We’re regularly asked if Title IX applies to sexual assault allegations that take place at off-campus housing. The answer is: it depends. Location alone isn’t what determines whether Title IX applies. According to 2021 Q&A from the Department of Education, Title IX applies to allegations that occur at:
- A building or location that is a part of a school’s operations
- An off-campus setting if the school exercises substantial control over the accused students and the context
- An off-campus building owned or controlled by a student organization officially recognized by the school
Location Based Scenarios
How do you determine whether a college or university exercises “substantial control” over the “context”? The inquiry is fact-specific, and no single factor is outcome determinative. Does the school fund or promote the event where the behavior in question occurred? If so, then Title IX applies.
So, does Title IX apply to an allegation of sexual misconduct that takes place at an off-campus fraternity house? Yes, if the house is owned or controlled by a fraternity officially recognized by the school. What about an allegation of sexual misconduct that takes place at a hotel during a class trip out of town? Yes, Title IX applies because the college or university exercises substantial control over the accused student and activity.
Since Title IX applies to off-campus class trips, you probably think it covers study abroad trips too. Actually, no. Title IX doesn’t apply to travel abroad programs, even if the program is organized and operated by the school. The Title IX regulations explain that Title IX only applies to persons located within the United States. That being said, nothing in the Title IX regulations prevents a school from offering supportive measures to students in study abroad programs.
School May Still Use Code of Conduct to Investigate
It’s important to keep in mind that location alone doesn’t eliminate a school’s ability to enforce policies designed to prohibit sexual harassment and sexual assault. Nothing specified in the Title IX regulations prevents a school from using its student code of conduct to investigate conduct that falls outside of the school’s Title IX process. Students facing sexual assault allegations that fall outside of a school’s Title IX policy generally have far fewer procedural protections. Regular student conduct proceedings typically don’t afford accused students the right to cross-examination or a live hearing before a hearing panel.
If you have further questions about the content of this article, or would like to discuss the Title IX process further, please contact Susan Stone (SCS@kjk.com; 216.736.7220) or Kristina Supler (KWS@kjk.com; 216.736.7217).