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Conducting Initial Assessments in K-12 Schools Under Title IX

By: Dan Fotoples, J.D., Senior Content Developer

A challenging aspect of the Title IX Coordinator’s role is performing initial assessments. The initial assessment takes place after an individual submits a report or a Formal Complaint, when the Title IX Coordinator determines appropriate next steps and analyzes how best to proceed. The Title IX Coordinator needs to assess where and how to direct the complaint for resolution. First, the Title IX Coordinator must consider the allegations to determine whether all the Title IX jurisdictional elements exist. The jurisdictional elements include:

  • Who is the Complainant and are they participating or attempting to participate in the school’s education program?
  • Who is the Respondent and does the school have control over their actions?
  • Does the school or district have control over the context in which harassment took place or is taking place?
  • Did the alleged conduct take place in the United States?
  • Does the alleged conduct meet one of the definitions of Title IX Sexual Harassment?

If all jurisdictional elements are present, and a party has filed a Formal Complaint, then the Title IX Coordinator should follow the school’s Title IX procedures. If any jurisdictional elements are absent, then the Title IX Coordinator does not need to follow the Title IX procedures and the school may use a different process to address the alleged behavior, or can choose not to address the conduct, but still may need to provide supportive measures. The Title IX Coordinator must dismiss any Formal Complaint, in writing, if any of the Title IX jurisdictional elements above do not apply.

Whatever the outcome of your jurisdictional analysis, it is important to document the decision and the rationale underlying the decision. A simple internal memo or note in the case file should suffice. This all happens as soon as the intake or formal complaint occurs, and before the formal investigation is opened by the issuance of the Notice of Investigation and Allegations (NOIA). Sometimes, the answers to the jurisdiction questions above are apparent from the complaint, and in other cases, the Title IX Coordinator may need to meet with the parties and/or parents to learn more or may need to conduct some initial level of inquiry to ascertain whether the school has jurisdiction.

Next in the initial assessment, the Title IX Coordinator will need to determine the scope of the investigation. Doing so will help guide the grievance process and provide the investigator with necessary guideposts and parameters. Does the complaint allege an isolated incident, a pattern of alleged misconduct, or a climate issue?

Depending on the answer, the Title IX Coordinator may consider whether informal resolution is appropriate, whether the parties are open to resolving the allegations informally, and whether the Title IX Coordinator believes the behaviors alleged are appropriately resolved under informal proceedings. For example, the Title IX regulations specifically bar the use of informal resolution in cases where a student is accusing an employee. There are several factors that weigh into the decision whether to pursue formal resolution, including but not limited to the severity of the alleged behavior and the likelihood informal resolution would be successful.

Remember, once the Title IX Coordinator determines that the allegations fall within Title IX jurisdiction, the regulations then require prompt written notification via the NOIA to all parties, including a description of the procedures for resolving the allegations. The Title IX regulations very clearly lay out the many required elements of an NOIA letter.

Finally, throughout the initial assessment, the Title IX Coordinator will also need to assess whether the allegations justify considering the emergency removal or administrative leave procedures with respect to the respondent. Additionally, the Title IX Coordinator, as the process yields more information, may need to continually assess jurisdiction. If new information indicates that the school does not have jurisdiction, the Title IX Coordinator is required to dismiss the complaint at that time, subject to appeal rights required by the regulations.

eTraining for K-12 Coordinators

As you can see, the initial assessment phase requires complex and multi-faced analysis. Fortunately, ATIXA can provide you with the tools to succeed with confidence.

Our new eTraining course for K-12 Coordinators explores the ins and outs of initial assessment, jurisdiction, NOIA letters, emergency removal, and more to provide you with a solid foundation to execute the Title IX Coordinator role. Our eTraining courses combine the flexibility of asynchronous modular learning with the expertise of our expert ATIXA faculty in a very engaging format. The K-12 Coordinator: Foundations certification course is perfect for K-12 Title IX Coordinators looking for go-at-your-own-pace professional development opportunities to complete throughout their summer.

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