Home Education Is Baylor exempt from Title IX necessities on LGBTQ sexual harassment?

Is Baylor exempt from Title IX necessities on LGBTQ sexual harassment?

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Is Baylor exempt from Title IX necessities on LGBTQ sexual harassment?

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The Biden administration has advised Baylor College that it might be exempt from federal guidelines regarding the harassment of scholars based mostly on their LGBTQ+ standing, if it will probably present that doing so conflicts with its non secular tenets. However the Training Division has not but granted Baylor’s request to dismiss complaints to the division from LGBTQ+ college students that prompted the college to hunt the exemption.

Title IX bans discrimination based mostly on intercourse and requires faculties and universities to stop and tackle sexual harassment. Nevertheless, non secular faculties and universities can search an exemption if the necessities aren’t in step with the non secular tenets of the group that controls the establishment.

The college argued in a letter to the division in Could that civil rights complaints accusing Baylor of, amongst different issues, not responding to sexual harassment claims from an LGBTQ+ scholar must be dismissed as a result of the necessities battle with the establishment’s non secular tenets. Baylor officers advised the division that it’s exempt from any necessities beneath Title IX regarding sexual orientation or gender identification.

An advocacy group that tracks non secular exemptions asserted that the division’s choice to exempt Baylor from sexual harassment claims is the primary of its variety, and that the transfer would endanger queer college students on the college. The college stated in a press release that the non secular exemption “is being mischaracterized as a broad-based exception to sexual harassment coverage inside Title IX rules.”

“As an alternative, Baylor is responding to present issues by the U.S. Division of Training to maneuver to an expanded definition of sexual harassment, which may infringe on Baylor’s rights beneath the U.S. Structure, in addition to Title IX, to conduct its affairs in a way in step with its non secular beliefs,” Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman stated within the assertion. “Baylor has taken and can proceed to take significant steps to make sure members of the LGBTQ group are cherished, cared for and guarded as part of the Baylor Household.”

Paul Southwick, director of the Non secular Exemption Accountability Undertaking (REAP), which additionally filed complaints with the division’s Workplace for Civil Rights over Baylor’s therapy of LGBTQ college students, stated scholar security is at stake on this choice.

“The federal government is siding with non secular exemption claims, even when scholar security from harassment is concerned and I feel any cheap particular person would say that goes method too far,” he stated.

Southwick clarified that it isn’t uncommon or new for non secular faculties to hunt exemptions from federal rules or legal guidelines; solely the exemption from sexual harassment claims is unprecedented. The Non secular Exemption Accountability Undertaking has sued to dam the federal authorities from permitting such exemptions from Title IX.

An Training Division spokesman directed Inside Greater Ed to the Workplace for Civil Rights’ letter to Baylor, affirming the college’s non secular exemptions from Title IX. The letter from Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights, affirms that the division is granting the exemption, however contains the qualifier (emphasis added) “to the extent that they’re inconsistent with the College’s non secular tenets.”

It provides: “Please word that this letter shouldn’t be construed to grant exemption from the necessities of Title IX and the rules apart from as acknowledged above. Within the occasion that OCR receives a criticism towards your establishment, we’re obligated to find out initially whether or not the allegations fall throughout the exemption right here acknowledged.”

Scott A. Roberts, a lawyer who focuses on Title IX for the Boston agency of Hirsch Roberts Weinstein, stated it was necessary to notice that Baylor didn’t declare—and the Training Division letter didn’t affirm—that stopping and addressing harassment based mostly on sexual orientation or gender identification does battle with the college’s non secular tenets.

“What I don’t see within the letter from Baylor is how addressing energetic harassment towards LGBTQ+ college students is opposite to or inconsistent with a non secular tenet,” Roberts stated. “Their coverage and public statements acknowledge that these college students exist, and that the college loves, helps and cares for them, They are saying, ‘we love, help and can defend you.’ So I don’t see how it will be inconsistent with their non secular tenets to take motion towards someone who harasses these college students.”

Baylor sought the exemption after the Training Division’s Workplace for Civil Rights began investigating complaints that accused the college of tolerating sexual harassment based mostly on sexual orientation or gender identification, denying recognition of an LGBTQ scholar group, and urgent college media to not report on LGBTQ occasions and protests in September and October 2021. (The complaints had been filed in 2021, and the college granted the coed group a constitution in 2022.)

“As a result of every of Baylor’s guidelines and insurance policies at concern derives from Baylor’s non secular tenets as a Baptist college, Baylor’s enforcement of these guidelines and insurance policies is totally exempt from any necessities beneath Title IX regarding sexual orientation or gender identification,” Baylor President Linda Livingstone wrote in a letter to OCR requesting the exemption.

The college wished assurances that “Baylor couldn’t be present in violation of Title IX on the grounds that the idea in or apply of its non secular tenets by the college or its college students constitutes ‘unwelcome conduct,’” in accordance with a footnote within the request.

Veronica Penales, an LGBTQ+ scholar who graduated from Baylor this spring, stated in a Title IX criticism in 2021 filed by the Non secular Exemption Accountability Undertaking that she confronted harassment based mostly on her sexual orientation whereas a scholar at Baylor. The harassment included being referred to as a homophobic slur. College students additionally repeatedly posted sticky notes on her dorm room door that stated “f-a-g.”

“They did it repeatedly, and he or she reported it to the college and they didn’t defend her,” stated Southwick of REAP. “That’s primarily what they had been making an attempt to be immune from. Failure to reply to that sort of horrible harassment.”

Baylor’s letter in Could, which prompted the Workplace for Civil Rights’ response final month, requested to have these complaints dismissed. Given the necessary qualifier within the Biden administration’s letter about requiring proof that defending college students from sexual harassment conflicts with the college’s non secular tenets, dropping these complaints can be the true check that the federal government is giving Baylor latitude to not defend queer college students from harassment, Roberts stated.

“The proof might be within the pudding” when the division guidelines on the complaints, he stated.

Southwick stated he’s unsure how the exemption will have an effect on the complaints.

“That is unchartered territory in the case of sexual harassment,” he stated. “What I can let you know is that the Division of Training has by no means denied a non secular exemption and when a college has asserted one, traditionally, for our complaints involving queer and trans college students, they’ve all the time dismissed the investigations afterward.”

Penales stated in a press release supplied by REAP that she was “saddened by Baylor’s lack of integrity and accountability to their college students.”

“I do know many won’t really feel secure returning to campus, and rightfully so,” the assertion continued. “If Baylor believes it has a non secular liberty proper to permit us to be harassed, there actually are not any protections left for us.”

The Baylor LGBTQ scholar group shared information in regards to the exemption and reminded college students to watch out.

“We nonetheless exist and in group will proceed to thrive,” the group wrote.

One Baylor graduate requested on X, the platform formally often known as Twitter, “what number of queer college students might be harassed and abused on the hand of a ‘Christian’ college?”

“Baylor doesn’t care,” the consumer wrote.

Doug Lederman contributed to this text.



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