A “Sign” of Things to Come: Title IX Coordinators and “Signing” Complaints
Although some suggest that the Title IX rules issued earlier this month are a boon for schools, colleges, and universities, those of us working to help schools comply with the new rules know that they are anything but a blessing to educational institutions. Among the many prescriptive and confusing measures that will reign when the rules become effective on August 14, schools will be required to comply with numerous detailed procedural requirements to respond to a “formal complaint” of sexual harassment. The rules limit the ways in which a formal complaint can be initiated. Specifically, only an alleged victim of sexual harassment (a “complainant”) can “file” a formal complaint, which must be written. But a Title IX Coordinator also has the authority to “sign” a formal, written complaint. Either path initiates the formal complaint process required by the rules. Because OCR has made clear that it will scrutinize the decision to sign a complaint under the same standards as it will any other portion of an institution’s response to sexual harassment, schools, colleges, and universities must ensure they understand what factors a Title IX Coordinator should consider—and those they absolutely should not—when deciding whether to sign a formal complaint under the new rules.