Most of us have been anxiously awaiting word from the Biden administration about plans to revise/revamp Title IX. While some issues related to Title IX have been addressed in recent Executive Orders (i.e. gender discrimination/harassment), the question of whether the Department of Education’s New Rule on Title IX (New Rule) effective in August 2020 will remain, change, or be rescinded remains unanswered. However, it is important to keep in mind that the New Rule on Title IX remains in effect and has the force of law.
Among the many requirements in the New Rule are certain topics that must be included in trainings of Title IX Coordinators, investigators, decision-makers, and staff. While it is possible that your trainings included these topics in the past, it is imperative that you cover these topics in your upcoming trainings and ideally cover them in a way the topics will be easily identified in a cursory review of the trainings,must be posted on your website.
The following three (3) topics must be included in your trainings:
- Conflict of Interest
Prior to the 2020 New Rule, the focus on conflict of interest in the Title IX space often explored the potential conflicts in the reporting structure of the office. In prior guidance, Title IX Coordinators were not permitted to report to conflicting offices such as the General Counsel. The reasoning was that an office tasked with protecting the institutions from liability could not properly supervise the Title IX office because its guidance would be focused on avoiding liability rather than supporting students.
The focus in the New Rule is on the more obvious conflicts that might occur in a Title IX investigation. For example, an instructor who has or had a student in the past may be conflicted out of serving on a hearing panel.
I would suggest that both of these areas of conflict are ones that should be addressed in your training. Staff needs to understand that the Title IX office is without conflict and in place to serve the community. Further, staff needs to understand the duty to bring up the issue of conflict when they serve in some decision-maker capacity. Students may raise these issues, and an employee can be removed from a role in the process in order to protect the nature of the impartiality.
- Avoiding Bias
Another training topic raised in the New Rule is that bias must be avoided in the Title IX process. Training on how to avoid bias should address both explicit and implicit bias and confront some sensitive areas for training participants. Many trainings reference and may use the implicit bias indicator, a free service from Harvard University’s Project Implicit. (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html) The most effective methods include examples and case studies that help individuals identify their own bias and how to avoid having this bias which may impact the decisions in a Title IX matter.
- Avoiding Stereotypes
Another important aspect of your training is to ensure that nothing in the training supports stereotypes. This area would extend to stereotypes about complainants (i.e. any victim who reports must be believed) and respondents (i.e. anyone accused must be responsible). While some community members may feel one way or the other, it is important that people who express these feeling are not part of the Title IX decision-making process. Further, stereotypes related to who brings these complaints (women) and against whom they are brought (men) should be dispelled in your training. It is also important to make sure that examples and case studies don’t default to hetero-normative examples only. In the end, anyone can be a victim or perpetrator of sexual harassment.
Title IX Consult, LLC can help you plan and deliver training for your Title IX Office. Training dates have been added for Title IX Coordinator, Investigator, and Decision-Makers training so check the homepage for upcoming events and registration information!