The Unique Challenges of Title IX in the Online Learning Environment

Concurrent Session 5
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 regulates discrimination, harassment, and retaliation on the basis of sex in all educational programming, including the online learning environment. Faculty and Administrators can benefit from understanding  the application of Title IX regulations to online program management, learning management systems, and the virtual classroom.

Presenters

Title IX Coordinator, Assistant to the President for Compliance, and Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.

Extended Abstract

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 regulates discrimination, harassment, and retaliation on the basis of sex in all educational programming, including the online learning environment. Faculty and Administrators can benefit from understanding best-practices in the application of Title IX regulations to online program management, learning management systems, and the virtual classroom. 

While many higher education professionals think of gender based discrimination, harassment, and retaliation as an issue typically associated with the face to face environment, such prohibited acts can and often do  take place through the digital technology of online learning. Reporting, investigation, and due process can be particularly challenging when complainants, respondents, and witnesses are not physically present on campus for interviews or hearings. 

Within this unique setting, there are several best-practices that can be implemented programmatically and in individual online classes to reduce risk of misconduct, collect evidence of misconduct, and inform students of their reporting and due process rights in relation to Title IX. This presentation is intended to inform faculty and administrators of:

 (1) The history of Federal case law and U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights resolution agreements regarding the applicability of Title IX regulations to online educational programs;

(2) The importance of the faculty member as a mandatory reporter of potential prohibited gender-based misconduct in the online learning environment;

(3) Best practices in program and classroom management including but not limited to the value of recording video sessions, documenting and preserving direct chat and discussion board interactions, and utilizing the syllabus and other course content to remind students of boilerplate nondiscrimination statements and their applicability/enforceability even in the online setting.

In the modern online classroom gender-based discrimination, harassment, and retaliation can take place in many forms. The new digital vandalism phenomenon of  “Zoombombing” with pornographic or sexually shocking content being streamed through backgrounds or screen-sharing features can potentially create a hostile environment under a Title IX analysis. The use of the personal information of various students that may be accessible within the LMS can sometimes be used and exploited to facilitate cyberstalking or social media harassment. The selective inclusion or exclusion of students based on gender in certain conversations, discussion boards, or use of the mute feature, can raise Title IX concerns. All of these matters and more will be discussed in this presentation in a respectful and sensitive manner.