The U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York recently denied a request for a preliminary injunction to prevent new Title IX regulations from becoming effective on August 14, 2020.
In general, Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in schools. It is often used in sexual harassment claims of students involving teacher-on-student harassment or student-on-student harassment. Since 1997, the U.S. Department of Education (the “DOE”) issued guidance discussing how schools should resolve allegations concerning sexual harassment and sexual violence.
The DOE adopted formal regulations in 2020 after publishing a notice of proposed rulemaking in 2018. The regulations contain several provisions that depart from past guidance. The plaintiffs, the State of New York and New York City School District, requested an injunction alleging that the regulations exceed the DOE’s authority; that they are arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise not in accordance with federal law; and that the DOE failed to follow procedures required by law in issuing the regulations.
In order to obtain a preliminary injunction, a plaintiff must show a clear or substantial likelihood of success on the merits of the underlying claim. The court found that it is undisputed that DOE has the authority to promulgate rules and regulations implementing Title IX. It also found that the DOE had the authority to define the operations of a school to which Title IX applies and to specify how the grievance procedure contained in the regulations would apply to both the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator of harassment. Further, the DOE regulations were not determined to be arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. Therefore, the court determined that the plaintiffs did not have a clear or substantial likelihood of success on the merits so the request for a preliminary injunction was denied.
What this means for your district: The new Title IX regulations became effective on August 14, 2020. Districts should have adopted a revised Title IX policy to comply with the new regulations. In addition, it is recommended that all K-12 employees be trained on the new Title IX regulations because a school district will be presumed to have actual knowledge of sexual harassment if any employee has knowledge of such conduct. To assist our clients with this training, Ennis Britton has recorded a training module that is available to clients for employee training purposes. If you wish to utilize those training modules, please contact Barb Billow via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
State of New York v. United States Department of Education, U.S. Dist. S. NY, 20-CV-4260 (August 9, 2020).