Since the start of the #MeToo movement in 2017, educators and parents have watched to see how students would respond to resulting conversations about consent and power. Now, concerns about students’ access to help in vulnerable situations are being stoked anew amid the tumultuous U.S. Supreme Court confirmation process in which allegations of sexual assault have arisen.
Federal law allows for students to ask schools to address the fallout of a sexual assault under Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education.
Districts are required to have a Title IX coordinator, and larger systems may have campus-level coordinators at each school.
The coordinator’s contact information should be regularly shared and posted in schools, and he or she should have a visible role “to ensure that members of the school community know and trust that they can reach out to the coordinator for assistance.”
But districts often toss around the role of Title IX director “like a hot potato” and put very little effort into training and supporting staff members who take on the task, said Elizabeth Meyer, an associate professor of education at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
And students and their families often don’t know who their Title IX coordinator is—or that the role exists at all, she said.
Meyer and a team of researchers looked at districts in Colorado and California and found it was often difficult, or impossible, to locate Title IX coordinators on district websites, and sometimes that information was outdated.
In follow-up interviews with coordinators in eight districts, they found the role had been assigned to a variety of staff members, including administrators, superintendents, and athletic directors. Coordinators reported a lack of training and very little guidance about how to fulfill the job.
Several respondents said they didn’t know the role was part of their positions until they’d been on the job for more than six months.
Most interview subjects saw the task as one of compliance and responding to complaints rather than taking active steps to create a safe school environment, Meyer said. And some associated Title IX largely with gender equity in athletics.
A version of this article appeared in the October 03, 2018 edition of Education Week as Title IX Help for Students Hard to Find