Public School vs. Private School and Title IX in Washington DC

The strict requirements that Title IX establishes for the handling of sexual misconduct allegations apply to any colleges and universities that receive any federal funding. Most institutions of higher education are federally-funded, whether they are public or private schools.

As a result, when considering public school vs. private school and Title IX in Washington DC, you need to be aware of how Title IX affects both types if you have been accused of an offense. Most schools, whether state or private, have student conduct codes that govern student behavior. When students accuse others of sexual misconduct on campus, student conduct code proceedings ensue.

As accusations of sexual misconduct can have severe consequences for your future, a Title IX defense lawyer may be able to help defend you against claims of wrongdoing and protect you from criminal and civil liability.

Private Schools and Federal Funding

Although private colleges, online colleges, and for-profit universities are not state-sponsored, they typically still receive federal funding. Private colleges often participate in federal financial aid programs, such as work-study programs, specific scholarship programs, and federal student loans.

Due to their receipt of federal funding, these colleges are subject to the mandates of Title IX, including the rules and procedures that govern complaints of sexual harassment, sexual violence, and other sexual misconduct.

When discussing private school vs. public school and Title IX in Washington DC, it becomes clear that most private schools and public schools must take specific steps when they become aware of—or should have been aware of—an incident of sexual harassment, sex or gender-based harassment, or similar sexual misconduct. These steps must include reasonable efforts to:

  • Address the behavior
  • Help remedy the consequences for those who experienced the behavior
  • Prevent the behavior from reoccurring in the future

Among other requirements, colleges must designate a Title IX coordinator, who is responsible for ensuring that the college has a process for handling sexual misconduct complaints that complies with Title IX. The schools also must have a dispute resolution or grievance procedure in place that addresses this type of complaint, although it need not be a separate procedure from non-Title IX concerns.

Guidance on Sexual Harassment and Violence Claims

Although Title IX outlawed gender and sex discrimination on all college campuses receiving federal funds, the law historically did not address the role of schools in sexual misconduct on campus. Beginning in 2011, however, the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance placing requirements on colleges under Title IX for handling complaints of sexual harassment, assault, rape, and related sexual misconduct.

As a result, both private and public schools receiving federal funding began taking steps to follow these directives. The current administration, however, has rescinded these guidance documents and released new proposed guidance for schools and universities for this Title IX issue. However, although the Department of Education issued those new guidelines in late fall 2017, many schools have not altered their already-existing policies and procedures.

New Title IX Guidelines for Schools

The new guidance document does not remove the responsibility of schools to provide clear procedures for addressing sexual misconduct. The lack of Washington DC Title IX and public school or private school distinctions concerning Title IX remains unchanged. However, the guidance does attempt to impose additional due process protections, which may be beneficial for students facing accusations of sexual misconduct.

For instance, the new guidance gives schools the choice of using the very low “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof or increasing the standard of proof by using a “clear and convincing” standard, not only in sexual harassment and misconduct cases, but in all student disciplinary cases. This higher standard increases the evidence necessary for schools to find student conduct code violations concerning sexual harassment or misconduct.

Understanding Allegations in Private Schools or Public schools

There is no distinction between public school vs. private school and Title IX in Washington DC for those schools who receive federal funding. This means that all schools have the same responsibilities when it comes to the duty of handling student misconduct complaints under Title IX.

As a result, all schools, except the very few that participate in no federal funding programs, must comply with the requirements of Title IX. This includes hiring a coordinator and establishing procedures to fairly and efficiently handle these complaints. As these procedures often remain more favorable to the complainant as opposed to the accused, students facing allegations of student misconduct on campus may wish to seek the help of legal counsel. A qualified attorney could explain your rights and work tirelessly to protect them.