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Title IX

Secretary DeVos Announces New Civil Rights Initiative to Combat Sexual Assault in K-12 Public Schools Secretary DeVos Announces New Civil Rights Initiative to Combat Sexual Assault in K-12 Public Schools U.S. Department of Education sent this bulletin at 02/26/2020 01:09 PM EST Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page. February 26, 2020 Dear Superintendent: I am pleased to share the following information with you regarding an

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US Department of Education

February 26, 2020

Dear Superintendent:

I am pleased to share the following information with you regarding an important initiative within the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Today, Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that she has directed OCR to examine the problem of sexual assault in public elementary and secondary schools. As a part of this effort, OCR will focus on ensuring that school districts understand how to effectively respond, under Title IX, to complaints of sexual harassment and assault, including sexual acts perpetrated upon students by teachers, school staff, and personnel. I am writing to inform you of this initiative and to reiterate the significance of your efforts to ensure that every child has an opportunity to attend school free from concerns about sexual assault.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), 20 U.S.C §§ 1681 et seq. prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities operated by recipients of Federal financial assistance. Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination includes many forms of sexual harassment and assault, which can interfere with students’ right to receive an education free from discrimination on the basis of sex. Furthermore, OCR requires that schools and districts take appropriate steps to address sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and assault. The requirements of Title IX apply to incidents of sexual harassment and assault, including incidents that involve student-on-student misconduct and staff-on-student misconduct.

In 2019, OCR’s receipt of K-12 sexual harassment complaints—which includes complaints involving sexual violence—was nearly fifteen times greater than it was a decade ago in 2009. OCR’s initiative will provide focused support in how schools respond to complaints arising from sexual assault. This multi-faceted initiative will include different components that seek to strengthen OCR’s Title IX enforcement in elementary and secondary public schools in the area of sexual assault and sexual violence. Specifically, OCR will engage in the following activities related to this initiative:

  • Conducting Compliance Reviews: OCR will conduct compliance reviews in schools and school districts, examining how sexual assault cases, including sexual incidents involving teachers and school staff, are handled under Title IX. As a part of this process, OCR will identify compliance concerns and work with schools to correct any identified noncompliance.
  • Raising Public Awareness and Support: OCR will focus on raising awareness of the issues of sexual assault and sexual violence in K-12 schools, including making information available to parents and families. As a part of this initiative, OCR will provide assistance to districts to effectively handle sexual assault allegations under Title IX through technical assistance, training opportunities, and sharing Departmental resources.
  • Data Quality ReviewsOCR will conduct Data Quality Reviews (DQRs) of the sexual assault/sexual offenses data submitted by school districts through the Civil Rights Data Collection (CDRC).OCR will partner with the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to help districts accurately report sexual assault/sexual offenses through the CRDC.
  • New CRDC QuestionsOCR has proposed, for the 2019-2020 CRDC collection, to collect more detailed data on sexual assault. Significantly, the proposed collection would include data elements that require reporting incidents perpetrated by a school or staff member. This is the first time OCR has specifically proposed including such data in the CRDC data collection. The inclusion of this data—if included in the final CRDC survey for the 2019-2020 school year—would make the CRDC collection the first universal collection to gather such data, systematically, by school.[1]

I recognize and appreciate your efforts to ensure that all students are safe and benefit from the educational opportunities guaranteed under Title IX. OCR is committed to supporting your school district as you work to ensure that appropriate processes and policies are in place to provide support to students and that you comply with the requirements of Title IX.

If you have any questions regarding this initiative, I encourage you to contact OCR’s Outreach, Prevention, Education and Non-discrimination (OPEN) Center. The OPEN Center is focused on providing technical assistance and support to schools, educators, families, and students to ensure better awareness of the requirements and protections of federal non-discrimination laws. You can e-mail the OPEN Center at, or call 202-453-6580.

Sexual harassment and violence are never acceptable and must be dealt with accordingly. This is particularly true when those in authority, such as teachers or school personnel, are involved in such incidents. This initiative further demonstrates OCR’s commitment to supporting schools in their implementation of policies and practices that keep students safe and engaged in the learning environment. OCR appreciates your efforts to ensure safe and supportive learning environments for all of your students, and we look forward to working with you.



Kenneth L. Marcus

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

[1] See Note that under the proposed collection, for the first year of the collection—the 2019-2020 school year—reporting on this data element would be optional.