In 1972, federal law was passed with the intention to end sex discrimination in all areas of education. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” (Title 20 U.S.C. Sections 1681-1688)
Sexual harassment and sexual violence are forms of sex discrimination as defined by the “Dear Colleague Letter” issued by the Department of Education and its Office of Civil Rights, on April 4, 2011, as further clarification of the Title IX law.
Students have a right to attend educational programs and activities at an institution, free of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence. Additionally, Title IX law prohibits acts of retaliation against any person who files a complaint and/or is involved in the process of investigating allegations of sex discrimination.
When cases of alleged harassment involve issues of speech and expression, the First Amendment must be considered. Individuals have a right to freedom of speech that applies in the classroom and in educational programs and activities. In order to establish a violation of campus rules that may fall within the scope of Title IX, the harassment must rise to a level that it limits or denies his or her ability to participate in or benefit from the education program. Title IX is not intended to regulate the content of speech.