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U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Resolves Sexual Harassment Compliance Review of Val Verde Unified School District in California

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The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that the Val Verde Unified School District in California has entered into a resolution agreement to ensure the district’s compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 when responding to notice of sexual harassment of its students by other students and employees.

OCR determined that the district discriminated against students based on sex by failing to respond appropriately under Title IX to notice of sexual harassment, including sexual assault, during a two-year period. Specifically, OCR found that the district repeatedly failed to address the effects of sexual harassment on targeted students, did not take sufficient steps to prevent recurrence of harassment, and failed to provide adequate notice of the investigation outcomes to targeted students and their parents.

In addition, OCR found a systemic failure, persisting today, by the district to coordinate its response to sexual assault and harassment incidents across schools as required by the Title IX regulations. As a result, the district had no system in place to monitor whether schools’ responses complied with Title IX requirements or to identify emergent patterns or systemic problems by school or districtwide.

OCR also determined that the district’s implementation of its current Title IX grievance procedures does not comply fully with the 2020 amended Title IX regulation regarding sexual harassment, that the district’s Title IX grievance procedures in place during the time period reviewed were inequitable because they treated complainants and respondents differently, and the district had not fulfilled its Title IX duty to publish those procedures to communicate to students, parents, and employees how to use them to file Title IX complaints of sexual harassment. OCR also identified concerns with the district’s recordkeeping system to track incidents of sexual harassment across schools.

The district agreed to resolve the Title IX violations and concerns OCR identified in a resolution agreement to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex in its schools.

“Val Verde Unified School District has agreed to address nearly a decade of Title IX noncompliance regarding sexual harassment, committing now to ensure its students may learn in the safe and nondiscriminatory environment Congress has promised them,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon.

The resolution terms include:

  • Developing a program to assess the effectiveness of the district’s Title IX anti-discrimination efforts.
  • Revising Title IX policies and procedures to comply with the Title IX regulations.
  • Training staff and students regarding the district’s Title IX procedures, how to identify what constitutes sexual harassment, and how to report such harassment.
  • Maintaining required records regarding reports of sexual harassment.
  • Disseminating a notice of nondiscrimination that complies with Title IX. And,
  • Administering a biannual school climate survey to district employees and students to evaluate the climate at each district school with respect to sexual harassment.

The letter to Val Verde Unified School District is available here and the resolution agreement is available here.

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