If you are a student who has experienced sexual or gender-based violence or harassment, The Firecracker Foundation wants to help you understand a civil rights law called Title IX.
Call 517-742-7224 to be connected with a Title IX Advocate.
What is Title IX?
Title IX is a Federal Civil Rights Law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.
Sex-based discrimination includes sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, sexual violence, sexual exploitation, relationship violence, dating violence, and stalking. If you attend a school with federally funded education programs and activities, your school is most likely subject to Title IX. This includes all public K-12 schools and some private, parochial, and schools partnered with another school that receives some federal funds. However, it’s important to keep in mind that some schools could have applied for a religious exemption to Title IX compliance.
Take a look at the below frequently asked questions to determine if your school is in compliance with Title IX. This information was created in partnership with a Title IX attorney and Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence staff but should not replace and does not constitute legal guidance.
Is what I report under Title IX confidential?
Probably not. It’s important for you to know that if you are under the age of 18, adults may be required by Michigan’s Mandated Reporter Law and their own school policies to report what you share with them with the police, child protective services, or a child abuse reporting hotline.
Mandated reporters are asked to share the survivor/victim’s name, address, gender, age, the name and address of their parents/guardians, details about the abuse or harm experienced, and the name of the perpetrator. This report may lead to an investigation by MDHHS or law enforcement.
Here is a list of the professionals that are required to report in the state of Michigan.
Mandated reporting is meant to protect you and keep you safe. However, we recognize that making a report can feel scary and overwhelming. One way to get your questions answered about the process is to speak in hypotheticals to a therapist or counselor. You can also call the statewide hotline and decline to tell them your age.
Many schools also have their own mandatory reporting policies for employees, requiring teachers, counselors, or other staff to report any Title IX incidents to their Title IX coordinator or another administrator. Therefore, even if what you are telling someone does not rise to the level of being something they have to report under Michigan’s Mandated Reporter Law, they may still have to report it to someone within the school or district.
What does Title IX protect?
Title IX protects any person who is a student or employee in a federally-funded educational program from sex-based discrimination.
- All students, faculty, and staff, regardless of gender identity, are protected from any sex-based discrimination, harassment, or violence.
- Any harassment, abuse, or assault by a school employee, contractors, school security, or other community partners with access to school property.
- Off-campus sexual harassment, abuse, or assault that creates a hostile environment on campus.
If your assailant is from a visiting school, your school may still have a role in investigating, reporting the incident to the visiting school, and encouraging them to take preventative action.
If your perpetrator is a family member, your school may be able to provide you with accommodations that include counseling, tutoring, or time-off.
What accommodations do I have a right to with and without a school investigation?
You have a right to reasonable, free accommodations (what the law refers to as “interim measures”) that are necessary for you to have equal access to your educational opportunities after experiencing a Title IX incident. Medical, counseling or academic accommodations may be available to you with or without a formal investigation of the incident(s).
Please keep in mind that your school is obligated to keep other students safe and that may override your request to keep your experiences anonymous.
Possible accommodations, or interim measures, could include:
- Access to counseling or academic tutoring
- Changes to course schedules, assignments, or exams
- Increased supervision or security at locations or activities where violence has occurred in the past.
However, if you want your school to take disciplinary action against your perpetrator, this will require an investigation. This will likely mean that you won’t be able to remain anonymous to your perpetrator. Disciplinary actions may include suspension, expulsion, class changes, counseling, and efforts to combat sexism and inequality within your school community. You should review your school’s discipline policy to get more specific information on possible consequences.
While an investigation is underway, you have a right to “interim measures.” Interim measures are accommodations that are specifically tailored to address your needs while also not overly infringing on the accused person’s rights. What a school considers appropriate interim measures can vary widely, and will likely depend on the severity of the incident alleged. Some possible examples of possible interim measures may include:
- Providing an escort to ensure that you can move safely between classes and activities.
- Ensuring you and your perpetrator do not share classes or extracurricular activities.
- Moving you (if you request to be moved) or your perpetrator to another school within the district or, if applicable, dormitory.
- Providing you with services including counseling, and academic support services, such as tutoring.
- Arranging for you to have extra time to complete or retake a class or withdraw from a class without an academic or financial penalty.
Interim measures should place the burden on the perpetrator and not you. For example, your perpetrator, not you, should be removed from a shared extracurricular activity, unless you request otherwise.
If you become pregnant as the result of rape or consensual sex, Title IX also protects you and requires medical and academic accommodations to be provided to you.
How do I know that what I experienced is sexual violence or gender-based violence?
Sexual violence is:
- Any sexual act or attempt to obtain a sexual act by violence or coercion or without consent.
- Acts to traffic a person.
- Acts directed against a person’s sexuality.
Regardless of the relationship to the victim (except for relationship and dating violence).
- Rape or sexual assault
- Child sexual assault and incest
- Intimate partner sexual assault
- Intimate partner violence
- Dating violence
- Unwanted sexual contact/touching
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual exploitation
- Showing one’s genitals or naked body to other(s) without consent
- Masturbating in public
- Sex trafficking
- Watching or recording someone nude or in a private act without their knowledge or permission
What if I don’t feel safe at school?
First of all, we are so sorry that this is happening and that you don’t feel safe. You didn’t deserve to be hurt and you don’t deserve to feel unsafe in your school. You may decide that accommodations or interim measures won’t help you feel safe. Your current school can help you transfer to another school in the district if that’s what you choose while mitigating the impact on your grades through accommodations or interim measures.
What if my school does not find my perpetrator responsible?
Reporting that you have experienced sexual or gender-based violence is really hard and you are so brave for advocating for yourself, your safety, and the justice you deserve. If your school investigation, child protective services, or law enforcement determine that your perpetrator is not responsible, that does not mean that your experience of that harm was not real. We believe you.
Unfortunately, if the school does not make a finding, there is no ongoing requirement to provide interim measures. A student could still be eligible for special education related accommodations if they have a disability or suspected disability as a result of the abuse, but there is no ongoing right to Title IX interim measures.
What is retaliation?
Retaliation includes punishment, intimidation, threats, coercion or discrimination of any kind as a result of your complaint or participation in an investigation. The school is required to take action to prevent retaliation. . Retaliation can take the form of bullying by other students. If there are school policies that punish you for making a report or if the school is retaliating against you in any way, we recommend that you consult with an attorney right away.
Can my school pressure or force me to leave school?
Nope. You cannot be pressured or forced to leave school because you were assaulted or abuse, or for becoming pregnant or a parent.
What does a Title IX Advocate do and how do I connect with one?
If you feel like your rights are being violated and you’d like help, please call us for confidential support at 517-742-7224.
Your Title IX Advocate will listen to your experiences and help you understand your rights under Title IX. This may include talking through what interim measures and accommodations might help you navigate this difficult situation. Your Title IX Advocate can help you identify your Title IX Coordinator and attend meetings with you as your advocate. If necessary, they can help you file a report. They can also support you in telling the school that you do not want to participate in an investigation or informal resolution process. If the school policy allows it, a Title IX Advocate can also support you through an informal resolution process.
What if my school isn’t subject to Title IX?
You may still be able to take legal action so we still encourage you to speak to an attorney. You can also call our hotline to strategize grassroots activism and advocacy that can pressure your school’s administrators to respond to your needs as well as the needs of other survivors on campus. This can include training and new or improved policies that address sexual violence and gender-based violence in a more trauma-informed, survivor-led, survivor-focused way.
If you are a teacher, school administrator, or community member looking for training or information, please call 517-742-7224 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This information is an abbreviated resource based on information from Know Your IX and edited by The Firecracker Foundation’s Advocacy Committee. We encourage you to visit https://www.knowyourix.org/high-school-resource/frequently-asked-questions/ to read this list of more comprehensive FAQs.