Consider an Interim Title IX Coordinator for a Cost-Effective Solution

September 21, 2023

As an educational institution, you may be facing the challenge of finding a cost-effective solution to fill a vacant Title IX Coordinator position. While hiring a full-time Coordinator may be ideal, it may not be feasible for your institution’s budget or timeline. In such cases, an interim Title IX Coordinator can be a great option to consider.

Here are some reasons why hiring an interim Title IX Coordinator may be a cost-effective solution for your institution:

1.  Quick Hiring Process: Finding a qualified and experienced candidate for the full-time Title IX Coordinator position can be a time-consuming process, leading to delays in compliance and other important institutional initiatives. An interim Title IX Coordinator can be hired more quickly, allowing your institution to maintain compliance and continuity in the interim period.

2.  Reduced Costs: Hiring an interim Title IX Coordinator can be more cost-effective than hiring a full-time Coordinator, as the position is typically short-term and requires fewer benefits and other expenses. This can help your institution save money while still maintaining compliance and meeting the needs of your students and staff.

3.  Experienced Professionals: Interim Title IX Coordinators are typically experienced professionals who have worked in similar roles at other institutions. This means that they have the expertise and knowledge needed to ensure that your institution remains compliant with Title IX regulations and can provide valuable guidance and support to your institution’s Title IX team.

4.  Flexible Scheduling: Interim Title IX Coordinators are often available on a part-time or flexible schedule, allowing your institution to customize the position to your specific needs and budget. This can help your institution maintain compliance while also managing other institutional priorities.

Overall, hiring an interim Title IX Coordinator can be a cost-effective solution for your institution while also ensuring that you maintain compliance and meet the needs of your students and staff. If you are interested in exploring this option further, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Creating Hope Through Action: Suicide Prevention and the Work of Title IX

September 7, 2023

*Reader Note: The following blog discusses the topic of suicide.

World Suicide Prevention Day was established in 2003 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention in conjunction with the World Health Organization. The theme for 2021-2023 has been “Creating Hope through Action,” emphasizing that through our actions we can encourage hope and strengthen efforts at preventing suicide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48,183 people died by suicide in the United States in 2021, which is about 1 person every 11 minutes. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-14 and 20-34. For those of us working in K-12 and Higher Education spaces, those age-related statistics are incredibly staggering and important for us to understand.

In our specific work in Title IX in K-12 and Higher Education spaces, we face a unique set of risks and responsibilities as it pertains to suicide prevention. According to RAINN, the likelihood that a person experiences suicidal or depressive thoughts increases after an experience of sexual violence. According to RAINN’s research, 33% of women who experience a rape contemplate suicide, with 13% making a suicide attempt. Children who experience sexual abuse or sexual violence are three times more likely to experience a major depressive episode as an adult which increases their risk of suicidal ideation.

Learning how to make good mental health referrals is critical to our work in Title IX when we facilitate supportive measures; however, the work of suicide prevention begins during our Title IX meetings with students and employees to notice and respond to any warning signs of suicide that might be present.  These warning signs can include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to be dead. (Sometimes this is less overt and sounds more like wishing it were “over” or that one could just stay asleep or that it would “end”.)
  • Expressing hopelessness, guilt, or feeling like a burden to others.
  • Talking about having no reason to live.
  • Withdrawing from family, friends, responsibilities.
  • Displaying extreme changes or swings in mood.
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits.
  • Giving away items of significance.
  • Increasing risk taking behaviors or substance use.
  • Calling or visiting others to say goodbye.

If you notice any of these signs, overtly address them. It is a myth that asking about suicide makes someone more suicidal or that only a counselor can ask these types of questions. In fact, asking the question could very well save their life. While it may feel uncomfortable at first, the discomfort in asking the question is far more important than the risk in choosing not to. Here are some tips for how to ask this question:

  • Start by sharing what you observed that led to your concern. For example, “I noticed while we were talking today that you seemed more distant and even talked about feeling hopeless and how you wish it would all end.”
  • Follow this up with a direct question. “I am here to make sure you get the support you need, and that statement made me concerned today. I wanted to check in – are you having any suicidal thoughts, or have you had any in the past couple of weeks?”
  • It is important to ask the question in a way that allows an honest answer by avoiding phrases like “You aren’t going to hurt yourself, are you?” or “I know you aren’t suicidal, but…”. These types of questions could lead someone to be ashamed or embarrassed to tell the truth.

While someone saying that they are having thoughts of suicide does not necessarily mean the person plans to act on those thoughts, finding them a mental health provider who can further assess that is critical. This is different from a typical Title IX supportive measure request where you and the party identify that they might benefit from ongoing counseling. The presence of suicidal thoughts should illicit an immediate referral to a school or university counselor and even possibly a broader crisis response protocol depending on the severity of the situation.

If the person shares with you that they are having thoughts of suicide, take the following next steps:

  • Do not panic or show signs of distress. Instead thank that person for their honesty and explain that you need to loop in the counselor because you care for them and have a responsibility to keep them safe.
  • Contact the counseling staff with this person in the room and develop a plan for the counselor to come assess further in your office or for you to walk that person to the counselor.
  • If the person is resistant to this further evaluation, let them know that this is necessary based upon your concerns about their safety at this point and that you might have to contact for additional support if they choose to leave.

If the person’s response to your question about suicide is that they are not experiencing these thoughts at this time, take the following steps:

  • Review supportive measure options for counseling to address the ongoing feelings and thoughts they are experiencing and make appropriate referrals.
  • Remind them that you care and encourage them to let you know if those thoughts do show up at any point in the Title IX process.
  • Provide them with proactive resources for suicide response in case they need them such as crisis call and text lines and the on-site counselor contact information.

I love this theme of World Suicide Prevention Day of creating hope through action. Instilling hope is everybody’s work, and hope can be displayed in so many ways to those who are hurting. Specifically, to the Title IX professionals on the ground, you show hope by noticing and by reminding those you are meeting with that you see them, you hear them, and their life matters enough for you to ask the question.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, you are not alone and help is available. Please contact the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling 988. You can also use the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. For more resources visit or

This blog was written by ICS Title IX and Equity Specialist, Brittany Gates. Prior to joining the ICS team, Brittany was a licensed mental health provider for seven years with ten total years of direct mental health experience ranging from community based mental health care to a university counseling center setting.

Department of Education Releases Updated Q&A on Achieving Diversity in Higher Education

August 31, 2023

On August 15, 2023, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice released a Question and Answer Resource on achieving student diversity at colleges and universities. Two months after the U.S. Supreme Court held that the University of North Carolina and Harvard University violated the 14th Amendment and Title VI by “impermissibly using race in their undergraduate admissions process,” the Department summarizes the decision and provides guidance on how institutions can approach diversity in admissions moving forward. Below are our top takeaways: 

1. Considering the Race of Prospective Students: The Department emphasizes that the Court’s opinion does not prohibit institutions from “considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.”  Thus, the guidance encourages institutions to utilize a “holistic application review process” that reviews the student’s background and attributes.  For example, the Department states that an institution could consider an applicant’s description of what being the first Black violinist in his city meant to him. The guidance also notes that institutions may consider a student’s “lived experience with race,” but must ensure the student is “treated based on his or her experiences as an individual [and] not on the basis of race.” 

2. Institutions Prioritizing a Diverse Student Body: According to the Department, institutions may “continue to articulate missions and goals tied to student body diversity” and can “remove barriers and expand” equal opportunity. When determining admissions, the Department states that schools can “consider the full range of circumstances” that a student faced during their lifetime, including socio economic status, neighborhood, educational history, including discrimination. To achieve diverse student bodies, the Department identifies “existing practices” institutions may continue to utilize. These include: 

a. Outreach Programs (i.e., Targeted Outreach, Recruitment, Pathway Programs): According to the Department, the Court’s decisions do not require schools to “ignore race” when developing outreach and recruitment strategies. However, institutions must ensure that such programs do not provide “target groups… preference in the admissions process.” 

b. Collecting Demographic Data: The Department states that institutions can continue to collect demographic information “so long as the use is consistent with applicable privacy laws… and that the data related to the race does not influence admission’s decisions.” 

c. Evaluating Admissions Policies: Colleges and institutions remain free to “carefully evaluat[e]” best practices in their admissions practices and increase educational access.  Institutions may place value during admission decisions on a “wide range of factors that shape an applicant’s lived experiences.” 

d. Student Retention Programs: The Department highlights that an important part of the college experience is retaining students from diverse backgrounds. Thus, the guidance states that institutions may “foster [a] sense of belonging and support through its office of diversity, campus cultural centers, and other campus resources” if it is available to all students. Institutions may also offer clubs, and affinity groups, including groups with a “race related theme” so long as they are open to all students regardless of race. 

Since the Supreme Court’s decision, there have also been other developments in college admissions. On July 15, 2023 Lawyers for Civil Rights, a non-profit organization in Boston, sued Harvard University over its legacy admissions practices on behalf of Latino and Black advocacy groups.  On July 25, 2023, the Office for Civil Rights confirmed that it was investigating Harvard’s legacy admissions policies and procedures. In light of the SCOTUS decisions, some institutions have changed their admissions strategy. For example, on July 19, 2023, Wesleyan University, a college in Connecticut, announced that it was ending its legacy admissions policies.  Also recently, the American Alliance for Equal Rights filed a lawsuit against a Florida law firm challenging the firm’s diversity fellowships, alleging the fellowship excluded applicants based on their race. 

Given this recent guidance and legal developments, we predict diversity in educational settings and employment will remain a highly relevant topic for the Department. To stay up to date on our blogs and announcements, follow us on LinkedIn or bookmark the Blog Section of our website. 

Title IX Red Zone Prevention: Start Earlier

August 24, 2023

We often talk about the “Red Zone” as it relates to Higher Education and sexual assault. It is a time when the students, first year students in particular, are most vulnerable to sexual assault. The time when they are finding their way, experiencing new things, and simply not comfortable in their new environment. The length of time of the “Red Zone” varies from study to study…starting the first week on campus to either Thanksgiving or winter break.  It is a critical time for higher education institutions to provide tailored prevention and bystander intervention training. This is so important. We have to talk about the hard things in order to prevent them. We need to know what is happening on our campuses and on campuses across the country in order to be effective in our prevention efforts. However, as you will read, I believe this prevention and education needs to happen sooner. 

Through my experience working with K-12 school districts, I believe we truly need to educate students on bystander intervention early and often for multiple reasons. First, the students are experiencing sexual harassment (including sexual assault) within their primary and secondary schools. We need to prevent the behaviors there. Second, it is our job to prepare our K-12 students to take the leap when they leave our schools. They need to prepare not only academically for college or the workforce, but also socially and emotionally. We can’t wait until students step on a college campus to teach them to be active bystanders. 

I can hear the pushback from some administrators now…we are in a state that doesn’t even allow us to talk about sex…let alone sex at a party that involves alcohol and drugs. I am here to tell you that it’s more than that. And yes, those things need to be talked about…but if we start with the basics of bystander intervention in elementary, middle, and high school, the harder topics become easier for our students. 

Awareness: Bystander intervention starts with awareness. Our students are spending so much time with their face in a phone on social media and other apps that they aren’t taking in their surroundings. Some choose not to notice what’s happening outside their bubble because, let’s face it, we are still dealing with the effects of isolation on our students during COVID. Thus, reminding them to be aware is critical. Just yesterday, I watched a student cross the street without once looking up from their phone. That student was not only accepting personal awareness, but I am convinced there could have been a fire directly across the street and the student would have walked directly into it. If they aren’t even aware of their own surroundings, how in the world can we expect them to watch out for others.  There is therefore no question that it starts with a conversation about awareness. 

Concern: Once students accept that they need to be aware of their surroundings, we can focus on their concern for others. From a young age, we teach children to “mind their own business.” I am often guilty of this with my own when I start to hear drama. However, we should be teaching, “if you see something say something.” While we should not expect them to “tattle” or invade personal space/privacy, we need to teach students that their concern for others is important. If something doesn’t seem right, we should teach them to err on the side of concern rather than indifference. 

Response: If not you…then who? Once there is a concern, our students need to know that it is their responsibility to respond. Response can look different for each individual and each situation. But, some type of response, any response, can make a huge difference. In some situations, response means telling a teacher, a parent, a friend. In others it means a distraction to help remove another individual from a tough situation. Response does NOT mean putting yourself in danger. However, it means, doing SOMETHING. 

Below you will find a few small examples that can go a long way in allowing students to feel comfortable working on their bystander skills to prepare them for when they may need to intervene in a more challenging situation:

    • Let someone know they have something in your teeth after a meal.
    • Let someone know they have toilet paper stuck to their shoe after leaving the restroom.
    • Ask someone a question who seems to be uncomfortable in a conversation, or make a phone call to them so their phone rings and causes a distraction.
    • Pick up a book, pencil, or other item someone dropped.
    • Call out a comment or disparaging remark that was inappropriate.
    • Report a concern to a teacher or administrator.

Recently I experienced a situation where children in fifth grade reported a concern related to some much younger children in a school. These brave students were bold enough to know that something was wrong and step out to report it. This allowed for the school to respond quickly. The younger students were safe, and fifth graders felt proud. It was a win win. We can truly make change when students are empowered to act. 

Prevention should begin before orientation or welcome week at a college or institution.  We need to do our part in the K-12 setting to prepare our students to be active bystanders to help prevent the Red Zone.  We have to start these conversations earlier!

One passion project at ICS is to have sessions with rising Seniors in High School and college Freshman at no cost.  Courtney has led many of these over the summer locally, but we are always willing to take these conversations on the road. 

For more information about how we can help, or more information on this topic, contact us today!

Blog by Betsy Smith, ICS’ Director of Title IX Services.

Department of Education Recognizes Baylor University’s Religious Exemption to Title IX

August 17, 2023

The Department of Education recently exempted Baylor University from addressing sexual harassment claims involving LGBTQ+ students on account of Baylor’s asserted religious tenets. In 2021, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights received multiple complaints from Baylor students alleging the University had failed to address harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity by other students. Students also alleged the school violated Title IX when the school pressured “University media” not to cover LGBTQ+ events or protests.  In response, Baylor argued that the OCR complaints should be dismissed under Title IX’s religious exemption.  

Under Title IX’s religious exemption, educational institutions that are “controlled by a religious organization” are exempt from implementing requirements under Title IX if doing so would be “inconsistent with the school’s religious tenets of the organization.” To utilize this exemption, the current 2020 Title IX regulations require the institution to state in writing that it is eligible for the exemption. 

In a letter to the Office for Civil Rights dated May 1, 2023, Baylor argued that complaints for “not responding to sexual harassment claims from an LGBTQ+ student should be dismissed” because of its religious tenets. To support this argument, Baylor outlined its affiliation with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and that each member of the University’s Board must be “supportive of Baylor University’s … historic Baptist heritage.” Furthermore, the University argued that the Baptist faith plays a large role in student life and the school’s Code of Conduct. Specifically, Baylor states that “[a]ll incoming Baylor undergraduate students must also attend two semesters of University Chapel in which they ‘gather [] to worship and pray, to be taught and inspired, and to encounter God in a way that makes a difference in their college experience.'” Baylor’s hiring process for employees also requires applicants to submit a “statement of faith” in which they declare a personal belief that is “co-religionist with the University to be eligible for employment.” 

On July 25, 2023, the Department responded to Baylor’s letter and determined that Baylor is exempt from several provisions of Title IX “to the extent that they are inconsistent with the University’s religious tenets,” including sexual harassment. While the Department states the Title IX provisions on sexual harassment conflict with Baylor’s religious tenets, the letter notably asks Baylor for “assurance that the belief in or practice of its religious tenets by the University or its students would not constitute unwelcome conduct under the Department’s definition of “sexual harassment” under Title IX.” 

Finally, the Department reiterates that this outcome does not exempt Baylor from all of Title IX provisions, and that the office would evaluate whether any future complaints fell squarely within the exemptions. 

For a more detailed overview of Title IX’s religious exemption, check out our published blog post. If you’re a faith-based school and are interested in learning more about Title IX, listen to Episode 55: Title IX Considerations with Faith-Based Schools,” a conversation with Brittany Gates, an ICS Title IX and Equity Specialist and ICS Founder/CEO Courtney Bullard on our podcast page.