As per the Office for Civil Rights, if a student who reports sexual violence wishes to remain anonymous, those wishes should be respected. However, in some cases, this can be overridden so as to comply with Title XI. However, regardless of whether the school can allow the reporting student to remain anonymous, there is a big obligation by the institution to timely respond to the alleged act of sexual violence. The school must also take measures to protect the victim all throughout the investigation of the incident.
Protecting a Student Reporter’s Confidentiality
If a student reports an alleged incident of sexual violence to a school via Title IX in the state of New York, the school is required to take any steps necessary to ensure that their identity is protected. As a result, the school cannot release the student reporter’s identity and must instead only release information about the incident of sexual violence to the Title IX coordinator and any officials who are participating in the investigation of the matter.
In addition, the school is required to inform the student about whether the subsequent investigation might be limited if certain details are kept confidential. It must also inform the reporting student of any possible situation where taking disciplinary action against the perpetrator might be impossible.
Even if the school cannot include all details of an alleged act of sexual violence or punish the perpetrator, it can still take measures to address these types of situations and prevent others from occurring going into the future. For instance, a college or university can hire additional security on their campuses, train students in sexual violence or change certain policies, such as those regarding harassment based on gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.
Overriding a Student’s Request for Confidentiality
In some situations, it might not be possible for the school to keep the reporting student’s identity confidential. This can be the case even if the student has requested no investigation be performed, has not named the perpetrator or that the perpetrator even be punished. There are certain situations that may prevent the confidentiality of the student reporter. However, at the same time, the institution can still ensure that the student receives a safe environment even if there is no investigation performed.
There are certain things the school must do. One involves evaluating whether the alleged perpetrator of the act of sexual violence is likely to commit further acts against other students. The school must consider the following:
• Whether the perpetrator has a criminal history
• Whether the perpetrator has threatened anyone else with sexual violence in the past
• Whether the perpetrator has a history of actually committing sexual violence
• Whether the perpetrator has had multiple Title IX complaints made against them
The college or university must also consider the age of the victim and whether the sexual violence involved the use of a weapon. This is important when determining whether the school can keep the victim or the student reporter’s identity confidential.
If the school determines it has to override the request for confidentiality, it is still required to undertake measures to protect the student. This can include a number of steps, including changing housing arrangements, changing one or both students’ schedules and even no-contact orders.
Obligations of Mental Health Counselors
As per Title IX, school employees who get reports of incidents of sexual violence from students in New York are considered to be responsible employees. They are also required to report any incidents to the college or university. At the same time, only those employees who hold professional licenses that require them to keep situations confidential are not obligated to report incidents of sexual violence. That includes the following professionals:
• Mental health counselors
• Pastoral counselors
• Social workers
There are additional professionals who do not have to report incidents of sexual violence as per Title IX, such as employees who work at health facilities, women’s centers and victim advocacy offices. Additionally, even those who merely work at the front desk are exempt from reporting these incidents. However, these employees should still provide students with the appropriate resources, medical assistance and counseling. They can even provide victims with information on the policies at school on how to report sexual violence and how to file an official Title IX complaint.