Nash County Public Schools Reaches Agreement with OCR to Resolve Sex Discrimination, Harassment Investigation

OCR found that the district told the girls they were “opening the door” to sexual harassment with their manner of dress.

Nash County Public Schools Reaches Agreement with OCR to Resolve Sex Discrimination, Harassment Investigation

Photo: lexiconimages, Adobe Stock

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced on September 13 that Nash County Public Schools in North Carolina entered into a resolution agreement to ensure compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 with respect to responding to reports of sexual harassment and when enforcing its dress code.

The complaint alleged that during the first week of the 2022-2023 school year, an individual posted on social media an anonymous threat of sexual violence against freshman girls at a district high school and that the district was aware of the posting but did not respond consistent with Title IX.

In addition, OCR’s investigation reflected that the school held an assembly only for girls, without holding an assembly for boys, to address dress code compliance, ostensibly to respond in part to notice of sexually harassing social media postings of which the district had notice – and in that assembly the district communicated to the girls that they were “opening the door” to harassment with their manner of dress and then “wonder why they [boys] disrespect you.”

OCR confirmed that the school did not hold any dress code assembly for boys, although boys were responsible for half of the dress code violations imposed at the school during the past two school years. OCR’s investigation supported concerns that the district did not respond as required by Title IX to notice that students at the school may have been subjected to sexual harassment that impeded their access to the school’s education program and activities and that the district selectively enforced its dress code based on sex stereotypes, inconsistent with Title IX.

“The nondiscrimination guarantee in Title IX promises that girls not be blamed for their own sexual harassment as well as that students will not be subjected to differential school rule enforcement based on sex stereotypes,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon. “Consistent with that guarantee, Nash County Public Schools commits now to ensuring that all students can fully participate in school without discrimination based on sex.”

The resolution agreement provides that the district will: (1) review and, as necessary, revise its dress code to ensure it does not discriminate on the basis of sex and inform students, parents, and staff that they may contact the district’s Title IX coordinator if they believe the dress code has been administered in a discriminatory manner; (2) train staff at the high school about their Title IX obligations, including with respect to responding to reports of sexual harassment, enforcing the dress code in a non-discriminatory manner, and not separating students based on sex except as permitted by Title IX; and (3) review reports of sexual harassment at the high school, investigate the reports as required by Title IX and the district’s grievance procedures, assess the need for supportive measures for students, and notify students and parents at the high school about how to file Title IX complaints.

The letter to Nash County Public Schools is available here and the resolution agreement is available here.

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