The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) has issued a Dear Colleague Letter (“DCL”) to superintendents, presidents, and other senior officials of educational institutions reminding them of their obligation to designate a Title IX coordinator and to support the coordinator fully in efforts to ensure the institution is in compliance with Title IX.
Recognizing that “some of the most egregious and harmful Title IX violations occur when a recipient fails to designate a Title IX coordinator or when a Title IX coordinator has not been sufficiently trained or given the appropriate level of authority to oversee the recipient’s compliance with Title IX,” the DCL reminds institutions that a Title IX coordinator is essential. Also released with the DCL, dated April 24, 2015, is a letter to Title IX coordinators as well as a Resource Guide for them, outlining considerations in selecting a coordinator, describing the coordinator’s duties, responsibilities, and authority, and reminding institutions of the importance of supporting coordinators by ensuring that they are visible in the educational community and receive appropriate training.
Regarding the selection of a Title IX coordinator, the OCR urges recipients to avoid designating an employee whose other job responsibilities may create a conflict of interest, such as a disciplinary board member or the institution’s general counsel, dean of students, superintendent, principal, or athletics director. The DCL states the coordinator’s role should be independent of other roles within the educational community to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. Rather, the coordinator should have a direct reporting line to the institution’s senior leadership.
Although not required by Title IX, OCR suggests, particularly for larger institutions, designating multiple coordinators – one for each building, school, or campus – with a “lead coordinator” who has ultimate oversight responsibility.
Also, emphasizing that the Title IX coordinator’s primary responsibility is to coordinate the recipient’s compliance with Title IX, the DCL and accompanying Resource Guide specifically outline the coordinator’s responsibilities, duties, and authority. Finally, regarding the need for visibility and training, the DCL and Resource Guide recommend that the contact information for the Title IX coordinator be given in title form with a reference to a general email address to avoid the necessity and expense of updating materials every time a new coordinator is appointed. However, the DCL notes that electronic resources should specify the name and specific contact information for the current Title IX coordinator. Should an institution choose to designate multiple coordinators, the contact information for all coordinators, as well as any instructions for reporting to a specific coordinator, should be included on the notices.
Additionally, recognizing that many students turn to electronic resources for information, the DCL suggests that institutions have a separate webpage, linked from the main website, which includes specific contact information for the Title IX coordinator(s), policies and procedures for filing Title IX complaints, and resources available for complainants. Also, because of the increased use of social media for information, OCR suggests institutions make contact information for the Title IX coordinator(s) available on social media to the extent that social media is used by the institution.