Letter: Steamboat High protesters should file OCR complaint | SteamboatToday.com

Letter: Steamboat High protesters should file OCR complaint

Rather than protest at a rally to raise awareness of an alleged problem, Steamboat Springs High School students should file a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. This civil rights law extends to all public schools. Title IX states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Educational institutions have a responsibility to protect every student’s right to learn in a safe environment. Schools must provide services in a nondiscriminatory manner in an environment free from discriminatory harassment that limits educational opportunity. One key issue area in which recipients have Title IX obligations is sex-based harassment, which encompasses sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence. A school is out of compliance with Title IX law if it fails to address unlawful sex-based harassment that affects a student’s right to equal access to education.

The individual filing the complaint form will need to identify the institution that engaged in the alleged discrimination and describe each alleged discriminatory act and how the action prevented the complainant from participating in or getting the benefit of the school’s educational program. They must also explain what they would like the institution to do as a result of the complaint — what remedy are you seeking so your access to your education is restored? The form also asks whether you have attempted to resolve these allegations with the institution through an internal grievance procedure.

Rather than protest at a rally to address what students believe to be a lack of appropriate response to sexual assault and harassment allegations at the high school, a formal complaint should be filed. If a “rape culture” exists at Steamboat High School, as Maelin Moore alleges, not only should law enforcement be involved, a formal investigation into the school’s compliance with civil rights laws should be initiated rather than a rally held.

Susan Stewart

Steamboat Springs

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