U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Resolves Sexual Harassment Compliance Review of Garland Independent School District in Texas

U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Resolves Sexual Harassment Compliance Review of Garland Independent School District in Texas

July 26, 2023

Today, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) resolved a compliance review of the Garland Independent School District in Texas with a resolution agreement to address the district’s handling of sexual assault cases, including those involving student and staff misconduct.

OCR determined the district violated Title IX by routinely delaying its investigation of Title IX complaints when law enforcement was involved, and, in some instances, failing ever to conduct a Title IX investigation and instead relying on law enforcement findings. Abdicating its responsibility to law enforcement in this way left the district without information it needed to evaluate what Title IX steps may be necessary in each case.

The evidence in investigation revealed shockingly inadequate district responses under Title IX. In one incident, school video footage reflected a student forcing another student to perform a sex act. While the harassing student was arrested and charged with felony rape, the district’s file showed no evidence that the district provided a prompt and equitable Title IX response to the harassed student, such as by providing her support or assessing and addressing the impact the harassment had on her. 

In another case, OCR’s investigation revealed that the district inexplicably waited 26 days after completing an investigation – until after law enforcement arrested the harassers – to discipline two male students who harassed and assaulted two female students daily over several weeks. OCR found that 42 of the 48 student-involved files reviewed contained no evidence that the district considered, offered, and/or provided interim supportive measures to the allegedly harassed student at any juncture of the Title IX process.

OCR additionally determined the district failed to issue a notice of nondiscrimination that fully complied with Title IX and OCR had concerns regarding the district’s lack of a centralized system for tracking and maintaining Title IX complaint files, which resulted in significant gaps in its recordkeeping and hampered the district’s ability to coordinate Title IX compliance. OCR identified additional concerns that the district failed to provide adequate Title IX training for its Title IX coordinator, administrators and staff; that the Title IX coordinator’s ability to coordinate the district’s efforts to comply with its Title IX responsibilities was compromised because the Title IX coordinator held multiple positions in the district; and that the district’s grievance procedures were unclear regarding its appeal process.

The resolution agreement commits the district to take the following steps to resolve this investigation:

  • Reviewing and revising its Title IX grievance procedures and its notice of nondiscrimination, to ensure compliance with the Title IX regulation.
  • Developing and implementing a centralized record-keeping system and procedures that adequately and accurately document and preserve all complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
  • Providing OCR with information regarding the district’s processing of each formal complaint of sexual harassment and sexual assault filed with the district during the 2022-2023, 2023-2024, and 2024-2025 school years, to include how the district responds to all such complaints.
  • Providing training on Title IX and its revised grievance procedures to district staff.
  • Providing age-appropriate student training districtwide regarding sexual harassment, including sexual assault, including how and to whom to report sexual harassment.
  • Developing and conducting a climate survey of its students and staff regarding sexual harassment, including sexual assault, with OCR review and approval of responsive district action following the survey.

“Students in Garland Independent School District deserve the safety and freedom from discrimination that Congress promised them in Title IX,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon. “The Office for Civil Rights will continue to be here for them, monitoring the school district in the coming years to be sure it complies with Title IX.”

The letter to Garland Independent School District is available here and the resolution agreement is available here.