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Sexual Violence and Harassment in Washington DC Schools

In recent years, the Office for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education has specifically included sexual violence and sexual harassment as a part of the conduct that Title IX prohibits on colleges and university campuses. Although federal guidance on these aspects is currently in flux under the current administration, most schools have continued to include these types of misconduct in their Title IX policies and procedures until advised otherwise.

Sexual violence and harassment in schools is typically a violation of student conduct codes and, as a result, triggers proceedings under Title IX. The ramifications of allegations involving sexual violence or sexual harassment can be severe. Accused individuals may face both academic penalties if the school finds that they have committed either of these types of misconduct, as well as criminal penalties if the incident becomes the subject of criminal prosecution.

As a result, enlisting the help of a Title IX defense lawyer when accused of sexual misconduct can be an essential step in protecting your future.

Defining Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment generally includes any unwelcome and unwanted sexual conduct, including the following:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Verbal, non-verbal, and physical behavior of a sexual nature

Sexual violence is a form of sexual harassment. This sexual misconduct involves forcible physical sexual acts that occur against the will of others, without their consent, or in situations in which they are unable to consent. Washington DC schools sexual violence and harassment both trigger the application of Title IX.

Furthermore, when sexual harassment or sexual violence occurs within the context of current or former intimate relationships, the Clery Act, as amended by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, also applies. This means that the mandates of the Clery Act, in addition to Title IX, may be applicable in appropriate cases involving sexual violence and harassment in schools in Washington DC.

Understanding Consent

A significant consideration in determining whether sexual violence occurred is whether the sexual activity in questions was consensual or non-consensual. Schools define consent differently, but most school conduct code policies require some form of affirmative verbal or physical consent to sexual activity by both parties involved. These policies also put the responsibility on both parties to ensure that it is consensual.

Most policies also address situations in which one party is unconscious, helpless, asleep, or substantially impaired by alcohol or drugs. This situation usually indicates a lack of consent by the affected party to any sexual activity that occurs. Likewise, many student conduct codes specifically provide that intoxication by alcohol or drugs is not a defense to engaging in nonconsensual sexual behavior.

Types of Sexual Harassment

The law recognizes two distinct types of sexual harassment: hostile environment sexual harassment and quid pro quo sexual harassment. Quid pro quo harassment only occurs in contexts in which one person has a position of authority over the other, whether real or perceived, and that party requests sexual favors as a condition to the other party receiving some benefit.

This type of harassment typically does not involve incidents that solely involve students, unless one student is a teaching assistant for a class in which the other student is enrolled—or when a student is a supervisor at an on-campus worksite at which the other student works.

Hostile environment sexual harassment, on the other hand, involves severe, repeated, and offensive gender-based conduct that materially alters the ability of students benefit from college attendance—such as attending classes, being present at school activities, working at campus jobs, or living in student housing. The harassment can be verbal, written, electronic, or physical conduct or a combination of these types of behavior.

Seeking Legal Counsel to Handle Harassment and Sexual Violence Allegations in DC Schools

Accusations of sexual violence and harassment in Washington DC schools may result in student disciplinary proceedings that must follow Title IX mandates and may implicate the Clery Act, as well. These proceedings can have severe consequences for accused students, including suspension and expulsion from school.

Furthermore, students accused of sexual violence on college campuses can face criminal prosecution, in some cases. As such, getting legal advice as soon as you become aware of allegations being lodged against you may be highly beneficial. With the help of a seasoned attorney, you could have assistance to reach the best possible outcome under the circumstances.

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