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Baylor Confirms Exemption from Title IX Claims

The Department of Education has confirmed that Baylor University, the Baptist research institution in Waco, Texas, is immune from certain Title IX complaints “to the extent that they are inconsistent with the University’s religious tenets,” wrote Catherine E. Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in a letter to the school’s president, Dr. Linda Livingstone.

Dr. Linda Livingstone, president of Baylor UniversityDr. Linda Livingstone, president of Baylor UniversityThe university had sought assurances from the federal government that it could not be punished in response to several complaints of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, including that Baylor neglected to address the homophobic harassment of one student by her peers, refused to recognize an LGBTQ+ student group, and pressured university media to not report on LGBTQ+ student events and protests.

Lori Fogleman, Baylor’s assistant vice president of media and public relations, said in a statement that “Baylor is responding to current considerations by the U.S. Department of Education to move to an expanded definition of sexual harassment, which could infringe on Baylor’s rights under the U.S. Constitution, as well as Title IX, to conduct its affairs in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs.”

The letter does not mean that the complaints against the university have been closed, but Paul Carlos Southwick, director of the Religious Exemption Accountability Group, which filed the complaint on behalf of the student who was harassed, told The Texas Tribune that it would probably happen, at least in that case. He also said that it was the first time that a university had been exempted from sexual harassment claims.

“It doesn’t appear to meet a wholesale exemption from sexual harassment regulations, but the language is really vague in general,” he said.

The confirmation follows other Title IX trouble for Baylor. In 2016, the education department investigated the school over accusations that it didn’t address claims of sexual crimes, many of which were against football players. Head football coach Art Briles and then-president Ken Starr both resigned.

Jon Edelman can be reached at [email protected]

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