ATIXA Statement on the Penn State Sexual Abuse Scandal
MALVERN, Pa., Nov. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Association of Title IX Administrators has issued the following statement regarding the Penn State Sexual Abuse Scandal:
Our thoughts are with the victims and their families who will never be the same. We are also transfixed by the human tragedy of university administrators entrusted with a public duty who sacrificed uncounted young boys to misplaced loyalties.
Much is being made of the criminal acts of Sandusky and those who covered for him. Will much be made of the Title IX implications of this case? We hope so. Title IX has for nearly 40 years been a tool to assure gender equity in educational programs at schools and colleges. Far beyond equalizing teams, athletic facilities and resources spent on athletics, Title IX can be used to hold school districts and colleges liable for failing to remedy gender discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Liability for Title IX is premised on notice of discriminatory conduct to high-ranking school or campus officials who then respond to that notice with deliberate indifference - failing to take reasonable actions to put an end to the behavior and prevent it from recurring. Title IX also imposes a duty to remedy the effects of the discrimination on the victims. Courts commonly find that a single act of rape is enough to create a discriminatory effect on the basis of gender.
Title IX has no statute of limitations. Courts implied the right to sue under Title IX, and when they did, they never specified a time limitation for filing. In this case, we might see whether acts dating back to 1998 and 2002 that were known to campus officials are still actionable by the victims and their families in the courts. In the case of child victims, courts can be very lenient on tolling the right to file suit, as happened in many of the clergy abuse cases filed against the Catholic Church.
The 40+ count indictment of Sandusky makes clear that the highest ranking officials of Penn State had knowledge of his pattern of abuse and even rape. That is why they have lost their jobs and some are facing prosecution for failing to report the abuse as a crime to authorities. Their failure to act can also form the basis for allegations of deliberate indifference under Title IX.
What we do know is that the proper application of Title IX - stopping discriminatory behavior through reporting and action - could likely have prevented what has become a large-scale tragedy. And this is why ATIXA continues to strive for a standard where all K-12 schools, colleges and universities - not just departments within these institutions - properly apply the law. ATIXA hopes that the lessons learned from this case permeate our culture to lessen any tolerance for sexual harassment, assault and abuse in any form.
SOURCE Association of Title IX Administrators