By John Shields, PhD, MSW | May 14, 2021
Senior Research Scientist, ETR
Content Warning: Please understand that this blog addresses the sensitive and often triggering topic of sexual and gender-based harassment and sexual assault of students and staff in K-12 school districts.
For more information about supportive resources and other information about these topics, please access our frequently asked questions webpages in English (here) or in Spanish (here). For information in other languages, you can also reach out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
Imagine for a moment that you are a student in high school, and that you have been subjected to sexual or gender-based harassment or sexual assault. What do you do next?
You might choose to tell a friend, a parent, or a trusted adult at your school or in your community. You might choose not to tell anyone at first or ever – fearing that you will not be believed, or that you are too embarrassed to talk to anyone about your experience. You might choose to try and find information about these sensitive topics on the internet. You might choose to try and find information on your school district’s website.
If you are diligent about searching for information online related to sexual and gender-based harassment or sexual assault, you may find yourself reading information about Title IX – the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual and gender-based harassment and sexual assault, in educational institutions that receive federal funding.
If you dig deep into Title IX law, you may find out that every K-12 school district that receives federal funding is required to identify a “Title IX Coordinator” – the person at the district who is responsible for responding to cases of harassment and/or assault in compliance with Title IX.
One of the fundamental components of an effective, Title IX compliant program at the K-12 level is making key information about a District’s Title IX program readily available to students and their families. Making this information readily available to members of the school community represents a key point of accessibility for students, families, and staff to report allegations of sexual and/or gender-based harassment and sexual assault.
The 2020 Title IX regulations mandate that K-12 districts and schools that receive federal funding must provide certain basic information about their Title IX resources and procedures. At minimum, a district is required to include:
Generally speaking, districts that make their Title IX program information easy to find on their website make it easier for school community members to understand and access their district’s resources and procedures when incidents occur. Conversely, districts that do not make their Title IX program information readily available on their website can present significant barriers to reporting.
And not every school is currently complying with regulations. ETR’s K12T9 Initiative conducted an analysis of 100 randomly selected regular public school district websites to examine the availability of required Title IX information. We found, for example, that just 21 of the 100 districts met our accessibility standard on the “prominent display” of Title IX Coordinator contact information, and we could not find any Title IX Coordinator’s contact information on 44 of the 100 district websites. To view all our findings, please read our Availability of Title IX Information on K-12 District Websites Research Brief.
You can also access additional resources from ETR to help prevent sexual- and/or gender-based harassment and sexual assault.
John Shields, PhD, MSW, (he/him/his) is a Senior Research Scientist and Director of the K12T9 Initiative at ETR. He leads ETR’s School-Based Health & Wellness program, which includes a wide range of research, evaluation and information technology projects within K-12 school districts. He can be reached at email@example.com.