Grievance Procedures

A school that is subject to Title IX must also adopt and publish procedures, commonly referred to as grievance procedures, for the prompt and equitable resolution of complaints of sex discrimination, including sexual misconduct.1 There are several different procedures that a school may use, depending on the nature of the allegation, the age of the student or students involved, the size and administrative structure of the school, state or local legal requirements, and what it has learned from past experiences.2 When posted, either in a student handbook and/or on the school’s website, the grievance procedure should outline the steps in the process, including how to file a formal complaint.2

The updated Department of Education regulation clarifies how schools must conduct a fair and impartial investigation when a formal complaint is filed and explicitly states that the grievance process must provide for live hearings.3 The final rule strengthens a school’s mandatory response process, adding a provision that requires Title IX coordinators to discuss supportive measure options with complainants.3 Supportive measures are defined as individualized services reasonably available that are nonpunitive, non-disciplinary, and not unreasonably burdensome to the other party while designed to ensure equal educational access, protect safety, or deter sexual harassment.3 Some examples of supportive measures may include counseling, added security, no-contact orders, changes to dorm assignment, and others. Any supportive measures provided to the complainant or respondent must be kept confidential.

The updated rule also clarifies that schools must respond to reports of harassment at locations, events, or circumstances over which the school exercised substantial control over both the respondent and the context in which the sexual harassment occurred, including any building owned or controlled by a student organization that is officially recognized by a postsecondary institution.3

Another noteworthy update is a section prohibiting retaliation against any individual who has made a report or complaint, testified, assisted, or participated or refused to participate in any manner in a Title IX investigation, proceeding, or hearing.3 When responding to formal complaints, effective policies and procedures should provide care for victims while protecting rights of the accused.

One other important change is the addition of the Title IX Advisor. The updated rule enables anyone involved in a Title IX complaint to have access to an individual that can accompany them to the Title IX hearing. The advisor can be a friend, parent, family member, attorney, or any other person the student or employee chooses. If the person doesn’t have an advisor, the college or university should provide an advisor of the school’s choice.3 The advisor will conduct cross-examinations of a party or witness at the hearing.

For full information regarding the grievance procedures requirements, please refer to the Department of Education Title IX Final Rule (unofficial copy). To review the major provisions of the final rule, refer to the Department of Education summary. The Department of Education provides a video overview of the updated grievance procedures that can be found ‘here’.

1. U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. Q&A on Campus Sexual Misconduct, September, 2017.
2. U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Title IX Resource Guide, April, 2015.
3. Summary of Major Provisions of the Department of Education’s Title IX Final Rule. Accessed May 29, 2020.