Lincoln, NE – School administrators in K-12 districts who are responsible for protecting students from sexual harassment and discrimination, known as Title IX coordinators, feel under-supported and under-prepared, and most spend very little time on those duties, according to a new study from the University of Colorado Boulder. Comments from Elizabeth Meyer, lead author and associate professor, CU Boulder.
Public schools face significant challenges protecting students from sexual assault, harassment and discrimination, according to a new University of Colorado study. Researchers found that key staff responsible for preventing and responding to harassment frequently didn’t know it was their job.
Elizabeth Meyer, the report’s lead author, says if schools are serious about reducing discrimination in the MeToo era, they need to carve out time and resources for Title IX coordinators to be effective. “This is an important opportunity to pay closer attention to what’s happening in our public schools, and ensure that students are feeling safe and supported and have a place to turn if they do experience a case of sexual assault or sexual harassment in their schools.”
Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972 that prevents discrimination based on sex in any educational institution that receives federal funds, and coordinators are charged with making sure school districts are in compliance.
That includes addressing sexual harassment, ensuring equal access to athletic opportunities and supporting transgender students.
Meyer says coordinators have other full-time jobs including district superintendent or director of human resources, and most reported spending less than one percent of their time on Title IX. The report’s recommendations include making sure parents and students can easily find coordinators, by listing them prominently on websites and brochures.
Meyer says it’s also important for coordinators to keep up to date on sex-discrimination and gender-equity issues and pass that information along.
“To ensure that the district staff and personnel have a deep understanding of what they should be doing to prevent and not just respond to issues of sexual harassment or sex discrimination in their district.”
Most of Meyer’s research wrapped up before the Trump administration rescinded two key Title IX policy-guidance documents designed to help coordinators protect transgender students and victims of sexual assault. Meyer says the move has made it even harder to ensure that more students don’t join the MeToo ranks.