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Improving the handling of sexual misconduct in K-12 and higher education

APA Services comments on a proposed rule on Title IX that is grounded in psychological science and would limit underreporting of sexual misconduct, while protecting the due process rights of all parties.

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American Psychological Association. (2022, September 12). Improving the handling of sexual misconduct in K-12 and higher education.

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On September 12, 2022, APA Services submitted comments (PDF, 411KB) to the Department of Education on a proposed Title IX rule on sexual harassment and other sex discrimination. When finalized, this proposal would replace the previous administration’s Title IX regulations, which APA Services opposed due to their lack of grounding in psychological science. APA Services drafted the response along with representatives from APA’s Division 35 (Society for the Psychology of Women), Division 44 (Society for the Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity), the Committee on Women in Psychology, and the Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity.

The comments are largely supportive of the proposed rule, which would ensure all students equal educational opportunities free from discrimination based on sex and protect their civil rights, educational attainment, and physical and psychological safety. 

The proposed rule would:

  • Broaden the definition of sexual harassment;
  • Provide more flexibility for resolving complaints of sexual misconduct;
  • Restore the flexibility to the reporting process;
  • Strengthen student support and recovery options;
  • For the first time include sexual orientation and gender identity in the definition of discrimination based on sex; and
  • Ensure pregnant and parenting students receive more support to complete their education.

The final two proposals are particularly important due to the prevalent discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ students, as well as the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.

APA Services offered several recommendations to the Department of Education that would strengthen the proposed rule, including the explicit inclusion of medical and psychological services for survivors as part of the supportive measures offered by institutions; rehabilitation options for students who have been found responsible of sexual misconduct but are allowed to remain on campus; inclusion of LGBTQ+ perspectives in campus safety policies; appropriate implementation of Title IX’s religious exemption; further use of LGBTQ+ inclusive language as part of protections offered to pregnant and parenting students; and more guidance to help schools understand their role in providing accommodations regarding abortions.

The rule must be finalized by November 1, 2022, to go into effect before the next academic year. 

For more information, contact Kenneth Polishchuk.