The Clark County School District violated Title IX, the federal law that protects students from sexual harassment and guarantees gender equity, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights concluded in December.
The violation stems from the system’s handling of a 2011 complaint from a special education student who claimed he was harassed by a teacher and peers, and then suffered retaliation once his parents complained.
The U.S. Department of Education identified additional problems with the district’s Title IX compliance and set deadlines to resolve certain issues— yet the system never publicly disclosed the violation and would not confirm Monday whether it had complied with those resolutions.
Instead, School Board trustees approved a resolution agreement with the Office of Civil Rights under a consent agenda at a Dec. 8, 2016 meeting. The resolution was labeled confidential and not accessible to the public.
Trustee Carolyn Edwards said complaints against the district are not usually made public or discussed at a meeting. “We’re a large district,” Edwards said. “Sometimes individuals make mistakes and we have to correct them.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Canavero was copied on the investigation, but a state department spokesman said he believed it was done so as a courtesy.
“This is a federal investigation enforcing Title IX requirements, it doesn’t involve the state,” said spokesman Greg Bortolin.
He said the department can’t comment on something that is still pending legally.
The resolution agreement required the district’s administration to fix a number of issues by January, February and March.
That includes proposing revisions of its nondiscrimination and grievance procedures by January 6. It also includes providing instruction on harassment to students at the complainant’s school — which was not identified — by March 22. Staff at that school was also required to receive Title IX training by March 6.
Though the investigation and resolution are accessible on the federal department’s website, a district spokeswoman said the case is still ongoing and the district does not comment on pending cases.
The investigation also found inconsistencies with the district not having a clearly designated Title IX coordinator until the spring of 2016.
Susan Smith, listed as an assistant superintendent in the district’s administrative telephone directory, was designated the Title IX coordinator in December. According to a spokeswoman, the Title IX officer is now Billie Rayford, who also works as Interim Chief Instructional Services Officer.
But the district’s website further confuses job titles and responsibilities by listing a chief educational opportunity officer as acting Title IX coordinator; meanwhile, the district’s directory still lists Smith’s number for Title IX matters.
Parents of the special education student first complained in March of 2011. Cases lasting three or four years are not uncommon, but an investigation of roughly six years is unusually long, according to John Clune, a Colorado attorney who specializes in Title IX cases.
“The length of the investigation has more to do with the speed of (Office for Civil Rights) rather than the school, and there is no consequence for anyone for the length,” Clune said.
The district failed to respond promptly and equitably to the student’s complaints and never took steps to address harassment from peers that staff knew about, according to the investigation.
“The delay of approximately 45 days between the time the accused received written notice and the alleged victim received verbal notice was nor prompt or equitable,” the report states.
In addition, “The principal told OCR that he did not inform the parents about the outcome of the investigations because district administrators had told him that the investigation of the teacher was a confidential personnel matter.”
The district also had an unclear procedure for the public to file such complaints, with at least two grievance procedures and at least three different regulations that address harassment complaints, the investigation found.
“Finally, these regulations, when taken together, create an ambiguity regarding where a student or parent who wishes to file a complaint regarding harassment should go,” the report states.
Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.
The OCR investigation found:
— That the district’s notice of nondiscrimination does not accurately state its legal obligation not to discriminate under Title IX
— The district failed to respond equiatably and promptly to complaints of sex-based harassment
— District staff had notice of possible sex-based harassment by classmates, but never took steps to address it
— There was no clear Title IX coordinator until the spring of 2016
— Unclear grievance procedures and regulations for harassment complaints
— Revise notice of nondiscrimination, ensuring that it includes contact info for Title IX coordinator and refers Title IX inquiries to coordinator or OCR
— Revise grievance procedures for Title IX matters
— Designate at least one Title IX coordinator and provide training on how to conduct investigations
— Train employees at complainant’s school on Title IX matters and sexual harassment
— Provide age-appropriate instruction to students at complainant’s school on harassment and how to report it
— Send letter to student’s parents stating its commitment to responding appropriately to complaints