Does Title IX Apply to Incidents at Off-Campus Housing?

Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination or harassment on college campuses. Many people are aware of this, but they are unsure whether the federal law extends beyond campus. Any confusion is understandable considering the answer has changed through the years and over different presidential administrations.

The proposed new Title IX rules released by the Biden administration show a return to expanding Title IX to include alleged misconduct occurring beyond the campus boundaries.

Current Regulations Limit Title IX Jurisdiction

Under current Title IX regulations implemented during the Trump administration, universities are only obligated to investigate sex-based harassment and discrimination occurring on the school’s campus or in a school-controlled program or activity.

An incident in a science class, misconduct in a Zoom class, and harassment on a school-sponsored or promoted trip, for example, all qualify for investigation by the school's Title IX office because the school has significant control over these events.

Unless a school-related event is involved, the school is not obligated to investigate alleged sexual misconduct outside its boundaries. For example, an incident at an off campus building controlled by a student organization that is officially recognized by the school, such as a fraternity or sorority, would fall under Title IX. However, off campus housing from a private landlord would not.

Proposed Changes Expand Title IX’s Reach

The proposed rule does not alter the school’s responsibility for responding to sex discrimination occurring on campus or within a school activity in the U.S. The change, if included in the final rule, will expand a school’s Title IX responsibilities to include conduct outside of their current scope if that conduct contributes to a hostile environment on campus or in an education program/activity.

Another potential change is how study-abroad programs are handled. Currently, study-abroad trips are an exception to the university’s Title IX obligations because even if the program is organized and operated by the school, Title IX regulations do not apply to incidents that occur outside of the U.S. While the school can provide supportive measures, it is not required by Title IX to investigate these allegations. The proposed legislation would change this to require schools to investigate Title IX harassment if it occurred in another country and if the student's behavior contributes to a hostile environment once they return to campus. Schools would investigate Title IX harassment if it occurred in another country and if that conduct contributes to a hostile environment once the student returns to campus.

Return to Previous Philosophy

The proposed changes are not new. The changes put forth in the proposed rules return to Obama-era philosophies. In 2011, the Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague Letter to schools that told schools to process a student’s complaint in accordance with established procedures regardless of where the incident occurred. The federal Department of Education reinforced this stance with 2014 Title IX guidance.

Investigations Based on the Code of Conduct

Title IX is not the only vehicle educational institutions have to investigate alleged improper behaviors. Schools have the authority to investigate any actions that violate the school’s Code of Conduct. The school can have investigative processes outside of Title IX. This type of investigation typically offers future procedural protections for the respondent (the person accused).

Helping You Defend Your Future and Education

Any accused student of wrongdoing under Title IX risks being expelled from school and having their reputation damaged. Faculty and staff members including, coaches, professors, teaching assistants, and graduate assistants, accused of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other alleged Title IX offenses can face long lasting impacts on their lives and careers.

Due to the complexity of Title IX regulations, anyone accused of a Title IX violation is strongly encouraged to seek legal advice from an experienced Title IX attorney. At Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC, we specialize in Title IX and thoroughly examine every aspect of the law to determine how to best protect our clients' interests.

Accused of sex-based violations on or off campus? Schedule a consultation with our Title IX team. Contact us online or call (737) 200-2332.