not seem to have merit. Woodall is blaming OCR for doing its job and not taking any responsibility for its own non-compliance. But OCR fired back seemingly immediately after the above-linked article was published in the local newspaper. A letter to the paper (which also bears some responsibility for not questioning a resolution to an proclaimed non-situation) included this statement: “...OCR’s investigation determined that the district failed to provide female athletes equal opportunities with respect to: equitable facilities, including practice and competitive softball fields; strength training facilities and locker rooms; laundering of uniforms; pregame meals; scheduling and number of games; and maintenance of uniforms. On Sept. 24, 2013, the district signed a Resolution Agreement to address these Title IX compliance concerns. OCR expects to issue a letter of findings, with accompanying Resolution Agreement, by the end of this week.” ...in Gloversville, New York after a January 2011 complaint triggered an OCR investigation. This is another case of spinning the situation with the superintendent of the Gloversville Enlarged School District saying that OCR found nothing wrong but that the district would be making some improvements. A project in which many of the districts fields and facilities were renovated dealt with some of the issues raised in the complaint, but the district will still be required to: schedule some girls softball games on the lighted fields, fix the drainage on the softball fields, and make sure that a shared field is properly prepared for each respective sport that uses it.
Rutgers University Athletic Director Julie Hermann was interviewed in the local press about the challenges of helping college athletes cover the true cost of education. Last year, the NCAA voted to allow Division I institutions to award $2000 cost-of-living stipends to those athletes already receiving a full scholarship, to cover the kind of incidentals outside of tuition, room and board. The plan was later rescinded but the concept is still under consideration. As Hermann notes, the original stipend plan was inequitable from the start in terms of gender, given that far more male athletes (those in so-called "headcount sports") than female receive full scholarships and would be eligible for the stipend. Counting the scholarships awarded in the headcount sports of mens football and basketball, Hermann notes, " you have $200,000 you can now award to your men, which is great. But that only gives you $60,000 that you can award on the women’s side [in volleyball and basketball]. You’re automatically $140,000 off.” Theres not an obvious fix, it seems. Simply expanding eligibility to include equivalency sports, Hermann explains, would tremendously increase the total cost to institutions of funding the stipend. People view the stipends as a way to share the profits with the athletes whose efforts generate those funds. But most university athletic departments, even those with football programs, are not profiting on athletics. Hermann notes that many football programs dont even turn a profit. So the money for the stipends is coming from the university (tuition) or elsewhere in the athletics budget. So the possible consequence is that universities will cut equivalency sports in order to be able to pay out stipends to everyone else -- something Hermann doesnt want to see. Another challenge with the stipends, it appears, is that theres some evidence suggesting the students who received them didnt spend them as intended: "They’re buying a $500 pair of jeans that you and I don’t spend money on. So yes we could make them a card, but you have to teach them financial management. We’re trying to feed and clothe you, give you everything you need (via the stipend), but we’re not trying to make you into fashionistas." Hermanns right that theres no easy answer to the fundamental questions of fairness that underlie this issue. Its good to know that athletic directors like Hermann are cognizant of the gender equity implications as well as the potential implications for equivalency sports. Her remarks suggest that for most schools, stipends are not the answer, and will only drive an additional wedge between athletes in some sports that happen to be popular with the public and others that are not. Its becoming increasingly difficult to imagine an NCAA that governs the handful of profit-earning institutions along with everybody else.