The Law Office of
Cassandra M. Kirsch, LLC
Title IX is a federal civil right law that prohibits sex discrimination in any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. A school or education program may violate Title IX when peer harassment based on sex is sufficiently serious that it creates a hostile environment and such harassment is encouraged, tolerated, not adequately addressed, or ignored by school employees.
Under Title IX, discrimination on the basis of sex can include sexual harassment or sexual violence, such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion. Sex harassment includes physical, verbal, and written acts. Sex harassment does not have to include intent to harm, be directed at a specific target, or involve repeated incidents.
Sexual orientation, gender identification, and adhering to or deviating from sexual norms also fall under the umbrella of sex discrimination for Title IX purposes.
But sex discrimination can also capture rumors about a student's sexual activities or sexual orientation. For example, claiming that a person is gay or lesbian could fall under Title IX if the statements create a hostile environment for the student. Likewise, spreading sexual rumors about a person would also trigger a school's Title IX duties.
If a public school knows or reasonably should know about sexual harassment or sexual violence that creates a hostile environment, the school must take immediate action to eliminate the sexual harassment or sexual violence, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects. The harassment does not have to occur on campus and include harassment by another student made over the Internet or social media.
Even if a student or his or her parent does not want to file a complaint or does not request that the public school take any action on the student’s behalf, if a school knows or reasonably should know about possible sexual harassment or sexual violence, it must promptly investigate to determine what occurred and then take appropriate steps to resolve the situation.
Schools have a fair amount of discretion when it comes to remedying hostile environments. The U.S. Department of State recognizes the following as some appropriate steps a school may take: (1) separating the accused harasser and the target; (2) providing counseling for the target and/or harasser; or (3) taking disciplinary action against the harasser. The school in no case may enact remedies that penalize or burden the student who was harassed.
A criminal investigation into allegations does not relieve the school of its Title IX duties.
Cyber bullying often happens on social media networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and typically involves intimidation or the spreading of damaging rumors or gossip, to which teenagers can be particularly susceptible. Unlike face-to-face bullying, cyber bullying often follows its victim 24/7, and continues the bullying in the home.
Cyber bullying fosters a climate of fear and disrespect that can seriously impair the physical and psychological health of its victims and create conditions that negatively affect learning. Continued cyber bullying can undermine a student's ability to fulfill his or her potential.
Cyber bullying can be particularly harmful as it is often a public form of humiliation and many others are able to see what is written or posted. Once something is published online, it is difficult if not impossible to remove all traces of it. As result , we often see tragic consequences, including suicide.
However, your child doesn't have to bear the weight of the harassment and endure daily terrors. The cyber bullying your child is experiencing may be a crime under Colorado's harassment statute. Your child's school also has duties under the federal Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to remedy the hostile environment and stop the cyber bullying.
People can be quick to say "kids will be kids" when the word "bullying" is mentioned.
But the bullying many of us remember from our own playground days no longer even remotely resembles what thousands of children endure every day.
Thanks to the spread of social media, online bullying, or cyber bullying, has become a fast and widespread phenomenon. The medical journal JAMA Pediatrics reported that about a quarter of U.S. adolescents in 2014 had experienced cyber bullying through social media.
Cyber bullying is criminalized under Colorado's harassment statute. The statute defines cyber bullying as threatening or harassing someone using a mobile device or social media sites like Facebook. Cyber bullying a misdemeanor crime, and anyone found guilty could face up to a $750 fine and six months in jail.
The cyber bullying has to rise to criminal intent to alarm, annoy or harass; and it can be either direct or indirect. In other words, an online posting need not be sent directly to an individual victim to fall under the statute.
In cases involving Title IX, you have three main options. First, you can send an education demand letter to the school informing it how it has violated Title IX and what needs to be done for your child to remedy the hostile environment. If that fails, you can file a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education to initiate an investigation into your school’s policies and practices. If the U.S. Department of Education determines there was a failure to enforce or follow Title IX, the federal agency will usually audit the school. Finally, you can file a civil lawsuit against your child's school under Title IX.
Parents can can always report the cyber bullying to law enforcement under Colorado's harassment statute. No attorney is necessary to make a police report, however cyber bullying often doesn't look like normal criminal harassment and an attorney may best be able to explain to law enforcement in a legal opinion letter how the online behavior gives rise to a sufficient violation of the Colorado statute.
Finally, cyber bullying also frequently involves other civil violations, such as intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. Once a parent of a cyber bully has been put on notice of the cyber bullying and then fails to stop it, they may be liable for the damages caused by their child's tortious behavior. This could include the cost for continued therapy, medical bills as a result of prior treatment, and even punitive damages in some cases.
If your child is the victim of cyber bullying, our firm is here to help. We are sensitive to the needs of your child in this traumatic time and can take steps to help insulate them from any further retaliation or harm.