Student Discrimination and Harassment Complaint Procedure
NEPN/NSBA Code: ACAA-R
The School Committee has adopted these student procedures in order to provide prompt and equitable resolution of reports and complaints of unlawful discrimination and harassment of students, including sexual harassment, as described in policies AC – Nondiscrimination/Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action and ACAA – Harassment and Sexual Harassment of Students.
Complaints alleging unlawful harassment or discrimination against employees based on a protected category should be addressed through the School Committee’s Employee Discrimination/Harassment and Title IX Sexual Harassment Complaint Procedures (ACAB-R).
Any individual who is unsure about whether unlawful discrimination or harassment has occurred and/or or which complaint procedure applies is encouraged to contact the Affirmative Action Officer/Title IX Coordinator.
TITLE IX COORDINATOR:
Jodi McGuire, Director of Instructional Support
Yarmouth School Department
101 McCartney Street
Yarmouth, ME 04096
For purposes of these complaint procedures, the following definitions will be used. The Affirmative Action Officer/Title IX Coordinator shall assess all reports and complaints to ensure that they are addressed under the appropriate policy and complaint procedure.
Discrimination/Harassment Complaint Procedure Definitions
1. “Discrimination or harassment”: Discrimination or harassment on the basis of an individual’s membership in a protected category, which, for students, includes race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ancestry, national origin or disability.
2. “Discrimination”: Treating individuals differently, or interfering with or preventing them from enjoying the advantages or privileges afforded to others because of their membership in a protected category.
3. “Harassment”: Oral, written, graphic, electronic or physical conduct relating to an individual’s actual or perceived membership in a protected category that is sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent so as to interfere with or limit that individual’s ability to participate in the school unit’s programs or activities by creating a hostile, intimidating or offensive environment.
4. “Sexual harassment”: Under Maine law, this means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature in the following situations:
A. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of a student’s educational benefits;
B. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by a student is used as the basis for decisions on educational benefits; or
C. Such conduct has the purpose and effect of substantially interfering with a student’s academic performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.
5. “Sexual orientation”: Under Maine law, this means a person’s “actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality or gender identity or expression.”
6. “Gender identity”: Under Maine law, this means “the gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.”
7. “Complaint” is defined as an allegation that a student has been discriminated against or harassed on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ancestry, national origin or disability (and not otherwise addressed in the Title IX regulations and Section 3 of ACAA-R).
8. Complaints of bullying not involving the protected categories or definitions described above may be addressed under School Committee Policy JICK – Bullying and Cyberbullying of Students.
Title IX Sexual Harassment Complaint Procedure Definitions
1. “Sexual Harassment”: Under the federal Title IX regulations, sexual harassment includes the following conduct on the basis of sex which takes place within the context of the school unit’s education programs and activities:
A. “Quid pro quo” sexual harassment by a school employee: Conditioning a school aid, benefit or service (such as a better grade or a college recommendation) on an individual’s participation in unwelcome sexual conduct;
B. “Hostile environment” sexual harassment: Unwelcome conduct based on sex that a reasonable person would determine is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies an individual’s equal access to the school unit’s education programs and activities; or
C. Sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking as these terms are defined in federal laws.
2. “Report”: Under the Title IX regulations, any individual may make a report of sexual harassment involving a student, whether the individual is the alleged victim or not. School employees are required to report possible incidents of sexual harassment involving a student. A report must be made to the Affirmative Action Officer/Title IX Coordinator. A report triggers certain actions by the AAO/Title IX Coordinator for the alleged victim of sexual harassment, but an investigation is not conducted unless a “Formal Complaint” is filed.
3. “Formal Complaint”: Under the Title IX regulations, the alleged victim of sexual harassment can file a written complaint that triggers the complaint procedure in Section 3 of ACAA-R. Only a student and/or their parent/legal guardian (and in certain circumstances, the AAO/Title IX Coordinator) may file a formal complaint.
4. “Student”: For the purposes of this procedure, a student is an individual who is enrolled or participating in the school unit’s education programs and activities, or is attempting to enroll or participate.
II.DISCRIMINATION/HARASSMENT COMPLAINT PROCEDURE
This procedure should be used for any complaint of unlawful harassment or discrimination complaint based on a protected category, which does not involve Title IX sexual harassment (which is addressed in Section 3).
How to Make A Complaint
1. School employees are required to promptly make a report to the AAO/Title IX Coordinator if they have reason to believe that a student has been discriminated against or harassed.
2. Students (and others) who believe that they, or another student has been harassed or discriminated against should report their concern promptly to the AAO/Title IX Coordinator.
3. The individual making the report must provide basic information in writing concerning the allegation of harassment or discrimination (i.e., date, time, location, individual(s) who allegedly engaged in harassment or discrimination, description of allegation) to the AAO/Title IX Coordinator.
4. If an individual is unsure as to whether unlawful discrimination or harassment has occurred, or who need assistance in preparing a written complaint, they are encouraged to discuss the matter with the AAO/Title IX Coordinator.
5. Individuals will not be retaliated against for reporting suspected discrimination or harassment, or for participating in an investigation. Retaliation is illegal under federal and state nondiscrimination laws, and any retaliation will result in disciplinary action, up to and including discharge for employees, and expulsion for students.
6. Individuals are encouraged to utilize the school unit’s complaint procedure. However, individuals are hereby notified that they also have the right to report incidents of discrimination or harassment to the Maine Human Rights Commission, 51 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333 (telephone: 207-624-6290) and/or to the federal Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, 5 Post Office Square, 8th Floor, Boston, MA 02109-3921 (telephone: 617-289-0111).
Complaint Handling and Investigation
1. The AAO/Title IX Coordinator will promptly inform the Superintendent and the person who is the subject of the complaint (respondent) that a complaint has been received.
2. The AAO/Title IX Coordinator may pursue an informal resolution of the complaint with the agreement of the parties involved. Any party to the complaint may decide to end the informal resolution process and pursue the formal process at any point. Any informal resolution is subject to the approval of the parties and the Superintendent, who shall consider whether the resolution is in the best interest of the school unit and the parties in light of the particular circumstances and applicable policies and laws.
3. The AAO/Title IX Coordinator may implement supportive measures to a student to reduce the risk of further discrimination or harassment to a student while an investigation is pending. Examples of supportive measures include, but are not limited to, ordering no contact between the individuals involved or changing classes.
4. The complaint will be investigated by a trained internal or external individual designated by the Superintendent and the AAO/Title IX Coordinator. Any complaint about an employee who holds a supervisory position shall be investigated by a person who is not subject to that supervisor’s authority. Any complaint about the Superintendent should be submitted to the Chair of the School Committee, who should consult with legal counsel concerning the handling and investigation of the complaint.
5. The investigator shall consult with the AAO/Title IX Coordinator as agreed during the investigation process.
6. The respondent will be provided with an opportunity to be heard as part of the investigation. The complainant shall not be required to attend meetings with the respondent, but may choose to do so as part of an informal resolution process.
7. The complainant and the respondent may suggest witnesses to be interviewed and/or submit materials they believe are relevant to the complaint.
8. If the complaint is against an employee of the school unit, any rights conferred under an applicable collective bargaining agreement shall be applied.
9. Privacy rights of all parties to the complaint shall be maintained in accordance with applicable state and federal laws.
10. The investigation shall be completed within 40 business days of receiving the complaint, if practicable. Reasonable extensions of time for good reason shall be allowed.
11. The investigator shall provide a written report and findings to the AAO/Title IX Coordinator.
Findings and Subsequent Actions
1. The AAO/Title IX Coordinator shall consult with the Superintendent concerning the investigation and findings.
2. If there is a finding that discrimination or harassment occurred, the AAO/Title IX Coordinator, in consultation with the Superintendent shall:
A. Determine what remedial action, if any, is required to end the discrimination or harassment, remedy its effect and prevent recurrence; and
B. Determine what disciplinary action should be taken against the individual(s) who engaged in discrimination or harassment, if any.
3. Inform the complainant and the respondent in writing of the results of the investigation and its resolution (in accordance with applicable state and federal privacy laws).
1. After the conclusion of the investigation, the complainant or respondent may seek an appeal of the findings solely on the basis of either: (a) prejudicial procedural error or (b) the discovery of previously unavailable relevant evidence that could significantly impact the outcome.
2. Appeals must be submitted in writing to the Superintendent within five business days after receiving notice of the resolution.
3. Upon receipt of a valid appeal, the Superintendent shall provide notice to the other party, along with an opportunity to provide a written statement within five business days.
4. The Superintendent shall review the available documentation and may conduct further investigation if deemed appropriate.
5. The Superintendent’s decision on the appeal shall be provided to the parties within 10 business days, if practicable. The Superintendent’s decision shall be final.
The AAO/Title IX Coordinator shall keep a written record of the complaint process.
III.TITLE IX SEXUAL HARASSMENT COMPLAINT PROCEDURE
This section should be used only for complaints of Title IX sexual harassment as defined in Section 1.B.1.
How to Make A Report
1. School employees who have reason to believe that a student has been subjected to sexual harassment are required to promptly make a report to the AAO/Title IX Coordinator.
2. Students, parents/legal guardians or other individuals who believe a student has been sexually harassed are encouraged to make a report to the AAO/Title IX Coordinator.
3. If the individual making the report is the alleged victim, or if the alleged victim is identified by the individual making the report, the AAO/Title IX Coordinator will meet with the alleged victim to discuss supportive measures that may be appropriate in the particular circumstances and explain the process for filing a formal complaint.
4. Supportive measures are individualized measures designed to ensure the student can continue to access educational programs and activities (such as requiring no contact between individuals or changing classes).
5. Supportive measures may be continued even if the alleged victim chooses not to file a formal complaint, if appropriate under the particular circumstances.
6. The school unit cannot provide an informal resolution process for resolving a report unless a formal complaint is filed.
7. Individuals will not be retaliated against for reporting sexual harassment, or for participating in an investigation. Retaliation is illegal under federal and state nondiscrimination laws, and any retaliation will result in disciplinary actions, up to and including discharge for employees, or expulsion for students.
8. Any student (or their parent/legal guardian) who believes they have been the victim of sexual harassment is encouraged to utilize the school unit’s complaint procedure. However, students (and their parents/legal guardians) are hereby notified that they also have the right to report sexual harassment to the Maine Human Rights Commission, 51 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333 (telephone: 207-624-6290) and/or to the federal Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, 5 Post Office Square, 8th Floor, Boston, MA 02109-3921 (telephone: 617-289-0111).
9. The Superintendent shall be informed of all reports and formal complaints of sexual harassment.
How to Make A Formal Complaint
1. An alleged student victim and/or their parent/legal guardian may file a formal written complaint requesting investigation of alleged Title IX sexual harassment. The written complaint must include basic information concerning the allegation of sexual harassment (i.e., date, time, location, individual(s) who allegedly engaged in sexual harassment, description of allegation). Students who need assistance in preparing a formal written complaint, are encouraged to consult with the AAO/Title IX Coordinator.
2. In certain circumstances, the AAO/Title IX Coordinator may file a formal complaint even when the alleged victim chooses not to. Examples include if the respondent (person alleged to have engaged in sexual harassment) has been found responsible for previous sexual harassment or there is a safety threat within the school unit). In such cases, the alleged victim is not a party to the case, but will receive notices as required by the Title IX regulations at specific points in the complaint process.
3. In accordance with the Title IX regulations, the AAO/Title IX Coordinator must dismiss a formal complaint under this Title IX procedure if: a) the conduct alleged in the formal complaint does not constitute sexual harassment under the Title IX regulations and this policy; or b) if the conduct alleged did not occur within the scope of the school unit’s education programs and activities, or c) did not occur in the United States.
4. In accordance with the Title IX regulations, the AAO/Title IX Coordinator may dismiss a formal complaint under this Title IX procedure if: a) a complainant withdraws the formal complaint, or withdraws particular allegations within the complaint; b) the respondent is no longer employed by or enrolled in the school unit; or c) there are specific circumstances that prevent the school unit from gathering evidence sufficient to reach a determination regarding the formal complaint. However, if the conduct potentially violates other policies or laws, it may be addressed through the applicable School Committee policy/procedure.
5. If a formal complaint is dismissed under this Title IX procedure, the AAO/Title IX Coordinator will promptly and simultaneously send written notices to the parties explaining the reasons. Parties have the opportunity to appeal dismissals in accordance with subsection I below.
6.If the conduct alleged in a formal complaint potentially violates other laws, School Committee policies and/or professional expectations, the school unit may address the conduct under Section 2 or another applicable School Committee policy/procedure.
Emergency Removal or Administrative Leave
The Superintendent may remove a student from education programs and activities on an emergency basis, or place an employee on administrative leave during the complaint procedure:
1. If there is a determination (following an individualized safety and risk analysis) that there is an immediate threat to the physical health or safety of an individual arising from the allegations of sexual harassment. Examples of such circumstances might include, but are not limited to, a continued threat of violence against a complainant by a respondent, or a respondent’s threat of self-harm due to the allegations.
2. The respondent (and in the case of a student, their parent/legal guardian will be provided notice of the emergency removal or administrative leave, and will be provided an opportunity to challenge the decision following the removal (this is an opportunity to be heard, not a hearing). The respondent has the burden to demonstrate why the emergency removal or administrative leave was unreasonable.
3. Any such decision shall be made in compliance with any applicable disability laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Notice to Parties of Formal Complaint
1. The Title IX Coordinator will provide to the parties written notice of the formal complaint and allegations of sexual harassment potentially constituting prohibited conduct under the Title IX regulations and this procedure. The notice shall include:
A. Notice regarding the complaint procedure and the availability of an informal resolution process;
B. Sufficient details known at the time (including identities of parties, if known; the conduct alleged; and the date and location of the alleged incident, if known), with sufficient time to prepare before any initial interview (not less than five business days);
C. As required by the Title IX regulations, a statement that the respondent is presumed not responsible for the alleged conduct and that a determination of responsibility will be made at the conclusion of the complaint); and that the parties may inspect and review evidence;
D. Notice that the parties may each have an advisor of their choice (who may be an attorney), and that the parties may inspect and review evidence;
E. Notice that knowingly making false statements or submitting false information during the complaint process is prohibited and may result in disciplinary action;
F. Notice of the name of the investigator, with sufficient time (no less than three business days) to raise concerns of conflict of interest or bias.
2. If additional allegations become known at a later time, notice of the additional allegations will be provided to the parties.
3. The AAO/Title IX Coordinator will discuss supportive measures with each party and implement such measures as appropriate.
Informal Resolution Process
After a formal complaint has been filed, and if the AAO/Title IX Coordinator believes the circumstances are appropriate, the AAO/Title IX Coordinator may offer the parties the opportunity to participate in an informal resolution process to resolve the complaint without completing the investigation and determination process. Informal resolutions cannot be used to resolve a formal complaint where a student is the complainant and the respondent is an employee.
Informal resolutions can take many forms, depending on the particular case. Examples include, but are not limited to, facilitated discussions between the parties; restorative justice; acknowledgment of responsibility by a respondent; apologies; disciplinary actions against a respondent or a requirement to engage in specific services; or supportive measures. Both parties must voluntarily agree in writing to participate in an informal resolution process, and either party can withdraw from the process at any time. The Superintendent must agree to the terms of any informal resolution reached between the parties. If an informal resolution agreement is reached, it must be signed by both parties and the school unit. Any such signed agreement is final and binding according to its terms.
If an informal resolution process does not resolve the formal complaint, nothing from the informal resolution process may be considered as evidence in the subsequent investigation or determination.
1. The complaint will be investigated by a trained internal or external individual designated by the Superintendent and AAO/Title IX Coordinator. Any complaint about an employee who holds a supervisory position shall be investigated by a person who is not subject to that supervisor’s authority. Any complaint about the Superintendent should be submitted to the Chair of the School Committee, who should consult with legal counsel concerning the handling and investigation of the complaint.
2. The investigator shall consult with the AAO/Title IX Coordinator as agreed during the investigation process.
3. If the complaint is against an employee of the school unit, rights conferred under an applicable collective bargaining agreement shall be applied, to the extent they do not conflict with the Title IX regulatory requirements.
4. Privacy rights of all parties to the complaint shall be maintained in accordance with applicable state and federal laws.
5. The investigator will:
A. Meet with each party after they have received appropriate notice of any meeting and its purpose, with sufficient time to prepare.
B. Allow parties to have their advisor at all meetings related to the complaint, although advisors may not speak on behalf of a party or interfere with the process.
C. Allow parties a reasonable opportunity to identify witnesses and submit favorable and unfavorable evidence.
D. Interview witnesses and conduct such other activities that will assist in ascertaining facts (site visits, review of documents, etc.).
E. Consider evidence that is relevant and directly related to the allegations in the formal complaint.
F. During the course of the investigation, provide both parties with an equal opportunity to inspect and review any evidence that is obtained in the investigation that is directly related to the allegations in the formal complaint (including evidence which the school unit does not intend to rely upon in reaching a determination of responsibility), and favorable and unfavorable evidence.
G. Prior to completion of the investigation report, provide each party and advisor (if any) the evidence subject to inspection and review, and provide the parties with ten calendar business days to submit a written response.
H. Consider the parties’ written responses to the evidence prior to completing the investigation report.
I. Create an investigative report that fairly summarizes relevant evidence and send the report to the parties and advisors (if any), for their review and written responses within ten business days of receipt.
J. After receipt of the parties’ written responses (if any), forward the investigation report and party responses to the assigned decision maker.
K. The investigation shall be concluded within 40 business days if practicable. Reasonable extension of time for good reason shall be allowed.
Determination of Responsibility
1. The decision maker shall provide the parties with the opportunity to submit written, relevant questions that the party wants asked of another party or witness within five business days of when the decision maker received the investigation report and party responses.
2. The decision maker shall explain to a party proposing questions if the decision maker excludes a question as not relevant.
3. Each party shall be provided the opportunity to review the responses of another party and/or witness, and to ask limited written follow-up questions within five business days of receiving the answers.
4. Each party will receive a copy of the responses to any follow-up questions.
5. The decision maker shall review the investigation report, the parties’ responses and other relevant materials, applying the preponderance of the evidence standard (“more likely than not”). [Note: School units can use the clear and convincing standard, but we recommend retaining the preponderance standard that school units use in most other cases.]
6. The decision maker shall issue a written determination, which shall include the following:
A. Identification of all the allegations potentially constituting sexual harassment as defined in the Title IX regulations and this policy;
B. A description of the procedural steps taken from receipt of the formal complaint through the determination, including notifications to the parties, interviews with parties and witnesses, site visits, methods used to gather other evidence, and meetings held;
C. A determination regarding responsibility as to each allegation and findings of fact supporting the determinations;
D. A statement of, and rationale for, the result as to each allegation, including a determination regarding responsibility, any disciplinary sanctions the school unit imposes on the respondent, and whether remedies designed to restore or preserve equal access to the school unit’s programs and activities will be provided to the complainant;
E. The school unit’s appeal procedure and permissible bases for the parties to appeal the determination.
7. The written determination shall be provided to the parties simultaneously. The determination concerning responsibility becomes final either on the date that the school unit provides the parties with the written determination of the results of the appeal, if an appeal is filed, or if an appeal is not filed, the date on which the appeal would no longer be considered timely.
Remedies, Discipline and Other Actions
Remedies are measures used to ensure that the complainant has equal access to the school unit’s education programs and activities following the decision maker’s determination. Such remedies may include supportive measures, and may include other appropriate measures, depending upon the determination and the needs of the complainant. The Title IX Coordinator is responsible for implementing remedies and providing any needed assistance to the Complainant.
Discipline and Other Actions - Students
The following are of the types of discipline and other actions that may be imposed on a student when there is a determination that they are responsible for one or more violations involving sexual harassment:
In or out of school suspension.
Requirement to engage in education or counseling program.
Discipline and Other Actions – Employees
The following are examples of the types of disciplinary actions that may be imposed on an employee when there is a determination that they are responsible for one or more violations involving sexual harassment:
Suspension without pay.
The following are examples of other types of actions that may be imposed on an employee when there is a determination of responsibility:
Performance improvement plan.
Loss of leadership/stipend position.
The parties have the opportunity to appeal a determination regarding responsibility, and from dismissals of formal complaints. Under the Title IX regulations, appeals are allowed on the following grounds:
1. A procedural irregularity that affected the outcome of the matter;
2. New evidence that was not reasonably available at the time the determination regarding responsibility or dismissal of the formal complaint was made, that could affect the outcome of the matter; or
3. The Title IX Coordinator, investigator, or decision maker had a conflict of interest or bias for or against complainants or respondents generally, or the individual complainant or respondent that affected the outcome of the matter.
4. An appeal must be filed in writing within five business days of receiving the determination, stating the grounds for the appeal and including any relevant documentation in support of the appeal. Appeals submitted after this deadline are not timely and shall not be considered.
5. Appeals must be filed with the Superintendent, who will consider the appeal.
6. The Superintendent shall notify the other party in writing of the appeal and will allow both parties to submit a written statement in support of, or challenging, the determination of the decision maker.
7. The Superintendent shall conduct an impartial review of the appeal, including consideration of the written record of the matter, and may consult with legal counsel or other school unit officials in making their decision.
8. The Superintendent shall issue a written decision describing the result of the appeal and rationale for the result, and provide the written decision simultaneously to the parties. The decision will either deny the appeal; grant the appeal and remand to the decision maker for further consideration; or grant the appeal by revising the disciplinary or other action(s).
Records in connection with sexual harassment reports and the complaint process shall be maintained for a minimum of seven years.
Legal Reference: Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. §12101 et seq., as amended; 28 C.F.R. §35.107)
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) (29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq., as amended; 34 C.F.R. § 104.7)
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 USC § 1681, et seq.); 34 C.F.R. Part 106
Clery Act (20 U.S.C. §1092(f)(6)(A)(v) - definition of sexual assault)
Violence Against Women Act (34 U.S.C. § 1092(f)(6)(A)(v) – definition of sexual assault; 34 U.S.C. § 12291(a)(10) – dating violence; 34 U.S.C. §12291(a)(3) – definition of stalking; 34 U.S.C. §12291(a)(8) – definition of domestic violence)
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 USC § 2000d)
Maine Human Rights Act, 5 MRSA § 4551 et seq.
20-A MRSA § 6553
MHRC/MDOE Joint Rule Chapter 94-348 and 05-071, ch. 4
Cross Reference: ACAA-R – Student Discrimination/Harassment and Title IX Sexual Harassment Complaint Procedures
AC – Nondiscrimination/Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action
ACAD – Hazing
GBEB – Staff Conduct with Students
JFCK – Student Use of Cellular Telephones and Other Electronic Devices
JICIA – Weapons, Violence and School Safety
JICK – Bullying
Bullying and Harassment Reporting Form (ACAA-E1)
Bullying and Harrassment Responding Form (ACAA-E2)
Bullying and Cyberbullying Remediation Form (ACAA-E3)
Adopted: March 25, 2010
Revised: October 13, 2016, August 27, 2020