Schools are still learning what new Title IX regulations handed down from U.S. Department of Education last week mean for them as they continue dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The new rules revamp and clarify policies focused on when and how schools handle claims of sexual harassment or assault on campus.
Lisa Tanselle is an attorney with the Indiana School Boards Association. She says adjusting to the new regulations in less than three months – and during a pandemic – is going to be challenging for schools.
"To implement these rules when they take effect on Aug. 14, it is going to be a huge undertaking," she says.
Tanselle describes the new Title IX regulations as significant, and says they make the process for schools to follow more "prescriptive."
The new rules add more steps and people to the process of handling Title IX claims, as well as how often schools should be reporting those. The new rules include a requirement that K-12 schools take action for any employee who has been reported for sexual misconduct.
With the final rules announced just last week, school administrators are now working to begin the process of identifying, training, and hiring any new people who are needed to meet the new rules. Tanselle says the new rules will likely provide schools with a clear roadmap to what their responsibilities are if they end up handling claims of sexual misconduct.
But most of the new rules focus heavily on how colleges and universities respond, and as described by U.S. DOE, provides for a more "reliable adjudication process that is fair to all students."
Chuck Carney, spokesperson for Indiana University says staff members are still reviewing what changes the university will need to make before the Aug. 14 implementation deadline. But he says IU hopes efforts to prevent sexual assault or discrimination reduces how often the new processes are even used.
"We not only try to handle the cases that are brought to us but another part of the big effort is to ensure that these things don't happen if at all possible," Carney says.
The regulations cover several parts of Title IX law, including the way colleges and universities handle case hearings. The new rules, in part, will allow representatives for people accused of misconduct to cross examine witnesses in a live hearing.
A full summary of the new regulations can be found on the U.S. DOE's website.