Title IX Q&As for Responsible Employees

D-1. Which school employees are obligated to report incidents of possible sexual violence to school officials?
Answer: Under Title IX, whether an individual is obligated to report incidents of alleged sexual violence generally depends on whether the individual is a responsible employee of the school. A responsible employee must report incidents of sexual violence to the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school designee, subject to the exemption for school counseling employees discussed in question E-3. This is because, as discussed in question A-4, a school is obligated to address sexual violence about which a responsible employee knew or should have known. As explained in question C-3, the Title IX coordinator must be informed of all reports and complaints raising Title IX issues, even if the report or complaint was initially filed with another individual or office, subject to the exemption for school counseling employees discussed in question E-3.

D-2. Who is a “responsible employee”?
Answer: According to OCR’s 2001 Guidance, a responsible employee includes any employee: who has the authority to take action to redress sexual violence; who has been given the duty of reporting incidents of sexual violence or any other misconduct by students to the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school designee; or whom a student could reasonably believe has this authority or duty.23

A school must make clear to all of its employees and students which staff members are responsible employees so that students can make informed decisions about whether to disclose information to those employees. A school must also inform all employees of their own reporting responsibilities and the importance of informing complainants of: the reporting obligations of responsible employees; complainants’ option to request confidentiality and available confidential advocacy, counseling, or other support services; and complainants’ right to file a Title IX complaint with the school and to report a crime to campus or local law enforcement.

Whether an employee is a responsible employee will vary depending on factors such as the age and education level of the student, the type of position held by the employee, and consideration of both formal and informal school practices and procedures. For example, while it may be reasonable for an elementary school student to believe that a custodial staff member or cafeteria worker has the authority or responsibility to address student misconduct, it is less reasonable for a college student to believe that a custodial staff member or dining hall employee has this same authority. 

As noted in response to question A-4, when a responsible employee knows or reasonably should know of possible sexual violence, OCR deems a school to have notice of the sexual violence. The school must take immediate and appropriate steps to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred (subject to the confidentiality provisions discussed in Section E), and, if the school determines that sexual violence created a hostile environment, the school must then take appropriate steps to address the situation. Theschool has this obligation regardless of whether the student, student’s parent, or a third party files a formal complaint. For additional information on a school’s responsibilities to address student-on-student sexual violence, see question A-5. For additional information on training for school employees, see questions J-1 to J-3.

D-3. What information is a responsible employee obligated to report about an incident of possible student-on-student sexual violence?
Answer: Subject to the exemption for school counseling employees discussed in question E-3, a responsible employee must report to the school’s Title IX coordinator, or other appropriate school designee, all relevant details about the alleged sexual violence that the student or another person has shared and that the school will need to determine what occurred and to resolve the situation. This includes the names of the alleged perpetrator (if known), the student who experienced the alleged sexual violence, other students involved in the alleged sexual violence, as well as relevant facts, including the date, time, and location. A school must make clear to its responsible employees to whom they should report an incident of alleged sexual violence.

To ensure compliance with these reporting obligations, it is important for a school to train its responsible employees on Title IX and the school’s sexual violence policies and procedures. For more information on appropriate training for school employees, see question J-1 to J-3.

D-4. What should a responsible employee tell a student who discloses an incident of sexual violence?
Answer: Before a student reveals information that he or she may wish to keep confidential, a responsible employee should make every effort to ensure that the student understands: (i) the employee’s obligation to report the names of the alleged perpetrator and student involved in the alleged sexual violence, as well as relevant facts regarding the alleged incident (including the date, time, and location), to the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school officials, (ii) the student’s option to request that the school maintain his or her confidentiality, which the school (e.g., Title IX coordinator) will consider, and (iii) the student’s ability to share the information confidentially with counseling, advocacy, health, mental health, or sexual-assault-related services (e.g., sexual assault resource centers, campus health centers, pastoral counselors, and campus mental health centers). As discussed in questions E-1 and E-2, if the student requests confidentiality, the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school designee responsible for evaluating requests for confidentiality should make every effort to respect this requestand should evaluate the request in the context of the school’s responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students.

D-5. If a student informs a resident assistant/advisor (RA) that he or she was subjected to sexual violence by a fellow student, is the RA obligated under Title IX to report the incident to school officials?
Answer: As discussed in questions D-1 and D-2, for Title IX purposes, whether an individual is obligated under Title IX to report alleged sexual violence to the school’s Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school designee generally depends on whether the individual is a responsible employee.

The duties and responsibilities of RAs vary among schools, and, therefore, a school should consider its own policies and procedures to determine whether its RAs are responsible employees who must report incidents of sexual violence to the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school designee.24 When making this determination, a school should consider if its RAs have the general authority to take action to redress misconduct or the duty to report misconduct to appropriate school officials, as well as whether studentscould reasonably believe that RAs have this authority or duty. A school should also consider whether it has determined and clearly informed students that RAs are generally available for confidential discussions and do not have the authority or responsibility to take action to redress any misconduct or to report any misconduct to the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school officials. A school should pay particular attention to its RAs’ obligations to report other student violations of school policy (e.g., drug and alcohol violations or physical assault). If an RA is required to report other misconduct that violates school policy, then the RA would be considered a responsible employee obligated to report incidents of sexual violence that violate school policy.

If an RA is a responsible employee, the RA should make every effort to ensure that before the student reveals information that he or she may wish to keep confidential, the student understands the RA’s reporting obligation and the student’s option to request that the school maintain confidentiality. It is therefore important that schools widely disseminate policies and provide regular training clearly identifying the places where students can seek confidential support services so that students are aware of this information. The RAshould also explain to the student (again, before the student reveals information that he or she may wish to keep confidential) that, although the RA must report the names of the alleged perpetrator (if known), the student who experienced the alleged sexual violence, other students involved in the alleged sexual violence, as well as relevant facts, including the date, time, and location to the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school designee, the school will protect the student’s confidentiality to the greatest extent possible. Prior to providing information about the incident to the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school designee, the RA should consult with the student about how to protect his or her safety and the details of what will be shared with the Title IX coordinator. The RA should explain to the student that reporting this information to the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school designee does not necessarily mean that a formal complaint or investigation under the school’s Title IX grievance procedure must be initiated if the student requests confidentiality. As discussed in questions E-1 and E-2, if the student requests confidentiality, the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school designee responsible for evaluating requests for confidentiality should make every effort to respect this request and should evaluate the request in the context of the school’s responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students.

Regardless of whether a reporting obligation exists, all RAs should inform students of their right to file a Title IX complaint with the school and report a crime to campus or local law enforcement. If a student discloses sexual violence to an RA who is a responsible employee, the school will be deemed to have notice of the sexual violence even if the student does not file a Title IX complaint. Additionally, all RAs should provide students with information regarding on-campus resources, including victim advocacy, housing assistance, academic support, counseling, disability services, health and mental health services, and legal assistance. RAs should also be familiar with local rape crisis centers or other off-campus resources and provide this information to students.

For more information on Title IX and the source for these Q&As please visit: Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence