The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today announced the resolution of a sexual harassment investigation of the Chino Valley Unified School District in San Bernardino County, California.
OCR determined that the district violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and its implementing regulations by failing to provide an effective response to notice of sexual harassment among members of a school athletics team in fall 2017.
The office found that some team members subjected their fellow teammates to sexual harassment on the team bus, in the locker and weight rooms, and in the Athletics Physical Education classroom that was sufficiently serious so as to limit their ability to access the athletics program. OCR further found that this harassment created a hostile educational environment for team members who reported they were disgusted and shocked by the harassment, avoided the locker room and the team’s social media to avoid such harassment, sought counseling, and feared becoming the targets of harassment and considered leaving the school and team.
The harassing conduct included videotaped assaults of teammates, students forcibly physically overpowering other students and sharing photos of their genitals among the team and on social media and placing their genitals on and near other students’ faces and bodies. Evidence reflected that the student harassers directed other students not to say anything about what happened to avoid getting in trouble.
The response from school staff, including coaches, to these incidents was not reasonably calculated to end the harassing conduct or prevent its recurrence. Likewise, the district’s response following investigations reflected an inability to address adequately the conduct and a failure to consider interim supportive measures to protect student athletes from sexual harassment.
The resolution agreement commits the district to necessary steps to ensure nondiscrimination in its schools.
“I thank Chino Valley Unified School District for its commitment now to ensure that its athletics program and other school activities will be free from sexual harassment, and to take steps necessary to support students subject to past harassment in school,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights.
The district’s commitments to resolve the investigation include:
- Contacting all former athletes from the school’s fall 2017 team and offering counseling services or reimbursement for such services received to address the effects of the district’s failure to address known sexual harassment on the team.
- Conducting a climate survey for the school’s athletics team.
- Training district and school administrators and interscholastic coaching staff about their responsibilities for responding effectively to sexual harassment.
- Conducting ongoing Title IX education for student athletes in the district’s athletics program to ensure that they know how to recognize and report sexual harassment. And,
- Reporting to OCR about the district’s training and responses to complaints of sexual harassment through the end of the 2022-2023 school year.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. OCR is committed to ensuring nondiscrimination in schools, including with respect to sexual assault.