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The U.S. Department of Education issued new guidance on Friday reminding K-12 school districts that, like colleges and universities, they also must have systems in place to address sexual harassment and ensure equal opportunities for male and female athletes.

Such systems are required under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

The guidance comes against a backdrop of national concern about sexual assaults on college campuses. The Department has published a list of about 100 colleges it is investigating regarding how they have handled such complaints.

The federal guidance reiterates that school districts must designate a Title IX coordinator to inform students about their rights and instruct administrators about their responsibilities under the law. Key areas of compliance include ensuring equitable athletic opportunities for girls and boys, providing educational opportunities for pregnant and parenting teenagers, and addressing sex-based harassment.

Title IX is “37 words that really changed everything in the United States for women and girls,” said state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara.

In advising school districts, Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education, said that “some of the most egregious and harmful Title IX violations occur when a recipient fails to designate a Title IX coordinator” or when a Title IX coordinator “has not been sufficiently trained or given the appropriate level of authority.”

The guidance is the latest attempt by the federal government and the California Department of Education, which have issued previous guidance letters, to prod districts into compliance with Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on gender in federally funded educational programs.

The guidance comes as a bill that aims to improve K-12 training in Title IX regulations is moving through the California Legislature. Senate Bill 429, authored by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would address what the California Department of Education, the San Francisco office of the federal Office for Civil Rights and other groups have said is a critical need for training for school personnel.

Districts have been required to have a Title IX coordinator since 1975. Underscoring the need for the legislation, Kim Turner, an attorney for the Fair Play for Girls in Sports project of the San Francisco-based Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, said many California school districts are out of compliance or unaware of their responsibilities under the law. “Title IX is poorly understood,” Turner said.

In 2007, the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center successfully brought suit against Sweetwater Union High School District on behalf of Veronica Ollier and other female high school softball players alleging unequal treatment. The case detailed in words and photographs the superior condition of the playing fields, equipment, dugout and concession stands for the boys’ baseball team, while the girls’ softball fields were littered, worn and rutted. The case also argued that the beloved girls’ softball coach was fired by the district in retaliation after Title IX complaints were made.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California ruled in favor of Ollier in 2012 on both the inequitable conditions and the retaliatory firing of the coach. The verdict in Ollier et al. v. Sweetwater was upheld on appeal in 2014 in a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

At a hearing in Sacramento in January, state Sen. Jackson called Title IX “37 words that really changed everything in the United States for women and girls.” She read the 37 words at the hearing: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Jackson’s bill would require the California Department of Education to designate a county office of education to create an instructional video, paid for by the state, about Title IX compliance. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee on April 8 and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations, where it is scheduled to be heard on May 4.  Supporters include the Association of California School Administrators, the Junior Leagues of California, the California Women’s Law Center and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

 


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  1. Andrew 1 year ago1 year ago

    “More training” for existing school personnel is California’s answer, no matter what the supposed problem.

    The problem is apparently never the worst staffing ratios in the nation in terms of teachers, counselors, administrators. Never the worst funding. Just train the existing spread-way-too-thin staff more and the problem will be solved. Just legislate more training.

    Replies

    • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

      And, Andrew, most of that training", AKA, professional development, is delivered by private contractors who rake in big bucks from the cash-strapped local and state education agencies. Tony Smith, subject of the former article, was one such private contractor with BayCES who benefited by these large outflows of public monies into private coffers. But the anti-privatization critics never complain about this corporate largess - the big PD business connections that is a good … Read More

      And, Andrew, most of that training”, AKA, professional development, is delivered by private contractors who rake in big bucks from the cash-strapped local and state education agencies. Tony Smith, subject of the former article, was one such private contractor with BayCES who benefited by these large outflows of public monies into private coffers. But the anti-privatization critics never complain about this corporate largess – the big PD business connections that is a good ‘ol boy network of contractors and edu-establishment bureaucrats. That’s because these outflows don’t pose a threat to union domination of the public school workforce as does the largely non-unionized charter movement. It is also because those contractors and bureaucrats switch jobs on a regular basis. Smith is a case in point.

      • Andrew 1 year ago1 year ago

        Excellent point, Don. Anyone can get most of the training of any type they really need free on Youtube. Could learn how to do a passable appendectomy there. But I have seen some very high priced private contracts for delivering pretty mundane “training” to public employees. And I have seen where those who supply the “training” lobby heavily in favor of the necessity of it.

        • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

          Andrew, and most professional development is delivered to educate educators, for better or worse, while those educators are supposed to be educating students. They only work 185 days a year max, not including vacation and sick time. What's wrong with requiring that continuing education credit towards on-going licensure be done during all that time off? It's a few days at most. All the complaints from educators about lost instructional time... well some of that … Read More

          Andrew, and most professional development is delivered to educate educators, for better or worse, while those educators are supposed to be educating students. They only work 185 days a year max, not including vacation and sick time. What’s wrong with requiring that continuing education credit towards on-going licensure be done during all that time off? It’s a few days at most. All the complaints from educators about lost instructional time… well some of that is on them.

          A few years back, during the Carlos Garcia administration of SFUSD, the district awarded a multi-million dollar contract to an outfit, Urban something or other- the name escapes me, to help teachers to teach to inner city kids. This was controversial as it happened during the big economic crunch, though that PD came out of a separate pot of money. Garcia had just raised Kindergarten class sizes districtwide to save … drumroll – a measly 1 million bucks. All of the training went to new teachers at Superintendent Zone schools who were, to a large degree, promptly laid off after the training. Thus, SFUSD students paid to train teachers for teachers at other districts. But, not to worry, the contractor made out big time. Well done SFUSD. BTW, Garcia came from and then went back to working for McGraw Hill – the powerhouse materials and PD company.

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