Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program or activity. Sexual harassment is a form of prohibited sex discrimination. The following are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about sexual harassment. See FindLaw's Discrimination at School section to learn more.
There are two types of sexual harassment. In quid pro quo harassment, a school employee conditions a student's participation in a program or activity or bases an education decision on the student's submission to requests for sexual favors, or other verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. A hostile environment is created when sexually harassing conduct, such as requests for sexual favors or physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature, is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive to limit a student's ability to participate in a program or activity.
A teacher or other school employee could harass a student. In addition, other students as well as third parties are potential harassers. Third parties would include people who are not employees or students at the school but may be legitimately on the school premises.
Sexual harassment does not include legitimate nonsexual touching or other nonsexual conduct. For example, an elementary school teacher could give a consoling hug to a child who scraped his elbow; this is not considered sexual harassment. Similarly, a volleyball coach could hug a team member who scored the winning point. But, in some circumstances, nonsexual conduct may rise to the level of sexual harassment. For example, a volleyball coach hugging a player under inappropriate circumstances could create a hostile environment.
Both male and female students are protected under Title IX from sexual harassment engaged in by a school's employees, other students, or third parties. Sexual harassment is prohibited even if the harasser and the person being harassed are members of the same sex.
Title IX does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
It depends on the type of harassment and who does it. A school will always be liable for quid pro quo harassment if the harasser is a school employee in a position of authority. A school's liability for hostile environment sexual harassment depends on whether the harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive and whether the employee appeared to be acting on behalf of the school.
A school may be liable if: a hostile environment exists in the school's programs or activities; the school knows or should have known of the harassment; and the school fails to take immediate and appropriate action to stop the harassment.
The student or his or her parents should immediately report the incident. The student should be assured that no actions will be taken against the student for reporting the incident.
A student can request that his or her name not be disclosed. A student can also request that nothing be done about the harassment. The student should be informed that the student's request might limit the school's ability to respond to the complaint.
The parent should consult an attorney.