MDE Reminds Schools About Sexual Harassment Obligations

MDE issued a memorandum this month reminding schools of sexual harassment obligations under State and federal law. MDE noted that both Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Edu­cation Amendments Act prohibit sexual harassment, a prohibition that protects all individuals, including students, employees, parents, and guardians.

MDE stressed that schools have numerous obligations under Title IX, including the following:

  1. Adopt and publish a Title IX grievance procedure.
  2. Designate at least one employee to serve as a Title IX Coordinator, a position that assists with Title IX compliance and corresponding responsibilities.
  3. Publish the Title IX Coordinator’s complete business address and telephone number on the school’s website.
  4. Publish the school’s nondiscrimination notice on the school’s website.
  5. Report the identity of the school’s Title IX Coordinator to MDE annually through the Center for Educational Performance and Information’s Registry of Educational Personnel Report.
  6. Take immediate steps to investigate and determine the circumstances surrounding any alleged sexual harassment.

Relatedly, MDE noted that school administrators, counselors, and teachers with reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect are required to make an immediate report to child protective services under the Michigan Child Protection Law (CPL). If schools adopt a policy on sexual abuse of children, then the policy must be substantially consistent with the rec­ommendations and guidelines issued by the task force on the prevention of sexual abuse of children, which was created pursuant to the CPL.

As a reminder, Section 1300a of the Revised School Code requires all school districts to adopt a written sexual harassment policy. This policy must, at a minimum, prohibit sexual harassment by school dis­trict employees, board members, and pupils directed at other employees or pupils. The policy must also specify penalties for individuals violating the policy.

Compliance with sexual harassment obligations under State and federal law begins with adequate poli­cies and staff training. If your school is interested in adopting or revising its sexual harassment policy, our firm has developed a model policy and accompanying documents. Please see the next article, “Title IX Pack­age – Coming Soon,” for more information on this poli­cy and documents. Our office can also assist with staff training.