Reston, VA—Middle level and high school principals around the country are asking the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to immediately rescind the 2020 amendments to Title IX regulations on sexual harassment to remove onerous training, reporting, and confidentiality requirements that have infuriated parents, led to further traumatization of students, and greatly frustrated educators who want to effectively and quickly address potential Title IX violations.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) applauded ED’s interpretation of Title IX to protect LGBTQ+ students, and urged the agency to revoke the 2020 amendments. NASSP criticized the following aspects of the 2020 amendments:
- The length of the process and the ability of administrators to adequately mitigate potential and actual sexual harassment and assault of students in a timely manner, especially when compared to other similar disciplinary infractions.
- The staffing burden created by the amendments.
- The confidentiality requirements that do not allow a mechanism for confidential reporting of sexual harassment to an adult who is not a mandatory reporter so that students can receive supportive measures—including mental health counseling—without disclosing their identity to their harasser, initiating a Title IX investigation against their harasser, or initiating a mandatory report by the school to local police.
Two NASSP members also spoke at the public hearing regarding the regulations. Gregory Zenion, principal of Chariho Middle School in Wood River Junction, RI, told ED that his school’s experience with the 2020 amendments “is that we are unable to swiftly remove students from harmful educational environments because of paperwork, evidence, and notice requirements in the regulation. In the past, we relied on previous federal Title IX guidance to develop and solidify procedures to ensure that all Title IX complaints were addressed in an efficient fashion that offered fair protections for both the accuser and the accused. However, the new multilayered process is an overwhelming undertaking for staff and can take 80–90 days to complete.” The 2020 amendments to Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 were issued by the Trump administration.
Dr. Erika Burden, principal of Westwood Middle School in Spokane, WA, told ED that “LGBTQ+ student safety is inherently tied to a school’s culture, the area where school leaders exercise the greatest influence and can have the greatest impact. The best school culture, where students are most successful, recognizes each person in the school as an important and valued member of the community possessing inherent dignity. Sadly, school leaders often build a culture in the face of powerful opposition … [School leaders] welcome guidance and best practices on providing the appropriate support for LGBTQ+ individuals who have experienced sex discrimination and making our school procedures fair and equitable for all.” On June 16, 2021, ED’s Office of Civil Rights issued a Notice of Interpretation explaining that it will enforce Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex to include: (1) discrimination based on sexual orientation; and (2) discrimination based on gender identity.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of middle level and high school principals and other school leaders across the United States. NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student’s potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Student Council.