U.S. Education Department Reaches Resolution Agreement after Finding LaPorte, Indiana, Community School Corporation in Violation of Title IX for Failing to Respond to Sexually Predatory Behavior, Sexual Harassment of Students
The U.S. Department of Education announced today that its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has reached an agreement with the LaPorte Community School Corporation in LaPorte, Indiana, to resolve a Title IX complaint involving sexually predatory behavior and sexual harassment of female high school volleyball players.
OCR determined that the corporation violated Title IX when a volleyball coach sexually harassed members of the girls’ volleyball team in 2007 and 2008 and the corporation failed – for years – to promptly and equitably respond to the harassment.
“Our students deserve to learn in schools free from sexual harassment and from predatory sexual behavior from their school staff,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for the Office for Civil Rights. “I hope very much that the appalling predatory behavior, and accompanying school failure to respond to protect its students, will never be repeated.”
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
In addition to directing sexual comments and jokes at the female players, the LaPorte coach engaged in sexual relations with a freshman player. Despite contemporaneous reports and eyewitness accounts of the coach’s behavior, the corporation failed to conduct a thorough and adequate investigation of the sexual harassment of its students and to effectively address the effects of the sexual harassment on its high school students.
In fact, the corporation allowed the coach to continue to attend the girls’ volleyball games after it dismissed the coach.
OCR found that the corporation’s actions allowed for the creation and continuation of a sexually hostile environment for the volleyball team members. OCR also determined that the corporation’s sexual harassment and sexual violence policies and procedures do not comply with Title IX.
Even after OCR informed the corporation that it was in violation of Title IX, the corporation did not agree to take corrective action to address the sexual harassment of its students until after OCR issued a letter warning the corporation that, if it persisted in refusing to enter a resolution agreement, the office would refer the corporation for enforcement actions that could include discontinuation of federal funding to the corporation.
In the resolution agreement, the corporation committed to take the following actions:
- Issue a statement to the corporation community, including students, parents, administrators and staff, that it does not tolerate sexual harassment and encouraging any student who believes he or she has been subjected to sexual harassment to report the incident(s) to the corporation.
- Review and revise its sexual harassment policies and procedures and its code of conduct to ensure that they adequately address incidents of sexual harassment and provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of sexual harassment complaints.
- Provide effective training to students and staff on the corporation’s revised sexual harassment policies and procedures and provide investigation training to staff who are directly involved in handling complaints or other reports of sexual harassment.
- Assess the extent to which employees who had knowledge of reports of sexual harassment of the student in this case failed to take action to report and/or investigate the harassment and implement appropriate discipline against those employees.
- Establish a working group to make recommendations regarding the effectiveness of the corporation’s anti-harassment program and conduct a climate survey to assess the effectiveness of the steps taken to assure that its school environment is free from sexual harassment.
- Inform the one student in writing of the findings and outcome of any investigation(s) conducted by the corporation into the reports of sexual harassment of the student and invite her to identify needed remedial services, which may include payment for future counseling and reimbursement for previously received counseling, and then take appropriate remedial actions after OCR approval.
- Complete an investigation of whether other members of the girls’ volleyball team were subjected to a sexually hostile environment and, if so, offer appropriate remedial services.
- Convene focus groups of student athletes to discuss any concerns regarding sexual harassment in the corporation’s athletic program.
- Provide OCR documentation relating to any complaints or other reports of sexual harassment of students received by the corporation and the corporation’s response to the complaints and reports.
OCR will closely monitor implementation of the agreement. A copy of the resolution letter is posted here. And, a copy of the agreement can be found here. OCR's mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001. Additional information about OCR is available here.