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Understanding Training vs. Prevention Education Requirements Under the Title IX Regulations and VAWA

By Mandy Hambleton, M.S., Senior Director, Content Development, TNG; Vice President, ATIXA

Title IX coordinators in higher education have a lot on their plates when it comes to complying with various federal and state regulations related to sex- and gender-based harassment, discrimination, and violence prevention. Two critical pieces of federal legislation requiring specific actions are the 2020 Title IX Regulations and the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA). Here, we delve into the differences between training and prevention education as stipulated by these regulations and examine what specific requirements your institution of higher education must meet.

Overview of Title IX and VAWA in Higher Education

Title IX is a federal law in the U.S., enacted in 1972, prohibiting sex discrimination in education. VAWA, signed into law in 1994, was initially intended to focus on combating violent crimes against women in the U.S., including campus sexual assault; however, the law applies to individuals of all genders. Historically, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has focused on Title IX’s ties to institutions’ policies, reporting, and response processes, reinforced through the 2020 Title IX regulations. In contrast, the 2013 VAWA Reauthorization Act emphasizes both response processes and prevention efforts. Although many institutions have focused their Title IX compliance efforts on policy, reporting, and response, ATIXA strongly encourages practitioners to consider the importance of well-executed prevention education as a tool to decrease the prevalence of incidents and reduce the demand for response resources.

Training Requirements Under the Title IX Regulations

Title IX requires training for employees involved in the resolution process for sexual harassment complaints, including Title IX coordinators, investigators, decision-makers, and informal resolution facilitators. Several training requirements are specified in 34 C.F.R. § 106.45(b)(1)(iii), including “training on the definition of sexual harassment in § 106.30, the scope of the recipient’s education program or activity, how to conduct an investigation and grievance process including hearings, appeals, and informal resolution processes, as applicable, and how to serve impartially, including by avoiding prejudgment of the facts at issue, conflicts of interest, and bias.” This section also sets forth that decision-makers learn how to operate relevant technologies used in live hearings.

While the Title IX regulations do not stipulate the frequency or length of the required training, ATIXA recommends annual training at a minimum. We also suggest that those serving as advisors undergo training, although the regulations do not explicitly require that.

Note there are no training or education requirements for students under the Title IX regulations or the pending regulations as detailed in the 2022 Title IX Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

Clery Act/VAWA and Prevention Education Requirements

The Clery Act requires post-secondary institutions receiving federal student aid to disclose campus crime data annually. VAWA’s amendments to the Clery Act impose specific prevention education requirements concerning sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking for these institutions.

Under 34 C.F.R. § 668.46(k)(2)(ii), officials involved in disciplinary proceedings must receive annual training on “issues related to dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking and on how to conduct an investigation and hearing process that protects the safety of victims and promotes accountability.” Furthermore, 34 C.F.R. § 668.46(j)(1) mandates “primary prevention and awareness programs for all incoming students and new employees.”

Although VAWA establishes these requirements for prevention education (as opposed to “training”), institutions are not obligated to ensure all students and employees complete the programs, just that the programs are offered. ATIXA recommends documenting all efforts to notify and encourage the completion of such prevention programs.

Other Training and Prevention Education Requirements

In addition to Title IX and VAWA, institutions may also be subject to training and prevention education requirements under state law, NCAA policy (for member institutions), research funding contracts, accreditation rules, and even some grants.

Compliance Recommendations

To ensure your institution complies with all applicable training and prevention education requirements, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Train institutional employees who are involved with research, grant funding, athletics, and accreditation to identify and communicate any sex- or gender-based harassment, discrimination, or violence policy, process, training, or prevention education requirements to the Title IX coordinator upon identification.
  2. Catalog all formal and informal institutional training and prevention education efforts, including those part of academic programs, to identify gaps and opportunities for additional intervention.
  3. Develop clear and comprehensive training programs for Title IX coordinators, investigators, decision-makers, and informal resolution facilitators. Include all employees and staff involved in the complaint resolution process from intake through appeal.
  4. Implement training annually, at minimum, for all employees involved in the resolution process and advisors in sexual harassment complaints. Ensure training materials do not rely on sex and gender stereotypes and promote impartial investigation and adjudication practices.
  5. Offer primary prevention and awareness programs for all incoming students (including graduate, transfer, and international students) and new employees (often integrated as part of new employee orientation), covering topics such as dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Be sure to comply with all local jurisdiction definitions.
  6. Implement ongoing prevention and awareness education programs for all students and employees. Include these programs in marketing and communications channels such as the institution’s website, printed materials, and social media.
  7. Document all efforts to notify students and employees of available prevention programs and encourage their completion. Consider, as an institution, making attendance at these programs mandatory, though the regulations do not stipulate that.
  8. Stay informed on relevant state laws and governing body regulations.

ATIXA offers a course called Prevention, Program Assessment, and Partnerships. Click here to see upcoming dates.