Sexual Violence Against Students: Know Your Rights

Public Justice represents students when their schools fail to respond adequately to the gender-based violence they’ve experienced. We believe litigation is a critical part of the solution to this problem. Public Justice addresses gender violence in schools across the board—from primary and secondary schools to colleges and universities. We also address a wide range of gender violence in schools, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence, harassment of LGBT students, and hazing. To stay up to date on our work on these and other issues, click here to sign up for our monthly newsletter and other updates from the Public Justice team.

Students who are sexually assaulted have legal rights. This site provides some basic information on students’ rights and schools’ obligations under Title IX.

Title IX requires schools to address sexual violence

Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. Sex discrimination includes sexual violence, such as rape and sexual assault. It can also include dating violence.


All public schools and any private schools that receive federal funds must comply with Title IX.


Title IX requires schools to address sexual violence promptly, thoroughly, and fairly. This is true whether the sexual violence occurs at school or off-campus. Schools must take steps to ensure that the violence doesn’t deprive a student of equal access to education or an educational activity like being on a team or in a club.


Title IX protects all students, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, disability, or undocumented status.


Schools must have a Title IX Coordinator

Every school must have a staff member called a Title IX Coordinator whose name and contact information are readily available.


A Title IX Coordinator is a person to whom students or their parents/guardians can report sexual violence.


A Title IX Coordinator is responsible for helping the school address sexual violence properly. This includes making sure the school has a policy against sex discrimination and procedures for filing sexual assault complaints that everyone can access and understand.


Schools must investigate immediately when a student reports a sexual assault, even if the police are doing their own investigation

Schools must investigate a report of sexual assault right away to determine what happened.


Schools should obtain a student’s consent before starting an investigation.


Schools are not allowed to discourage students from filing a complaint with the school or reporting the sexual assault to police.


Schools must conduct their own investigation in a reasonably prompt timeframe and can’t wait for police to finish their investigation.


Schools must inform both the victim and alleged attacker of the outcome of the investigation. This includes informing the victim of the disciplinary action taken against an alleged attacker found responsible for sexual violence—such as transfer to another school, “no contact” orders, suspension, orders, suspension, or  expulsion.


During the investigation, schools must take steps to protect the victim from harassment or retaliation by the alleged attacker and his/her friends, other students, and school employees.


Schools must provide accommodations to sexual assault survivors so they can continue their education in a safe environment

Title IX requires schools to provide student survivors with reasonable accommodations before and during an investigation—and even if the student decides not to pursue a formal school investigation.


Accommodations may include:


  • support services like academic tutoring and counseling
  • changed classes, assignments, or exams
  • increased supervision where the violence occurred


Schools must minimize the burden on the student survivor when providing accommodations. For example, they may not force the survivor to change schools, classes, buses, or extracurricular activities.


Schools should provide accommodations free of charge.


Schools must never retaliate against a student for reporting sexual violence

Schools may not punish a student for reporting sexual violence. If they do, that’s called “retaliation” and it violates Title IX.


Schools may not:


  • Suspend or otherwise discipline students for reporting sexual violence
  • Force student survivors to transfer to another school or get homebound instruction
  • Force student survivors to leave a team or change extracurricular activities


For more information on student sexual assault survivors’ rights, go to  https://www.knowyourix.org/high-school-resource/title-ix/

For information about the work Public Justice does to protect students’ rights when they are victims of gender-based violence or harassment, click here.

If you are interested in submitting a case to Public Justice, click here.



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