Independent Schools – You May Be Subject to the Requirements under Title IX, Too!

Generally, private schools are not sponsored by the state or federal government, which may mean that they are not subject to the same rules as public schools under Title IX in responding to and addressing sexual misconduct.  However, did you know that if your school receives federal financial assistance, the rules related to Title IX apply?  This includes grants or loans of federal assistance, including when a school receives federal funds for the following:

      • Upgrades for facilities or technology;
      • Remedial or special education programs;
      • Federal student loans or Pell grants;
      • Reduced price or free breakfast and lunch programs;
      • Research grants or work-study programs;

Recently, a federal court in North Carolina held that a private secondary school’s receipt of a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan was considered acceptance of federal financial assistance. Karanik et al. v. Cape Fear Academy, Inc., No. 7:21-CV-169D (E.D.N.C. June 17, 2022).  For more information on the Court’s decision in Karanik, read our blog post on the case here.

Additionally, schools that are considered tax-exempt could be considered subject to Title IX by virtue of their tax-exempt status.  Buettner-Hartsoe v. Baltimore Lutheran High School Association, Case No. 1:20-CV-03132-RDB (July 21, 2022).  In Buettner-Hartsoe, the Court held that §501(c)(3) tax exemption constitutes federal financial assistance for the purposes of Title IX, stating that enforcing the mandates of Title IX in tax-exempt schools serves to uphold the primary objectives of Title IX: “’to avoid the use of federal resources to support discriminatory practices’ and ‘to provide individual citizens effective protection against those practices.’” Id. at 11, citing Cannon v. Univ. of Chicago, 441 U.S. 667, 704 (1979).  This ruling served to bring independent schools’ Title IX compliance obligations in line with the obligations under Title VI.

While these decisions are lower-court decisions that may not be applicable in every jurisdiction, all independent and private schools should look at how they are addressing allegations of sexual harassment, assault, or other misconduct.  Failing to provide the due process afforded through a proper Title IX investigation could result in litigation, or worse, students could feel unsafe to report incidents of sexual abuse or misconduct.  Schools must take the necessary steps to ensure that allegations of sexual harassment are taken seriously and protections are afforded to all parties.

ICS provides a wide range of Title IX compliance services. Contact us for more information.

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