Reflection and Hope for Title IX Professionals

January 5, 2022

 

It is a new year, a time for reflection on what we are leaving behind and the creation of hopes and visions for the days to come. Truthfully, professional reflection on the state of Title IX from 2021 is hard, really hard. But as with every challenge, we must grow, persevere, and impact change.

 

2021, the first (and perhaps only) full calendar year of the current Title IX Regulations, left many of us defeated. We knew it was going to be A LOT after we spent the end of 2020 gearing up with new policies and procedures while conducting intake on the first reports under these regulations. But, we thought, “surely this will get easier.” 

 

When 2021 arrived, however, we were fully immersed in the investigation and resolution phases of this new, grueling (on participants and administrators) process. Honestly, there is no good way to describe the Title IX challenges the year 2021 brought on campuses and school districts. It was hurdle after hurdle, unexpected challenge after unexpected challenge.  We watched as Title IX professionals left the field at an unprecedented rate. We saw an unparalleled increase in reporting. We listened as administrators discussed the million and one things that were added to their plates outside of the Title IX sphere, along with the new roles and expectations within the Title IX realm. We witnessed personal tragedy, illness (physical, mental and emotional), anger, angst, and more than anything else, exhaustion.

 

It is our hope that we can look towards 2022 with open minds and open hearts. Regardless of how challenging it may be to return to work after time spent away over winter break, YOU, Title IX professionals, are critical to the safety and compliance efforts of your campuses and districts. You provide and facilitate support, comfort, equity, due process, and fairness. Who else can say they do all of those things?! Students and employees need you, even if they do not realize they need you…until they need you! Even then, we know that not everyone will be happy with the outcome of a Title IX matter, but we see YOU doing the right thing, following the process, and making a difference.

 

So, as we begin 2022 with Title IX changes on the horizon, be kind to yourself. Do not expect perfection from yourself, but instead show up with persistence and dedication. Set your boundaries and stick to them. Lean on your colleagues, friends, and support systems. Give grace to yourself and others. This is hard work, but together, we can make it a great year. 

 

Blog post by ICS team member Betsy Smith. ICS provides a wide range of Title IX services, including its Community Access program and its live interactive trainings. Contact us for more information.

Pass the Potatoes with a Side of Understanding

DEI / EEO Blog Post Series

December 23, 2021

 

The time has come where we join family and friends, ready to break bread together and celebrate this holiday season. For many, we prepare to square off with one or two family members who arrive ready to battle every political and social polarizing issue facing us today.  Some of us avoid those people at all costs, even contemplating making excuses not to attend. Others prepare for the 2021 battle of the year by reading every news article, practicing our arguments on friends, and jotting down a few anecdotes that prove our points.

 

I urge us to remember some great advice from Stephen Covey’s #5 of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective – Seek First to Understand, then be Understood.  Let’s stop and listen with the intent of understanding the speaker, regardless of how wrong you believe they are.  Understand where they are coming from, what in their life caused them to feel this way, and why it may be so different from your beliefs. Listen and you may learn something that helps you better communicate with the other person. Once you are able to effectively listen, you can rationally give your thoughts and hope that the listener is being understanding as well. Better communication is key! A side of understanding goes with anything and anyone at your table.  Remember to listen up and pass the understanding! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

 

Blog post by ICS team member Celeste Bradley. ICS offers Diversity, Equity and Inclusion services and training, contact us for more information.

 

Did You Include Disability in Your Diversity Conversation?

DEI / EEO Blog Post Series

December 6, 2021

 

Last Friday was a day set aside to honor those living with disabilities. Inclusion is not limited to race, religion, or sexual orientation, though that’s what we hear about most. People with disabilities should have a seat at the table in our businesses, institutions, and organizations. We have to be intentional in our hiring and our accommodations. How many times have you heard someone speaking to a crowd say, “I don’t need a mic since I’m loud enough already”? I’ll go first and raise my hand because I have done this before. What this says to people with hearing impairments is that their need to hear amplified sounds is not a priority. Being intentional is imperative to an inclusive environment. I still see job qualifications including the standard “must be able to lift 25 pounds,” but omit the “or with an assisted device” part. Remember, diversity is having a diverse team, but inclusion is making them feel welcomed and valued.

 

Blog post by ICS team member Celeste Bradley. ICS offers Diversity, Equity and Inclusion services and training, contact us for more information.

What is DEI? A Real World Example

DEI / EEO Blog Post Series

November 30, 2021

 

Recently as I was driving my son and his friend from a soccer game, I wished the friend a Happy Thanksgiving and asked what they were doing to celebrate. This is a normal question we ask without thinking. My son’s friend is Native American. Not the 1/16th Cherokee we hear people talking about, but true Natives with family living on a reservation. People ask me all the time, “what does diversity and inclusion really mean?” Well, in that moment, it meant more to me than I realized. Diversity is having friends from different backgrounds with different perspectives to make our lives richer. Inclusion is being thoughtful to their heritage, their struggles, and their traditions. I immediately followed up with an apology and asked questions about their day of mourning and what they did to remember their ancestors. We, as Americans, can celebrate our day of Thanks and enjoy our foods, our family, and our traditions while also being thoughtful of those who have a different perspective on this day. Diversity is having the friend. Inclusion is making that friend feel welcomed.

 

Blog post by ICS team member Celeste Bradley. ICS offers Diversity, Equity and Inclusion services and training, contact us for more information.

There’s an Important Court Ruling and New Title IX Guidance re: Prior Statements…Now What?

August 27, 2021

 

On August 24, the Office for Civil Rights released guidance addressing the Department of Education’s enforcement of the section of the regulations (34 C.F.R. 106.45(b)(6)(i)) regarding the prohibition against statements not subject to cross-examination.  Specifically, OCR states, “in accordance with the court’s order, the Department will immediately cease enforcement” of that provision of the regulations.

 

The court decision, and the guidance, comes right as the Fall semester begins.  Your campus worked hard to have updated policies ready to start the Fall semester, is managing the expectations with surging COVID numbers, and is likely overwhelmed with having students return back to campus, and now, you have to navigate guidance and a court ruling that have an IMMEDIATE impact on the Title IX space.

 

We know this is yet another hurdle and adjustment to make, but it will make your life (and the lives of your decision-makers) easier in the long run.  Here are three quick and manageable action items in response to OCR’s new guidance to assist with your campus compliance efforts. 

 

1. Read OCR’s Guidance, Letter to Students, Educators, and other Stakeholders re Victims Rights Law Center et al. v Cardona. It explains the decision, and also the position of the DOE. In short, the exceptionally confusing portion of the 2020 Regulations that prohibited decision-makers from considering statements made by parties or witnesses who did not participate in cross-examination is no longer going to be enforced. Thus, statements made by parties and witnesses, regardless of whether they were submitted to cross-examination, may now be considered by decision-makers.

 

2. Remove the section, and any others that reference this provision of the regulations, from your policy. It’s that simple. Just take it out. Nothing else has changed.

 

3. Explain the change to your decision-makers, appellate decision-makers, and advisors for a few reasons. First and foremost, their roles are directly impacted by this change. Second, your decision-makers should already be trained on the regulations and that training would have covered this provision that was extremely difficult to implement in practice.  Most likely, your decision-makers will be relieved by this new development. Finally, expect that there will be challenges by parties or their advisors who are familiar with the regulations where this new development is not favorable for them in a case.  We anticipate that, in those situations, the issue will be raised and your decision-makers need to be informed not only of this change, but also the basis behind the change. 

 

We understand that this seems super simple.  Bottom line, for you, at this moment, it is! The path to get to this place was messy, the litigation was confusing, and even the guidance is a bit wordy, but right now, it’s just these three simple steps.

 

We see you Title IX Professionals. We know you are putting in the work. Keep it up!   

 

Count on ICS to keep you in the know about all the latest in Title IX. ICS provides a wide range of Title IX services, including its Community Access program (Higher Ed / K-12) and its live interactive trainings (Higher Ed / K-12). Contact us for more information.