Protect Your Educational Institution

Update Governing and Organizational Documents

With several recent lawsuits as well as pending legislation, it’s important for Christian schools to prepare for a variety of potential outcomes. There is a potential for challenges to sincerely held religious beliefs as well as religious exemptions.

Strengthening your guiding documents is a good first step. It’s a good practice to weave your purpose and beliefs, with applicable references to scripture, throughout all your governing and operational documents, including your bylaws, employee handbook, faculty handbook, student handbook, catalogs, and overall school plans, policies, and procedures. It’s also important to spell-out your behavioral expectations for employees, faculty, and students.

It is important that the ministry’s documented beliefs in operational and governing documents, while not necessarily identical, are consistent with one another. The purpose of consistently documenting ministry beliefs along with scriptural references, although not absolute, is to help avoid potential discrimination claims (and if necessary defend such claims) by allowing ministry leaders to point to their written documents to demonstrate that certain policies and procedures are based upon sincerely held religious beliefs.  Citing scriptures is very important and having this publicly stated on your website is helpful.

Ensure Your Title IX Policy Complies with the Law

Because of the complexities of Title IX compliance, it is important to make sure your school’s Title IX policy complies with the law, including the 2020 regulations. Having a good policy in place and ensuring that your employees are adequately trained on your institution’s Title IX policy, can help reduce your school’s liability exposure to claims alleging your organization violated Title IX by failing to comply with Title IX’s due process requirements.  If you have not already, you are encouraged to have your policy reviewed by an attorney with experience in Title IX compliance.

Obtain Written Verification of the Title IX Religious Exemption

If your school has sincerely held beliefs with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity issues, it might be a good idea to seek written verification of the Title IX religious exemption for your institution.

Consider Adding Religious Freedom Protection Coverage

Lawsuits brought under Title VII or Title IX commonly claim damages for emotional injury, personal injury, or financial injuryGeneral liability coverage typically only pays for bodily injury or property damage, which could create a coverage gap for a Christian school without the right coverages in place.

Another step your school can take is to obtain insurance coverage for potential lawsuits, including Title IX lawsuits or challenge. Not all coverage is equal, even among those insurance carriers that specialize in insurance for Christian ministries. To minimize the risk of a potential claim or lawsuit resulting from belief-based decisions and practices, Christian schools should carefully consider the applicability of Title IX and take appropriate steps to comply with the law.

Brotherhood Mutual offers broad Religious Freedom ProtectionSM Coverage for religious institutions in relation to their belief-based decisions and communication. This includes coverage for emotional injury claims that result from alleged discrimination, religious communication, or religious activities. The endorsement also offers funds to help respond to targeted actions by government agencies, as well as tax-exemption challenges. 

In addition, for Christian schools, Brotherhood Mutual offers a Religious Freedom Protection Coverage Educational Institution Extension that protects faith-based educational institutions from threats related to:

  • Acts that would be considered discrimination under Title IX or any other applicable federal, state or local statute, ordinance, or law.
  • Your ability or your students’ ability to receive federal financial aid under Title IV.
  • Your ability or your students’ ability to receive financial aid or scholarships through federal, state, or local programs (other than Title IV).
  • Accreditation challenges.

Of course, coverage is determined at the time of a claim, subject to all terms, conditions, and exclusions.

Talk to your agent to determine whether your organization has insurance coverage for Title IX issues.