School districts have been inundated over the last six months with new laws and guidance surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.  While understandably our collective focus has been on pandemic planning, school districts should not lose sight of two key developments relating to sexual harassment prevention and response that require district action and training.

The first of these developments is the new Title IX regulations.  In May 2020, the U.S. Department of Education issued revised Title IX regulations that became effective on August 14, 2020.  These new regulations make significant changes to the substantive and procedural aspects of Title IX, the federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sex in education programs. As a result of these changes, school districts will need to be sure to update existing policies on sexual harassment for both students and employees, as well as provide mandatory training to staff on the new substantive and procedural requirements for investigating and responding to sexual harassment complaints.

The second item related to sexual harassment is the extension of the deadline for all employers to meet Connecticut’s new training requirements for all employees relative to sexual harassment prevention, which were originally scheduled to come due in October 2020.

Understandably, there has been considerable confusion surrounding the difference between the mandated trainings under the new Title IX regulations and the mandated employment trainings for sexual harassment prevention required by Connecticut law. Below we have clarified the training obligations for school districts in Connecticut relative to sexual harassment prevention and response.

Mandatory Sexual Harassment Prevention Training for All Employees – Connecticut Law

Under Connecticut General Statutes § 46a-54(15), as an employer, school districts are required to provide two hours of training and education concerning sexual harassment to all employees, and to all new employees within six months of their hire. This training and education must be completed by all employees by January 1, 2021[1], unless the employee already received training and education after October 1, 2018.  Any employees hired on or after October 1, 2019 must receive training and education no later than six months after the date of hire.

Periodic supplemental training that updates all supervisory and nonsupervisory employees on the content of such training and education must be provided not less than every ten years. Additional information concerning this mandatory training and other aspects of the implementing law can be found on the website for the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

Required Title IX Training for All Employees Who Will Serve as Title IX Coordinators, Investigators, Decision-Makers, and Informal Resolution Facilitators

The new Title IX regulations provide separate training requirements, distinct from the training requirements for all employees under Connecticut law. The new Title IX regulations require that all employees who will serve as Title IX Coordinators, investigators, decision-makers, and informal resolution facilitators receive training concerning the definition of sexual harassment; the scope of the school district’s education program or activity; how to conduct an investigation and grievance process including hearings, appeals, and informal resolution processes, as applicable; and how to serve impartially, including by avoiding prejudgment of the facts at issue, conflicts of interest, and bias. While there may be some overlap with respect to the state and federal mandatory trainings, the Title IX regulations set forth prescribed training requirements for those employees serving in the identified roles.

As a reminder, the new Title IX regulations require that all materials used to conduct this mandatory training be publicly available on the school district’s website.

Recommended Title IX Training for All Employees

Under the new Title IX regulations, a school district has “actual knowledge” of sexual harassment—and thus a legal obligation to respond—when any employee of the district receives notice of sexual harassment.  While not mandatory, we recommend that school districts train all employees on Title IX and an employee’s obligation to report sexual harassment.

We have developed comprehensive trainings for all three of these sexual harassment prevention trainings and our attorneys are available to discuss these complicated issues with your school district and conduct any or all of these trainings.  For questions about the state and federal laws concerning sex discrimination and sexual harassment, the specific training requirements, or to schedule a training, please contact any member of our School Law Practice Group.

 

[1] The original completion date was October 1, 2020; however, the deadline was extended to January 1, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Photo of Julie C. Fay Julie C. Fay

Julie represents public and independent schools in a variety of special education and general education law matters, with a particular focus on issues relating to students with disabilities, student discipline, confidentiality, school governance and policy. Julie frequently represents schools in administrative hearings, including…

Julie represents public and independent schools in a variety of special education and general education law matters, with a particular focus on issues relating to students with disabilities, student discipline, confidentiality, school governance and policy. Julie frequently represents schools in administrative hearings, including expulsion hearings, special education due process hearings and related proceedings, and is often called upon to guide districts in drafting policies and administrative procedures in all education law areas. As part of her practice, Julie has conducted numerous professional development workshops for clients and other school organizations.

Photo of Gwen J. Zittoun Gwen J. Zittoun

Gwen represents boards of education in relation to special education, Section 504, restraint and seclusion, student discipline, board policy development and revision, and general education matters. Gwen frequently speaks on education issues, including privacy and confidentiality of student information, bullying and Section 504.

Photo of Tyler Bischoff Tyler Bischoff

Tyler Bischoff is a member of the firm’s School Law Practice Group, where he advises public school districts on a variety of general education, special education and labor and employment issues.

Prior to joining Shipman & Goodwin, Tyler served as a law clerk…

Tyler Bischoff is a member of the firm’s School Law Practice Group, where he advises public school districts on a variety of general education, special education and labor and employment issues.

Prior to joining Shipman & Goodwin, Tyler served as a law clerk for the Honorable Christine E. Keller of the Connecticut Appellate Court. Prior to law school, Tyler worked as a college admissions counselor at a private university. While in law school, he served as a judicial extern for the Honorable Bruce M. Selya of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and an intern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island.

Sarah E. Gleason

Sarah Gleason is a member of the firm’s School Law Practice Group, where she advises public school districts on a variety of general education, special education and labor and employment issues.  Prior to receiving her J.D., Sarah worked as an elementary school teacher…

Sarah Gleason is a member of the firm’s School Law Practice Group, where she advises public school districts on a variety of general education, special education and labor and employment issues.  Prior to receiving her J.D., Sarah worked as an elementary school teacher, and she brings that unique perspective to her practice as a school law attorney.