The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that the Newark Public School District in New Jersey 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 to incidents of sexual harassment and assault and that it failed to coordinate its responses through its designated Title IX coordinator, among other Title IX violations.
Specifically, OCR found that the district failed to investigate confirmed Title IX concerns about employees sexually harassing students and deferred its Title IX obligations to respond to such harassment to a state agency for several years without ensuring those obligations were met. In addition, OCR found that the district repeatedly failed to respond to incidents of student-to-student sexual harassment and to address the effects of such 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.
OCR also found that the Title IX coordinator did not, and currently does not, coordinate the district’s efforts to comply with its responsibilities under Title IX. As a result, the district has no system in place to monitor whether its schools’ responses to reports of sexual harassment and assault complied with Title IX requirements or to identify emergent patterns or systemic problems by school or districtwide. OCR determined that the district did not consistently notify employees, students, and their parents of its designated Title IX coordinator and that the district does not discriminate on the basis of sex, as required by the Title IX regulations.
Additionally, OCR determined that the district failed to adopt and implement grievance procedures that complied with the prior Title IX regulations and that the district’s grievance procedures did not comply with the 2020 Amendments to the Title IX regulations from August 2020 until August 2023. Finally, OCR 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 that OCR identified in a resolution agreement to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex in its schools.
“Newark Public Schools did not meet its Title IX obligations to protect its students from sexual harassment, including from district employees, but has now committed to robust resolution terms to provide the safe and nondiscriminatory learning environment that Title IX has promised all students,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon.
The resolution includes:
- Ensuring that the Title IX coordinator coordinates all of the district’s efforts to comply with Title IX moving forward, including but not limited to all district investigations of sexual harassment involving its students and employees.
- 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.
- Reviewing case files for reported incidents of employee-to-student and student-to-student sexual harassment from school years 2017-2018 through 2021-2022 to determine if further action is needed to provide an equitable resolution of each incident.
- Disseminating a notice of nondiscrimination that complies with Title IX. And,
- Administering an annual school climate survey to district employees and students to evaluate the climate at each district school with respect to sexual harassment and identify needed responsive steps for OCR review and approval.