Title IX: a guide for students

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Until recently, Title IX has been associated only with preventing gender discrimination in college athletics. Last May, the Education Department released a list of 55 colleges that were not in accordance with Title IX policy. Now more are realizing that Title IX scope extends also to include combating the sexual harassment of students, particularly on college campuses.

In 1972, the United States Department of Education amendment was passed and with it, Title IX.

According to the Department , Title IX “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities operated by recipients of Federal financial assistance.”

Title IX requires that, if schools are aware of student-on-student sexual harassment, steps are taken to eliminate the harassment, prevent any recurring incidents and address its effects.

In April 2011, the Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) was mailed to all colleges in United States from the Education Department and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). This letter listed all of the expectations that colleges must meet to maintain student safety; it especially focused on sexual assault and Title IX policies. The DCL ordered that colleges have one trained employee who is responsible for handling all reports of sexual misconduct on campus. Dr. Andy Pratt, [Director of the Center for Justice and Sustainability], was named the Title IX coordinator for William Jewell.

All reports of sexual misconduct are brought to his office, but reporting does not necessarily begin an investigation. A reporter has the option of continuing an investigation into the alleged sexual misconduct. When a reporter makes that choice, Pratt and his committee handle the investigation. Once Pratt has completed the report, Dr. Ann Dema, provost of the College, makes the decision to take punitive measures. However, if the person accused of sexual misconduct has been accused by others as well, an investigation will be conducted independent of the reporter’s decision to start an investigation, as part of the Title IX’s job is to recognize patterns that occur in reports. Both students and mandatory reporters can file a report of sexual misconduct. Mandatory reporters are employees of the College and include all faculty, staff and student staff members.

Pratt hopes that the new reporting policies will encourage a shift in cultural thinking about sexual assault.

“Sexual assault has many times gotten the silent treatment,” Pratt said.

Title IX enforces mandatory reporting from faculty, staff and some students on campus. These individuals are required by law to report any sexual misconduct that has occurred to either Ernie Stufflebean, Director of Residence Life, or to Pratt.

Lindsey Pollock, senior and Ely Hall Resident Assistant (RA), is a student and a mandatory reporter. Her role as an RA began before Title IX training was mandatory for RAs.

Pollock said that there is “more pressure on you to be aware of what’s going on.”

Trevor Nicks, an RA in Browning Hall, is also a student and a mandatory reporter. Since the release of the DCL and the appointment of Dr. Pratt to Title IX Coordinator, Title IX training has been included in RA training.

Nicks said, “Title IX has enhanced [his] role as an RA” and his knowledge of Title IX policies “makes me more aware of what is going on at all times.”

There are some employees of the College who are not mandatory reporters: Dr. Beth Gentry-Epley, Director of Counseling and Health Services, and Melissa Connor, campus nurse practitioner. The exception to this is if an individual reports the abuse of a minor, elderly or a disabled person.

The Office of Counseling and Health Services offers counseling options for students who have been sexually assaulted or harassed.

“We can help the person explore the pros and cons of what it might mean to report, but at the end of the day you’re in control and you get to decide that [whether or not to report]. There’s no pressure here,” Gentry-Epley said.

Students can schedule an appointment with Gentry-Epley or other staff members of the Office of Counseling and Health Services through email or phone. The office also provides off-campus referrals for students who are interested in receiving counseling from another source.

A reporter may contact the College’s Title IX Coordinator and the local police simultaneously. Title IX mandates that colleges and police forces work together and that a college’s investigation should not be put on hold or stopped completely if a police investigation has also begun. During the investigation process, a reporter can request that the reported be removed from his or her classes and only be allowed on campus at certain times. These steps are called “intra-measures,” and aim to make the reporter feel comfortable on campus.

After the investigation has been completed and the decision about punitive measurements has been made, both the reporter and the reported are notified in writing. The reporter has the option of appealing the decision if he or she does not feel that the punishment was adequate. However, both the reporter and the reported fall under a non-retaliatory clause and are asked to maintain confidentiality about the proceedings and outcome.

Jamie Wallen, senior, began volunteering for the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) last April. Wallen is a hospital advocate and helps guide a reporter during any hospital exams.

“You’re there as their [the reporter’s] advocate. You’re just going to give them any information they need,” she said.

MOCSA also offers advocates for students going through the reporting process of Title IX.

In September, all Jewell students will be required to complete a three-hour course called “Student Empower.” Students will receive the link for the program by email. This program will focus on educating students on what sexual consent is and when a person legally can or cannot give consent.

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