Autism and Stalking Behavior Under Title IX

Addressing stalking behavior involving individuals with autism within the framework of Title IX requires a balanced approach that upholds the rights of all parties involved.

Autism and Stalking Behavior Under Title IX

Photo: Dzmitry -

The intersection of autism and stalking behavior in the context of Title IX is complex and requires a nuanced approach. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. It addresses issues such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, and stalking on college and university campuses.

Title IX protects all students, including those with disabilities, from discrimination based on sex in educational programs and activities. This includes addressing stalking behaviors involving students with disabilities. Educational institutions have a legal obligation to address and prevent stalking behaviors that create a hostile environment or interfere with a student’s ability to participate in educational activities, regardless of the student’s disability status. Schools must provide appropriate accommodations and support to ensure the safety and well-being of all students, including those with disabilities, and take steps to address any stalking.

While Title IX itself doesn’t specifically address autism, individuals with autism are protected under its provisions from discrimination in educational settings. This means that schools and universities are required to provide accommodations and support to ensure equal access to education for students with autism, in accordance with Title IX regulations and other applicable laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by challenges in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors. Stalking behavior, which involves unwanted and obsessive attention towards another person, can sometimes occur in individuals with ASD. However, it’s important to note that not all individuals with ASD engage in stalking behavior, and stalking behavior is not exclusive to ASD.

Additional Resource: How Colleges Can Help Students with Autism Navigate Social Relationships

Stalking behavior in individuals with ASD may stem from various factors, including difficulties understanding social boundaries, fixating on specific interests or individuals, challenges with communication and expressing emotions appropriately, or a lack of understanding of social norms.

Addressing stalking behavior in individuals with ASD requires a multifaceted approach that includes education, support, and intervention. This may involve providing social skills training, teaching appropriate boundaries and behaviors, implementing strategies to manage obsessions or fixations, and offering support for emotional regulation.

When addressing stalking behavior involving individuals with autism under Title IX, it’s essential to consider the following:

  1. Support and Accommodations: Individuals with autism may require additional support and accommodations to navigate social interactions and understand boundaries effectively. Setting boundaries for individuals with autism involves creating clear guidelines and expectations while also being mindful of their unique needs and sensitivities. Remember that setting boundaries is not about controlling behavior but promoting understanding, safety, and respect for everyone involved. Colleges and universities have an obligation under Title IX to provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities, including autism, to ensure equal access to educational programs and activities.
  2. Prevention and Awareness: Colleges and universities should provide education and training to students, faculty, and staff about autism, stalking behavior, and appropriate ways to address concerns or incidents. This includes raising awareness about the diverse characteristics of individuals with autism and dispelling myths and stereotypes.
  3. Addressing Stalking Behavior: If an individual with autism is engaging in stalking behavior, it’s important to address the behavior while also providing support and resources to help them understand why their behavior is inappropriate and how to change it. Social skills development and offering targeted interventions and therapies can help individuals with autism develop social skills, perspective-taking abilities, and social boundaries.
  4. Response and Intervention: If stalking behavior involving a student with autism occurs, it should be taken seriously and addressed promptly in accordance with Title IX guidelines and campus policies. This may involve providing support and resources to the victim, conducting an investigation, and implementing appropriate disciplinary measures if warranted.
  5. Individualized Approach: Recognizing that individuals with autism may have unique communication and socialization challenges, responses to stalking behavior should be tailored to the specific needs of the individual while also prioritizing the safety and well-being of the victim and the campus community. This should include teaching effective communication strategies to individuals with autism to express their needs, desires, and emotions in appropriate ways, reducing the likelihood of resorting to stalking behaviors as a means of communication. Relationship building and facilitating opportunities for individuals with autism to build positive relationships and connections with others in a safe and supportive environment is critical. This can reduce feelings of isolation and the likelihood of engaging in stalking behaviors.
  6. Victims of Stalking: Individuals with autism may also be more vulnerable to being victims of stalking due to difficulties in recognizing and responding to potentially dangerous situations. It’s essential to provide support, resources, and protection for individuals with autism who are victims of stalking.
  7. Collaboration and Coordination: Colleges and universities should collaborate with disability services offices, counseling centers, law enforcement agencies, and community organizations to develop comprehensive strategies for preventing and responding to stalking behavior involving individuals with autism. Legal and ethical concerns should be considered by all of the above-mentioned stakeholders. This ensures that any interventions to address stalking behaviors in individuals with autism are conducted in accordance with legal and ethical guidelines, respecting the individual’s rights and dignity.

By employing these strategies in a coordinated and individualized manner, it is possible to support individuals with autism in understanding and navigating social relationships and behaviors while preventing and addressing stalking behaviors effectively.

Overall, addressing stalking behavior involving individuals with autism within the framework of Title IX requires a balanced approach that upholds the rights of all parties involved while promoting a campus culture of inclusion, safety, and support.

Stefan Bjes is assistant director of campus safety for patrol and North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, and was previously an SRO. 

Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety.

If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century

This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety Conference promo