Bellevue College Implements Changes to Title IX Policies

Seamus Allen // The Watchdog.

Changes to Bellevue College policies regarding Title IX were approved by the President’s Cabinet and implemented as interim policy on September 19, 2023.

Title IX, as described on the Bellevue College website, is “an all-encompassing federal law that prohibits gender- and sex-based discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funds,” and extends in scope to things like “sexual-harassment, dating violence…[and] retaliation against anyone who makes or participates in a complaint.” Bellevue College, being a public college and a member of the Washington Community and Technical Colleges System, is subject to the regulations laid out by Title IX.

Bellevue College Policy 1445, which covers Title IX Sexual Harassment, was originally drafted and approved as a temporary policy in September 2021 after a Department of Education amendment to Title IX required schools “to address sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination in education programs or activities” and a series of President Biden executive orders set renewed guidelines for the addressing of sex discrimination. The temporary policy was not ratified and made permanent by the Board of Trustees at the time due to the need for revisions.

The necessary revisions have been incorporated into the new interim policy.

The revised policy can be divided into several key subsections: a detailed explanation of actions that constitute sexual harassment; a detailed explanation of key figures and terms associated with a Title IX investigation process; the scope under which a potential investigation is triggered; a layout of principles guiding the investigation process; training expectations for the Title IX team; ways in which a complaint can be filed; a timeline for the investigation process and events that may follow; the rights protecting the person making the complaint and the subject of the complaint; long-term corrective measures that the Title IX coordinator can implement; and the hearing process for a Bellevue College employee accused of sexual harassment.

To summarize, the umbrella term of sexual harassment under Policy 1445 covers actions such as quid pro quo harassment, creating a hostile environment, sexual assault, domestic violence and dating violence. Once a complaint filed has been determined to fit the description of the actions outlined above, the Title IX coordinator works to make sure the complaint is addressed, whether that be through a remedial response, an informal resolution or a formal complaint process (this is assuming the action covered in the complaint happened in the United States and occurred in the context of a Bellevue College education program or activity). If the person who filed the complaint decides to go through the formal complaint process, the subject of the complaint is subjected to an investigation by an impartial investigator. During the investigation process, both the person who filed the complaint and the subject of the complaint are allowed to have an advisor at all proceedings. Once the investigator is done collecting evidence and has submitted their findings, a disciplinary authority will determine if the claims made in the complaint require action against the subject of the complaint, with the burden of proof being “more likely than not.” A person found guilty of sexual harassment can be dismissed from the school or fired, depending on their status as a student or employee and the discretion of the disciplinary authority. Subjects of complaints can appeal disciplinary decisions and file counterclaims against the original filer of the complaint, provided they are not retaliatory in nature.

Bellevue College Policy 1440, which covers discrimination, harassment and retaliation, was revised along with Policy 1445 and approved as interim policy on the same day. This policy combats discrimination and harassment against protected classes of people, including the following: people with disabilities, people with service animals, people with HIV/AIDS, veterans or people with military status, and people affected by sexual misconduct. The policy also prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion, marital status and genetic information. Most of the procedures surrounding the process through which a complaint is handled and a potential violation is investigated overlap with Policy 1445, with the only major difference being the allocation of responsibility. The Title IX coordinator/officer is responsible for handling complaints concerning Policy 1445, while Civil Rights Compliance Officers are responsible for complaints concerning Policy 1440 (though Title IX staff are considered Civil Rights Compliance Officers). 

Regardless of the small differences between the newly revised policies regarding Title IX, if you have any concerns about potential discrimination or sexual harassment related to Bellevue College, you should contact these people or access these resources: