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Students attending colleges and universities in the U.S. who experience Gender-Based Violence (GBV) incidents may report Title IX incidents either to their university’s Title IX Office, or to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). However, the current system is reported by many to be ineffective and with many problems. At the same time, students impacted by discrimination based on race, color, and national origin (Title VI) face similar issues.

Our Veritas Task Force (VTF) focused on finding common themes among OCR investigations and discrimination complaints of Title VI and Title IX violations to examined the consequences faced by universities and colleges, and discuss whether the victims had adequate justice. It accomplished this by dividing the findings according to the type of discrimination, as follows: sexual harassment, denial of benefits, retaliation, and sexual violence. All information was extracted directly from the OCR database for the years between 2010-2023 in each category previously mentioned.

This investigative report was executed by 10 Investigative Journalists and 5 Mission Support Team members.

OCR

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Education that is primarily focused on enforcing civil rights laws prohibiting schools from engaging in discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or membership in patriotic youth organizations.

The mission of the Office for Civil Rights is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.

The Office for Civil Rights enforces several Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Education. Discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin is prohibited by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; sex discrimination is prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; discrimination on the basis of disability is prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and age discrimination is prohibited by the Age Discrimination Act of 1975.

 

Most of OCR’s activities are conducted by its 12 enforcement offices throughout the country. These enforcement offices are organized into 4 divisions carrying out OCR’s core work — preventing, identifying, ending, and remedying discrimination against America’s students. Three Enforcement Directors in the office of the Assistant Secretary oversee the work of, respectively, the Eastern and Southern and the Midwestern and Western divisions. OCR administrative offices in Washington, D.C., provide additional administrative support, coordination, policy development and overall leadership.

According to

USA Today

What happens if a school doesn’t comply with Title IX? Not a whole lot.

Enforcement of the federal gender-equity law is essentially toothless, mired in red tape and delays as aggrieved students wait years for relief.

By Rachel Axon of USA TODAY

Reporters also reviewed correspondence and other documents schools provided to the agency during the course of its investigations, as well as government reports and lawsuits filed against schools for alleged Title IX violations. And they interviewed more than 40 advocates, complainants, students, attorneys, academics and current and former OCR staff.

  • Even when the Office for Civil Rights finds clear evidence of Title IX violations, it rarely cites schools for non-compliance. It instead obfuscates the transgressions in bureaucratic language that stops short of assigning blame, thereby allowing schools to claim innocence while negotiating voluntary resolutions. Other times, schools opt to enter agreements before the agency renders its findings. In just 18 of the 99 cases did the agency unequivocally state that a school violated Title IX. Experts compared the process to a speed trap where violators get warnings but rarely tickets.
  • The agency routinely blows past its goal of resolving cases within six months. It took an average of 26 months for it to investigate complaints and more than four years to complete compliance reviews, which are the rare cases it initiates to assess more broadly whether schools are following the law. Some compliance reviews took even longer – the one at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst took a decade. Though the Office for Civil Rights often faults schools for not reaching timely resolutions of their own, the agency fails to do so itself.
  • Some schools under resolution agreements with OCR experience lax monitoring and spotty communication with the agency, which sometimes goes a year or more between contacts with schools. The University of Akron, for example, submitted proposed changes to the agency more than four years ago and has not heard from it since. At Michigan State and Virginia Tech, the agency was still monitoring agreements six years after the schools signed them.
  • Schools face zero consequence for openly defying or even withholding records from the federal agency. The University of Southern California, for example, did not disclose to the Office of Civil Rights nine complaints it had received against a school gynecologist for inappropriate conduct – despite the OCR’s explicit request for all reports of sexual harassment. The agency only learned about the complaints after the Los Angeles Times published an investigation about the gynecologist, George Tyndall, who now faces dozens of criminal charges. He has pleaded not guilty.

“We just know that there’s very little chance that we’re going to be held responsible for something, and even if we do it’s going to be years and years down the road so there’s just no pressure on them.”

-Brett Sokolow, president of the Association of Title IX administrators

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AEI

An Update on My Efforts to Challenge Title IX (and Title VI) Violations in Higher Education

By Mark J. Perry

I think that “weasel” statement as part of the VRA explains why so many universities brazenly violate the civil rights of half the relevant student, staff or faculty population — because even when they got caught “red-handed” they get a “Get Out of Jail Free Card” that is a form of “qualified immunity.” A university or college can violate federal civil rights laws for decades and when caught the worst that can happen is they are finally forced to stop discriminating by the OCR, but with NO consequences! No fine, no penalties, no admission of guilt, wrongdoing or liability, no apologies, no reparations…. In fact, they don’t even have to admit their failures to comply with federal civil rights laws are “non-compliance.” Facing no real consequences for systematic civil rights violations, it’s no surprise that universities across the country violate Title IX until they got caught.

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Refinery29

She Reported Her Rape To Her College. What Happened Next Left Her Devastated

By Molly Longman of Refinery29

On August 27, Hannah Johnson stood on the stone steps of the student union at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, her blonde hair pulled back into a low ponytail and a microphone in her right hand. “Alright, guys, I’m about to do something that’s terrifying,” the 20-year-old said to the dozens of people assembled before her. She took a deep breath, then began to detail her experience being sexually assaulted by a fellow student. “According to him, I was the main actor that night — a night I still don’t remember,” she told the crowd, shifting her weight from foot to foot. “After, I felt despair, depression, I suffered physical ailments from distress, and for a period of time I became suicidal.”

Johnson, a third-year psychology and business major, says another student assaulted her in March 2020, and she reported the incident to the UNL Police Department and UNL’s Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance, which handles Title IX investigations, that August. A Zoom hearing between her and her alleged assailant took place in March 2021, but the case was closed with the Title IX committee deeming the other party “not responsible.”

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Common Themes found in OCR Investigations of Sexual Harassment, Sexual Violence, Denial of Benefits and Retaliation from 2010 to 2023.