The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights announced Aug. 21 that it found Pflugerville ISD in violation of Title IX in the handling of an investigation into a sexual assault alleged to have happened in the 2018-19 school year.

Terms to know

The Office for Civil Rights, or OCR, is an arm of the USDE that enforces federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination in any department-funded programs or activities, such as schools.

The OCR found the district violated two laws:
  • Title IX is a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in such programs or activities.
  • Title II, Section 504, another law prohibiting discrimination related to disabilities, mandates that schools provide accommodations for students determined to be disabled.
What's happening

The OCR found the district violated laws designed to protect students of federally funded schools from sex and disability discrimination in the handling of a sexual assault and disability discrimination incident alleged to have happened on a PfISD campus. The office released a resolution agreement signed by the district Aug. 17 outlining how it came to this decision and what will be done to remediate it.

Specifically, the OCR found PfISD failed "to notice that a student was sexually assaulted by another student in a school restroom in the 2018-2019 school year," documents detailing the department's decision state.

The department also concluded the student was not provided educational accommodations as outlined in her Section 504 plan with the district.

Filings for the resolution are available here.

What they're saying

A PfISD spokesperson said the district disagrees with the assertions of the resolution agreement, stating the position of the OCR is holding the district accountable for regulations put into place the year after the incident occurred.

"We disagree that we failed to respond equitably to a notice that a child was sexually assaulted by another student," Tamra Spence, PfISD's chief communications officer, said in an email. "We disagree that we failed to provide a fair process to the accused and accuser; we disagree that we never undertook a Title IX investigation; we disagree that the complainant was not provided accommodations related to his or her disability. Due to [Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or] FERPA, we cannot specifically address those accommodations, but extensive accommodations were made to ensure that the student returned to school and completed the year. We dispute the 'compliance concern' regarding the end-of-course assessment and submit that if there were evidence of a violation, OCR would have characterized this issue as a 'violation' rather than a concern."

What's next

Based on the findings from the USDE, the district is required to complete several objectives to ensure compliance with the OCR, with deadlines as early as Sept. 1, rolling into 2024:
  • Offer a meeting with the student and family to discuss the its handling of the situation and offer to cover her counseling expenses by Sept. 1.
  • Designate a Title IX coordinator to facilitate compliance efforts for the district by Sept. 15.
  • Conduct staff trainings for Title IX and Section 504/Title II, sending any plans for trainings to OCR for review by Sept. 15.
  • Provide the OCR with information regarding sexual harassment complaints from the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years by Jan. 15.
  • Create and execute a a sexual harassment climate survey for the school’s students by Feb. 15.
  • Create a record-keeping system and procedures to document and preserve all sexual harassment complaints and documentation with deadlines starting Sept. 15.