Baylor College is exempt from sexual harassment claims below Title IX of the Schooling Amendments of 1972, following a resolution by the Biden administration’s Division of Schooling to affirm the Baptist establishment’s non secular exemptions.
Title IX bans discrimination primarily based on intercourse additionally requires faculties and universities to stop and tackle sexual harassment. Nonetheless, non secular faculties and universities can search an exemption if the necessities aren’t in line with the group that controls the establishment.
The college argued in a letter to the division that civil rights complaints accusing Baylor of not responding to sexual harassment claims from an LGBTQ pupil ought to be dismissed as a result of the necessities battle with the establishment’s non secular tenets. Baylor officers advised the division that it’s exempt from any necessities below Title IX regarding sexual orientation or gender id.
An advocacy group that tracks non secular exemptions stated the division’s resolution to exempt Baylor from sexual harassment claims is the primary of its variety, and that the transfer would endanger queer college students on the college. The college stated in a press release that the non secular exemption “is being mischaracterized as a broad-based exception to sexual harassment coverage inside Title IX laws.”
“As a substitute, Baylor is responding to present concerns by the U.S. Division of Schooling to maneuver to an expanded definition of sexual harassment, which might infringe on Baylor’s rights below the U.S. Structure, in addition to Title IX, to conduct its affairs in a fashion in line with its non secular beliefs,” Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman stated within the assertion. “Baylor has taken and can proceed to take significant steps to make sure members of the LGBTQ neighborhood are cherished, cared for and guarded as part of the Baylor Household.”
Paul Southwick, director of the Non secular Exemption Accountability Venture (REAP), which additionally filed complaints with the division’s Workplace for Civil Rights over Baylor’s therapy of LGBTQ college students, stated pupil security is at stake on this resolution.
“The federal government is siding with non secular exemption claims, even when pupil security from harassment is concerned and I believe any affordable individual would say that goes approach too far,” he stated.
Southwick clarified that it’s not uncommon or new for non secular faculties to hunt exemptions from federal laws or legal guidelines; solely the exemption from sexual harassment claims is unprecedented. The Non secular Exemption Accountability Venture has sued to dam the federal authorities from permitting such exemptions from Title IX.
An Schooling Division spokesman directed Inside Larger Ed to the Workplace for Civil Rights’ letter to Baylor, affirming the college’s non secular exemptions from Title IX. The letter, as typical with a lot of these responses, affirms that the division is granting the exemption, however doesn’t clarify its reasoning for granting it.
The Baylor LGBTQ pupil group shared information in regards to the exemption and reminded college students to watch out.
“We nonetheless exist and in neighborhood will proceed to thrive,” the group wrote.
Veronica Penales, an LGBTQ+ pupil who graduated from Baylor this spring, stated in a Title IX criticism in 2021 fileld by REAP that she confronted harassment primarily based on her sexual orientation whereas a pupil at Baylor. The harassment included being referred to as a homophobic slur. College students additionally repeatedly posted sticky notes on her dorm room door that stated “f-a-g.”
“They did it repeatedly, and she or he reported it to the college and they didn’t shield her,” Southwick stated. “That is primarily what they had been making an attempt to be immune from. Failure to reply to that form of horrible harassment.”
Penales stated in a press release supplied by REAP that she was “saddened by Baylor’s lack of integrity and accountability to their college students.”
“I do know many is not going to really feel protected returning to campus, and rightfully so,” the assertion continued. “If Baylor believes it has a non secular liberty proper to permit us to be harassed, there really aren’t any protections left for us.”
Baylor sought the exemption after the Schooling Division’s Workplace for Civil Rights began investigating complaints, together with Penales’, that accused the college of tolerating sexual harassment primarily based on sexual orientation or gender id, denying recognition of an LGBTQ pupil group, and urgent college media to not report on LGBTQ occasions and protests in September and October 2021. (The complaints had been filed in 2021, and the college granted the scholar group a constitution in 2022.)
“As a result of every of Baylor’s guidelines and insurance policies at subject derives from Baylor’s non secular tenets as a Baptist college, Baylor’s enforcement of these guidelines and insurance policies is totally exempt from any necessities below Title IX regarding sexual orientation or gender id,” Baylor President Linda Livingstone wrote in a letter to OCR requesting the exemption.
The college wished assurances that “Baylor couldn’t be present in violation of Title IX on the bottom that the idea in or observe of its non secular tenets by the college or its college students constitutes ‘unwelcome conduct,’” in line with a footnote within the request.
Southwick stated the division hasn’t but determined whether or not to shut its Title IX investigations into Baylor, and he’s undecided how the exemption will have an effect on the criticism.
“That is unchartered territory with regards to sexual harassment,” he stated. “What I can let you know is that the Division of Schooling has by no means denied a non secular exemption and when a faculty has asserted one, traditionally, for our complaints involving queer and trans college students, they’ve at all times dismissed the investigations afterward.”
One Baylor graduate requested on X, the platform formally often called Twitter, “what number of queer college students will probably be harassed and abused on the hand of a ‘Christian’ college?”
“Baylor doesn’t care,” the consumer wrote.
Within the letter to the division, Livingston wrote that Baylor welcomes and helps all its college students and workers who comply with abide by its non secular tenets, together with those that determine as LGBTQI+.
“The college doesn’t discriminate on the premise of sexual orientation or gender id or expression per se, however it does regulate conduct that’s inconsistent with the non secular values and beliefs which are integral to its Christian religion and mission,” the letter says.