Calif. School District to Spend $200K More on Title IX Investigations
The Title IX investigations cover sexual violence, harassment and misconduct.
Legal fees for Title IX claims are proving to be costly for the Palo Alto (Calif.) School District. This school year the district plans to spend an additional $200,000 on Title IX investigations of sexual violence, harassment and misconduct.
That amount is in addition to the $250,000 allocated last year to a law firm investigating the district’s handling of past incidents, reports paloaltoonline.com. The investigation into past incidents was a requirement of the district’s resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in March.
Earlier this year, Campus Safety reported that OCR had found that the district failed to adequately respond to allegations of sexual assault and harassment. That $250,000 from last year also paid for a probe into senior leadership’s handling of a separate case reported in May.
Since then the district has experienced a significant increase in reports of sexual misconduct, with nearly 30 Title IX-related incidents recorded.
Five were reported in July and August. The incidents involve students and staff at district high schools, middle schools and elementary schools and include allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and unwanted or inappropriate touching on campus. Responses to the claims vary, with some involving “responsive on-campus steps” or the offer of remedies. Some allegations were not substantiated while others are still being investigated.
In addition to the $200,000, a $36,000 increase in the legal services budget is being proposed to pay for one-time Title IX investigations.
OCR’s resolution agreement with the district also called for the revision of Title IX-related policies, which OCR found to be inconsistent and often not understood by staff members.
Policies have been found to be a significant challenge not only for victims, but also perpetrators on college campuses. Unclear policy language was found to be a significant factor that led to lawsuits by perpatrators, according to a United Educators study on litigation by college students accused of sexual assault. The study found that the average lawsuit filed against colleges by alleged sexual assault perpetrators cost the institutions $187,000.