Title IX No Contact Orders: Are They a Supportive Measure or a Punishment?

March 31, 2022
Title IV: No Contact Orders

When a Title IX complaint is filed, the U.S. Department of Education requires the school or university to maintain separation between the complainant and the accused. See 20 U.S.C. § 1681. Schools and universities must also offer free “supportive measures” to every Title IX complainant, and these supportive measures include no contact orders. Supportive measures are non-punitive individualized services intended to restore and preserve the equal access to education and to promote safety and discourage sexual harassment. Although no contact orders are classified as “supportive measures” under Title IX, they sometimes more closely resemble a punishment.

What is a Title IX No Contact Order?

A Title IX no contact order, or NCO, is an administrative measure taken by schools and universities to ensure that students or employees identified in a Title IX complaint have no direct or indirect contact with one another. Generally, both the complainant and the accused can request a no contact order. The purpose of a no contact order is to protect both individuals involved and prevent future interactions that could be harmful or problematic. No contact orders are also intended to ensure an environment that is safe and conducive to learning. We find that NCOs are easier to manage in larger universities versus smaller campuses.

No contact orders may prohibit any individual, telephone, electronic or third-party communications between the parties involved. No contact orders may also limit access to certain school or university facilities, activities or events. Specifically, many no contact orders modify course schedules, work schedules and housing assignments, and place restrictions on student card access. No contact orders also often restrict access to parts of campus except for required academic or work activities.

How Do Title IX No Contact Orders Differ from Protective Orders?

No contact orders can be distinguished from protective orders. A protective order is a type of restraining order often issued in cases of dating and domestic violence. In these cases, a petitioner must show that he or she is in danger of domestic violence. Protective orders are also commonly issued where an individual feels unsafe and wishes to have no contact with another individual off school or university property. Unlike no contact orders, protective orders are obtained by court order following a report to the police. Protective orders are a type of civil order rather than an administrative measure. While a case can start with an ex parte order, the court will conduct another hearing where a respondent can dispute what is stated in the petition, and the judge can make a final ruling on the petition.

Are Title IX No Contact Orders Punitive?

Under Title IX, no contact orders are considered a “supportive measure” and are not intended to be punitive or disciplinary in nature. Rather, schools and universities issue no contact orders to prevent further discomfort while the Title IX complaint is being investigated. While, in theory, no contact orders are not a punitive measure, they sometimes look more like a punishment than a tool to preserve the equal access to education and promote safety. In fact, a violation of a no contact order can lead to student discipline. Schools and universities walk a very fine line between issuing boundaries that will benefit and support the parties involved and preventing those involved from partaking in and enjoying school or university facilities, activities, and events.

For more information on Title IX no contact orders and their implications, please contact Student & Athlete Defense attorneys Susan Stone (scs@kjk.com; 216.736.7229) or Kristina Supler (kws@kjk.com; 216.736.7217).