Title IX and Student Discipline

Student discipline is the actions taken by a school district towards a student when the student's behavior disrupts the ongoing educational activity or breaks a rule created by the school district. Title IX prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of sex in educational institutions that receive federal funds of kind. Such institutions include colleges and universities, local school districts, and for-profit and charter schools.

Chicago Title IX and Student Discipline Attorney

Title IX

Though it is most often associated with athletics, Title IX also affords protection from a range of harms from sexual harassment and assault to employment discrimination. Specifically, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of sex in educational institutions that receive federal funds of any kind. Such institutions include colleges and universities, local school districts, and for-profit and charter schools. Additionally, Title IX applies to federally funded educational programs at museums, libraries, prisons, and other institutions. 

Rights Under Title IX

Students and employees have many different rights under Title IX, including rights that prohibit gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and unlawful retaliation. Gender discrimination can occur against females, males, and transgender individuals.  Further, the act also extends protections to students who are also parents, meaning that if a school provides mother-daughter services or activities to it students or staff, it should provide comparable father-son opportunities (and visa versa).   

In addition to students, employees can also suffer from unlawful retaliation, including: 

  • Harassment or mistreatment from supervisors or administrators 
  • A decrease in pay 
  • Material change in job duties 
  • Demotion 
  • Termination 
  • Refusal by the employer to provide a positive job reference. 

Title IX & Sexual Violence 

While Title IX is most commonly associated with obvious acts of discrimination based on gender, the act also provides protections for victims of sexual violence or sexual harassment. In fact, the Department of Education has stated that if a college or university fails to appropriately respond to allegations of sexual violence or harassment, the university/college may be in violation of Title IX laws. Guidelines issued by the Department of Education require education institutions to: 

  • Hire and maintain a coordinator who is responsible for investigating allegations of sexual assault; 
  • Maintain a written policy that details the investigation process when claims of sexual violence or harassment are made; and 
  • Provide reasonable accommodations to persons claiming to be victims of sexual assault, including, but not limited to, housing changes, class schedule changes, and counseling. 

Under these guidelines, a university has a strong duty to its students to prevent sexual assault and discrimination and to take meaningful action if allegations of sexual assault or harassment are made. Unfortunately, the process does not always play out as it should; there have been hundreds of instances of universities failing to properly investigate claims of sexual assault or discrimination in the past, with many of these educational facilities facing investigations by the Department of Education for Title IX violation as a result. 

Student Discipline in Primary/Secondary Education

While student codes of conduct are important and necessary, disparate administration of consequences for violation of these codes, resulting in suspension, creates a vicious cycle in which students miss critical access to direct instruction that cannot be recaptured once they return to school. Often students return even further behind than they were, and they have little or no support to catch up.

Secondary schools suspend or expel two million students each year, mostly for non-violent offenses such as disruption, disrespect, tardiness and dress code violations. Getting suspended or expelled increases your child’s risk for falling into unproductive behavior, affecting their social-emotional development, academic performance, and life trajectories. 

Suspensions can also be a predictor of students’ risk for dropping out. Even a single suspension increases the likelihood of low achievement and of dropping out of school altogether. African-American and Latino males are far more likely to receive more-punitive consequences for school behavior infractions. In addition, they are more frequently subjected to suspensions, expulsions and school-based arrest, or transferred to alternative education settings, than their white counterparts. Often, these punishments are for nonviolent, noncriminal behavior that could have been addressed or remedied within the school community. Yet, African-American and Latino students, particularly males, are more likely to be suspended for subjective violations, like disrespect, insubordination or willful defiance, that require interpretation and often receive disparate administration of consequences.

Student Discipline in Higher Education

Institutions of higher education such as colleges and universities are usually enlightened places of learning that treat all students fairly. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, particularly when it comes to disciplinary proceedings. Disciplinary action can have a long-term impact on a student’s ability to finish college or earn a post-graduate degree. It can also harm the student’s chances of obtaining financial aid and employment. Disciplinary actions such as suspension and expulsion can also mean lost months or years of effort as well as wasted tuition.

Virtually every college and university in the U.S. has a code of conduct that applies to its student body. While not having the force of law, this code of conduct subjects students to various sanctions if they violate its terms. Generally speaking, if you are accused of violating the code of conduct, you will receive a notice of a disciplinary violation and may be called before a hearing committee. Unfortunately, the rights afforded to you in the disciplinary process are often weak and arbitrary. Schools are free to run their campus judicial systems using standards of due process, evidence, and confidentiality far below even the minimum standards that apply in either federal or state judicial venues. 


Law Office of William Carlos Weeden

The information on this website has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice nor create an attorney-client relationship or warrant that a certain result will be attained in a specific case. The Supreme Court of Illinois does not recognize certifications of specialties in the practice of law and the certificate, award or recognition is not a requirement to practice law in Illinois. We encourage you to contact us or another legal professional for advice regarding your individual situation.

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