I was lucky to be working at the Office of Diversity and Equity at UConn which initially exposed me to education law, especially Title VII (discrimination) and Title IX (sexual harassment). All searches conducted at UConn were endorsed by ODE to be compliant with these laws. I was very closely involved in two cases on discrimination and sexual harassment which cemented my understanding of Title VII and IX. In Jerry Sandusky case, Penn State had so far spent over $100 million on payouts to the victims and over a quarter-billion on overall costs, including legal expenses. Universities have deep pockets and big endowments; therefore, they must take every conceivable action to abide by these laws.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. It generally applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, and local governments. Title VII also applies to private and public colleges and universities, employment agencies, and labor organizations. Title VII goes hand in hand with state and federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws.
Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972
"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, except..." This is the primary section that is used to litigate cases like harassment including sexual harassment, rape, hostile work environment etc
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
FERPA is a Federal law that is administered by the Family Policy Compliance Office (Office) in the U.S. Department of Education (Department). 20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99. FERPA applies to all educational agencies and institutions (e.g., schools) that receive funding under any program administered by the Department. Parochial and private schools at the elementary and secondary levels generally do not receive such funding and are, therefore, not subject to FERPA. Private postsecondary schools, however, generally do receive such funding and are subject to FERPA.
Once a student reaches 18 years of age or attends a postsecondary institution, he or she becomes an "eligible student," and all rights formerly given to parents under FERPA transfer to the student. The eligible student has the right to have access to his or her education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, the right to have control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the records (except in certain circumstances specified in the FERPA regulations, some of which are discussed below), and the right to file a complaint with the Department. The term "education records" is defined as those records that contain information directly related to a student and which are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.
Title IV, Higher Education Act
The programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act are the major source of federal student aid. Title IV programs include:
- Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL)
- Direct Loan
- Federal Perkins Loan
- Federal Pell Grant
- Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG)
- National SMART Grant
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
- Federal Work-Study (FWS)
The new ‘Borrower Defense’ Rule establishes a federal standard that allows the department to forgive federal student loans based on: 1) a "substantial misrepresentation"; 2) a breach of contract (i.e., in enrollment agreements, catalogs, etc.); or 3) a contested judgment against the college. It also expands the scope of "substantial misrepresentation" to include omissions of fact, making it much easier for students and even graduates to claim that they were misled by their college and should therefore have some or all of their loans forgiven. The rule also permits the department to charge back to the college the student loans it has forgiven.