Understanding Title IX: What Resident Assistants Need to Know
If you are a resident assistant (RA), you are on the front lines of Title IX compliance. As a trained peer leader, you are responsible for coordinating and organizing activities among students within a shared residential facility. But beyond your specific duties, it is crucial that you understand your responsibilities and rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act. Our highly experienced Title IX lawyers at Spodek Law Group, led by Attorney Todd Spodek, provide an overview of the most important things that RAs need to know about federal law.
What is a Resident Assistant (RA)?
Commonly referred to by a wide range of different names, such as resident advisor, community assistant, or peer mentor, an RA is a vital position in colleges and universities throughout the United States. Beyond your specific duties, you are covered by Title IX, a foundational civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination and sexual harassment at schools, educational institutions, programs, and activities that receive federal financial assistance. As a mandatory reporter (also known as a ‘Responsible Employee’) under Title IX, you have a duty to take action whenever a violation arises.
You are Entitled to Proper Title IX Training
All educational institutions that receive federal financial assistance have a basic duty to provide their resident assistants with the proper training. Handling Title IX-related complaints, including but not limited to sexual harassment, stalking, sexual assault, and dating or domestic violence is immensely complicated. If you are currently serving as an RA and you believe that you did not receive adequate training, you should consider reaching out to the Title IX office at your school.
RAs are Mandatory Reporters Under Title IX
Virtually all university personnel are mandatory reporters, including administrators, coaches, professors, and teaching assistants. Exceptions are made for mental health counselors, lawyers, and other professionals bound by oaths of confidentiality. As a mandatory reporter, you must report all Title IX violations to the college or university immediately, using the appropriate protocols established by your institution. To be clear, you are required to submit reports for violations that you personally witnessed, for conduct that was reported to you by another party, or for any conduct that may be a possible violation of Title IX of which you may become aware.
RAs Cannot Guarantee Confidentiality to the Victim
As a peer to the other young people in your dorm or facility, you may feel more comfortable talking with an authority figure that you can better relate to and rely on. However, Title IX puts some major limits on the information you can hold in confidence. You cannot guarantee confidentiality to the victim. Never promise or imply confidentiality. It is important to make this clear before the victim shares any information with you.
Mandatory Reporters Can Still Be Discreet
Reporting an issue to officials is not the same thing as broadcasting information to other students or community members. While RAs are legally required to report all Title IX violations to the college or university, they can still help to keep information relatively private. An RA should certainly avoid loudly or recklessly sharing the sensitive information disclosed by sexual harassment or sexual assault survivor. That would be an enormous error in judgment and a breach of trust. RAs can take proactive measures to handle complaints as discreetly as possible. Still, there can be no promises of full confidentiality because RAs are mandatory reporters under Title IX.
You Have the Right to Seek Professional Guidance
Navigating the Title IX complaint process can be complicated, especially for RAs who may be put in a difficult position. Indeed, in some cases, RAs find themselves feeling caught in the middle of a serious sexual harassment or dating violence complaint that they themselves did not actually witness. If you find yourself in this position, or if you have any questions or concerns about your duties or your rights under Title IX, do not hesitate to consult with an experienced attorney.
At Spodek Law Group, led by Attorney Todd Spodek, our national Title IX lawyers have the knowledge and experience to advise and represent you in a wide range of matters. We understand the complexities of Title IX and the challenges that RAs face. If you need guidance with a specific case, we can evaluate your situation and help you understand your options.
Contact Spodek Law Group for Your Title IX Needs
If you have any questions or concerns about your rights or obligations under federal law, we are here to help. For your confidential, no-commitment initial consultation, please do not hesitate to contact our legal team today. We have the experience and expertise to handle Title IX cases in Connecticut and nationwide.
Table 1: Examples of Title IX Violations
|Type of Violation||Description|
|Sexual Harassment||Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive environment.|
|Stalking||Repeatedly following, harassing, or threatening someone to the point where they fear for their safety or the safety of others.|
|Sexual Assault||Any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.|
|Dating or Domestic Violence||Physical violence, emotional abuse, or sexual violence that occurs in a romantic relationship or in a household setting.|
As an RA, you play a crucial role in Title IX compliance. It is important to understand your rights and responsibilities under this foundational civil rights law. If you need guidance or legal representation, contact Spodek Law Group today. Our national Title IX lawyers have the experience and knowledge to help you navigate this complex area of law.