Title IX and peer sexual violence: Higher education institutions' liability in federal court decisions

Nancy Damron-Litchford, Tennessee State University


The purpose of this study was to determine how courts ruled in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) Title IX Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) peer sexual violence cases. The study sought to offer HEI administrators a deeper understanding of potential legal liability associated Title IX policies, and responses which fail to adequately address peer sexual violence on campuses. HEIs’ policies, procedures, and responses to Title IX peer sexual violence were examined using law cases obtained from LexisNexis and Westlaw. A mixed-methods, ex post facto, quantitative research design was employed. HEIs’ Title IX court rulings were examined, and categorical variables selected utilizing criteria from Title IX law, U.S. Department of Education (DOE), Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Dear Colleague Letter, 2011 (DCL, 2011), and Title IX U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Four categorical variables were identified. The dependent variable was court-assigned institutional liability, and independent variables policies, procedures, and institutional response. The variables were entered on a case coding worksheet developed by the researcher. Analyses of the data were summarized using inferential and descriptive statistics. The statistical analyses of the variables identified included chi-square analysis, and the Fisher Exact test. The variables were then quantified and analyzed to determine if any differences were evident in the observed proportions. The results from the three hypotheses, tested for relationships between variables, suggested there was no statistically significant difference between court-assigned liability and sexual violence policies. There was no statistically significant relationship between court-assigned liability and sexual violence procedures. However, statistical tests suggested a significant relationship between court-assigned liability and institutional response to sexual violence. Higher education institutions have established sexual violence policies and procedures in place to respond to reported allegations. There were limited Title IX sexual violence cases available implicating HEIs were liable. Although there were only seventeen cases available for this study, approximately half of the cases reviewed courts assigned legal liability to the institution. In nearly all cases of sexual violence on campus, the victim knows the accused.

Subject Area

Law|Higher Education Administration|Education Policy

Recommended Citation

Nancy Damron-Litchford, "Title IX and peer sexual violence: Higher education institutions' liability in federal court decisions" (2015). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3723608.