This is probably the most frequent question I am asked by new advisees or their parents. Many college sexual violence and sexual harassment accusations take place in off-campus private apartments, fraternity houses, and other private property. The majority of sexual violence accusations involving high school students take place off-campus. A school’s obligations under Title IX extend to off-campus and off-track accusations, if the alleged conduct has the potential of creating a hostile educational environment.
The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights requires your school or college to investigate and respond to all accusations of Sexual Violence, Sexual Harassment, or Sexual Discrimination. Usually, this obligation extends to events that happened off-campus or during breaks, if the alleged conduct has some potential to create a hostile educational environment for the accuser or other students.
“The mere presence on campus of the alleged perpetrator of off-campus sexual violence can have continuing effects that create a hostile environment.” – U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights
The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights has determined that “the mere presence on campus of the alleged perpetrator of off-campus sexual violence can have continuing effects that create a hostile environment.” Recent examples of situations where I’ve helped a student or faculty member in the conduct of off-campus conduct:
- A male and female student met at an off-campus party and went to an off-campus apartment for a sexual encounter. The female student claims that sexual activity occurred while she was too intoxicated to give effective consent.
- Three female students went to Europe during a break in their educational year. In a shared hotel room, while one student was asleep, another of the students allegedly took nude photos of her without consent.
- Two students attended a retreat sponsored by a campus organization and had a sexual encounter at the retreat site. One of the students claims that the other committed sexual battery.
- Two male students attended a music festival during summer break, with no connection to the college they attended. They used drugs and had a sexual encounter in a tent. One of the students claimed that the other raped him and forced him to perform sexual acts against his will.
- Two students went to visit the family of the male student in a foreign country during a school break. The female student claims that she was choked during sexual activity by the male student against her will.
- High school students attended a pool party at a private home during summer vacation. Two female students claimed that male students had sexual intercourse with them when they were too intoxicated to consent.
- A faculty member held a party for graduate students at his private off-campus home. A female student claimed that he kissed her without her consent.
In each of these situations, the school, college, or university investigated the matter because when the student returned to campus, the student alleged that having to attend school with the perpetrator created a hostile educational environment, or caused the student to fear further acts of abuse, violence, or discrimination.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Even if the misconduct did not occur in the context of an education program or activity, a school must consider the effects of the off-campus misconduct when evaluating whether there is a hostile environment on campus or in an off-campus education program or activity because students often experience the continuing effects of off-campus sexual violence while at school or in an off-campus education program or activity. The school cannot address the continuing effects of the off-campus sexual violence at school or in an off-campus education program or activity unless it processes the complaint and gathers appropriate additional information in accordance with its established procedures.
Once a school is on notice of off-campus sexual violence against a student, it must assess whether there are any continuing effects on campus or in an off-campus education program or activity that are creating or contributing to a hostile environment and, if so, address that hostile environment in the same manner in which it would address a hostile environment created by on-campus misconduct.”*