Today the Obama administration released notices to K-12 schools concerning their obligations to prevent and address sexual harassment and assault under Title IX.
The documents address how schools are supposed to respond to allegations and students who have suffered from trauma, as well as how to rewrite their sexual misconduct policies. These are not new regulations but rather reminders of the existing law, much like the guide for colleges and universities that was released in 2011 and has led to a widespread overhaul of how institutions of higher education handle sexual assault allegations.
21 percent of middle schoolers report that they were unwantedly touched on school grounds. 4 percent of high school boys and 10 percent of high school girls report being forced to have sex against their will.
Schools have the responsibility to not only address misconduct when it occurs, but also pre-emptively prevent a hostile environment that could be disruptive to a child’s education. In 2015 the number of federal civil rights complaints filed against K-12 schools for mishandling sexual violence cases tripled from the previous year. As of January 2016, there were 74 cases open in 68 school districts.
The Obama administration was recently sued by over 20 states for extending protections under Title IX to transgender students in public schools. The states allege the administration went too far by requiring schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms corresponding with their gender identity. There is currently a preliminary, nationwide injunction blocking the enforcement of those protections.