Christian schools allowed to discriminate

When word spread this month that George Fox University had received an exemption to Title IX, allowing it to discriminate against a transgender student by denying him the housing he requested, many advocates for transgender students were stunned. Federal regulations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 do in fact require the Education Department to exempt colleges from rules that violate their religious beliefs. During the debate, George Fox officials noted that they were objecting to a housing request only, and that they haven’t kicked the student out of the university.

But now the Education Department has confirmed that it has since awarded two more exemptions to Title IX to Christian colleges that want to discriminate against transgender students. These colleges assert (and the Education Department agreed) that they should be exempt from more of Title IX than just housing equity. These colleges have policies to punish transgender students for being transgender students, apparently up to expulsion — and they can now do so legally. The two institutions are Spring Arbor University, in Michigan, and Simpson University, in California.

Spring Arbor is affiliated with the Free Methodist Church and its traditions. It requested exemption from Title IX with regard to issues of admissions, behavioral rules, housing, access to restrooms, athletic participation and more.

The university’s student handbook says: “Spring Arbor University reserves the right to terminate or deny enrollment of those whose influence upon our community should prove to be in our judgment intractably contrary to the best interests of our students, and commitments to our university and to our Lord. Therefore, Spring Arbor University will not support persistent or conspicuous examples of cross-dressing or other expressions or actions that are deliberately discordant with birth gender, and will deal with such matters within the appropriate pastoral and conduct processes of the university.”

Continue reading “Christian schools allowed to discriminate”

Obama moves on gender identity

imgresTucked away in a document on reducing sexual assault at school – part of an unprecedented effort by the Obama administration to address such abuse – the Department of Education included a historic guideline extending federal civil rights protections to transgender students on Tuesday.

Title IX – the civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities – also bars discrimination on the basis of gender identity, announced the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, marking a major victory in the fight to codify LGBT protections into federal law.

“Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and OCR accepts such complaints for investigation,” reads the 46-page document. “Similarly, the actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the parties does not change a school’s obligations. Indeed, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth report high rates of sexual harassment and sexual violence. A school should investigate and resolve allegations of sexual violence regarding LGBT students using the same procedures and standards that it uses in all complaints involving sexual violence.”

Though aimed at clarifying how Title IX relates to sexual violence, the guidance carries far broader implications. LGBT advocates note that transgender students will not just be explicitly protected from physical or sexual abuse under Title IX, but from all forms of discrimination in education.

“It certainly would be our view that transgender students should be given the ability to participate in sex segregated activities, like sports teams, consistent with their gender identity,” said Ian Thompson, legislative representative at the American Civil Liberties Union, to msnbc. “Failure on part of the school to allow that would be discrimination against that student.” Continue reading “Obama moves on gender identity”

Assailing the victims

imagesHeightened awareness of students’ rights and colleges’ obligations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination, has led to a wave of protests.With increasing frequency, women are filing federal complaints against colleges accused of failing to address sexual assault.

Now, InsideHigher Ed reports that “two men who left two different colleges after being accused of sexual assault have filed their own lawsuits alleging that administrators violated their due process by mishandling the investigations and campus judicial proceedings that led to their expulsion and withdrawal. It’s an unusual (but not unprecedented) legal approach, utilizing a federal statute designed to protect the people who historically have been victimized by institutional discrimination. To make a successful case under Title IX, the men must demonstrate that they were discriminated against based on their status as males.

“Lawyers and Title IX experts say that’s unlikely.

“Title IX protects the victim because it was put in place to do that – because there aren’t other sorts of protection,” said Erin Buzuvis, a professor at Western New England School of Law and founder of the Title IX Blog. “Neither of these students have prevailed in demonstrating what happened to them was sex discrimination.”

“However, they might have cases for violation of due process – just not necessarily under Title IX. Separately, the students are also arguing negligence and breach of contract, saying campus officials conducted cursory investigations, allowed the accuser special treatment at disciplinary hearings, and ignored evidence, including Facebook messages exchanged after the alleged assault.

“Most of the women who have filed Title IX complaints against a handful of colleges over the past couple of years have said they were raped by fellow students, and administrators did not effectively respond to their complaints. Campuses including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Occidental College, Swarthmore College and theUniversity of Southern California are all under federal investigation stemming from complaints students filed with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. In April 2011, OCR laid out its expectations for how colleges should prevent sexual assault and respond to complaints, including having effective policies for investigations and judicial proceedings. The women who file those complaints are often said to have been “re-victimized” by inadequate administrative response. In contrast, the men who filed complaints last month against Saint Joseph’s University and Vassar College are alleged perpetrators who are in effect claiming they were victimized by a system set up against them.”

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/08/09/accused-rape-men-allege-discrimination-under-title-ix#ixzz2bXk47Rhq
Inside Higher Ed

School sports and disability rights

Recent federal action on school sports programs could do for disabled students what Title IX did for women and girls.

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For the first time, federal officials are telling school districts that they must offer students with disabilities equal access to school sports, reports today’s edition of DisabilityScoop, continuing:

“In guidance issued Friday to districts across the country, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said that children with disabilities have the right to participate in their school’s extracurricular activities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

“Accordingly, the agency said that students with intellectual, developmental, physical and other types of disabilities should be afforded opportunities to play for their school teams with modifications, aids and services as needed. Continue reading “School sports and disability rights”