Title IX Policies

Sexual Harassment Policy & Procedures

Adapted from the University of Massachusetts’ Sexual Harassment Policies & Procedures dated March 6, 2014.

Policy

The Conway School of Landscape Design (also referred to as the “Conway School”, “Conway”, or the “school”) is committed to providing faculty, staff, and students with an environment where they may pursue their careers or studies without being sexually harassed. Sexual harassment of or by any member of the school is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. It is illegal and constitutes a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and Massachusetts G.L.c.151B and 151C. Title IX is a civil rights law that seeks to end discrimination on the basis of gender in educational institutions. Conway has in place a Title IX Coordinator responsible for ensuring compliance with Title IX. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) publishes guidelines for this position. The Title IX Coordinator:

  • Is familiar with the kinds of discrimination covered under Title IX
  • Knows the details of the school’s policies and procedures on sex discrimination and sexual misconduct.
  • Helps create campus policies regarding sex discrimination and sexual misconduct.
  • Oversees sex discrimination and sexual violence prevention policies.
  • Investigates complaints of sex discrimination or allegations of sexual misconduct and enforces disciplinary actions in accordance with the school’s policy (as outlined below). This might involve conducting interviews with the involved parties, informing all parties of the school’s grievance process, establishing witness credibility, evaluating evidence with an impartial view, determining appropriate sanctions against the perpetrator, and helping survivors find resources.
  • Communicates their availability and remains accessible to students who need guidance or want to make a complaint.

Conway’s current Title IX Coordinator is Kate Cholakis. She is available during academic hours, 40 hours per week. Students may approach her in person, email her (titleixcoordinator@csld.edu) or reach her by phone (413-203-6773). Students and school employees should report to the Title IX Coordinator when sexual harassment has occurred on campus and during off-campus educational activities and programs. An anonymous report can be made here.

Sexual violence, which encompasses sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual abuse, is a crime and should be reported directly to the police. Students have the right to report to the police, and the right to not report to the police. Students who have experienced sexual violence can ask the Title IX Coordinator for help in facilitating this reporting process. Definitions of crimes associated with sexual violence vary from state to state; Massachusetts definitions can be found here: https://www.rainn.org/laws-your-state-massachusetts.  For the purposes of this policy, sexual harrassment is defined as follows:

Unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

1) submission to or rejection of such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or academic work; or

2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or academic decisions affecting such individual; or

3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or sexually offensive working or academic environment.

Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to the following:

  • repeated unwanted sexual flirtations, advances or propositions;
  • continued or repeated verbal abuse or innuendo of a sexual nature;
  • uninvited physical contact such as touching, hugging, patting, brushing or pinching;
  • verbal comments of a sexual nature about an individual’s body or sexual terms used to describe an individual;
  • display of pictures, posters or cartoons that a reasonable person would find offensive or sexually suggestive;
  • continued or repeated jokes, language, epithets or remarks of a sexual nature;
  • prolonged staring or leering;
  • making obscene gestures or suggestive or insulting sounds;
  • demand for sexual favors accompanied by an implied or overt threat concerning an individual’s employment or academic status or promises of preferential treatment;
  • indecent exposure.

In determining whether an alleged incident constitutes sexual harassment, the Title IX Coordinator and Co-Directors will look at the totality of the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. The final decision regarding a suitable penalty will be made from the finding of fact on a case-by-case basis and from any record of previous sexual harassment by the Respondent. The Title IX Coordinator and Co-Directors will be responsible for administering this policy and its procedures.

Procedures

A. Purpose and Scope

This grievance procedure is intended to provide a fair, prompt, and reliable determination about whether the school’s sexual harassment policy has been violated. Anyone who, at the time of the alleged harassment, was either employed by or enrolled at the Conway School may file a complaint alleging violation of this policy. Specific procedures for complaint processing will be determined consistent with the exceptions noted in the last paragraph of this section. No school employee or student is exempt from the jurisdiction of this policy.

In most instances, complaints will be initiated by the target of the alleged harassment. However, the school reserves the right to initiate a formal grievance (or to continue processing a complaint even after a request to withdraw has been submitted by the Complainant in accordance with Section D) when, in the opinion of the Co-Directors it is appropriate to do so.

As in any grievance procedure justice requires that the legal rights, as well as the right to academic freedom, of the Complainant and the Respondent be fully assured. The school will make every effort to protect these rights and will knowingly undertake no action that threatens or compromises them. Notwithstanding, nothing in these procedures is intended to prevent the school’s administration from taking appropriate interim measures to protect one or more of the parties until such time final adjudication regarding the complaint has been reached. Conway will accommodate the Complainant on campus by remedying hostile environments as much as possible (for example, by putting safety measures in place such as issuing no contact directives or helping the student obtain a restraining order).

This procedure is not intended to impair or limit the right of anyone to seek a remedy available under state or federal law. A Complainant may file a complaint with an external agency to meet state and federal agency deadlines without jeopardizing his or her right to a school hearing. (See Section L.) Upon official notification that an individual has filed with an external agency, the school will inquire if the Complainant wishes to continue with the internal grievance process. Should the Complainant seek to discontinue the internal process, the school will nonetheless continue to fact find and take appropriate measures.

B. Confidentiality

All parties involved in any aspect of this process will act at all times to preserve the confidentiality of these proceedings. Information will be shared with those individuals who have a legitimate and operational need to be informed, and to the extent that it is necessary to maintain the effectiveness of this process. Individuals found to have violated the confidentiality of this process may be subject to disciplinary proceedings consistent with applicable administrative rules and regulations.

C. Deadlines

A Complainant will have twelve months following an incident to initiate a complaint under this policy and procedures unless he or she can show good reason for having that deadline waived. Requests for exceptions to the filing deadline must be made in writing to the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors, who will render a decision in writing following his or her review of the request. Legal counsel may be consulted in making this determination.

In some instances, particularly when a pattern of behavior is the subject of the complaint, supporting evidence may include reports of behavior that occurred outside of the twelve-month filing deadline. In these instances, a written request for an exception is not required; however, the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors may be asked by the Respondent to rule on the admissibility of such evidence. The decision of the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors in these instances is final.

Failure to meet any of the deadlines stipulated in this procedure will not result in a decision by default or prevent the process from continuing.

D. Requirements for Participation & Withdrawals

If a Respondent fails to respond to a claim or to appear at a hearing it will be considered a breach of responsibility and could result in disciplinary action. Furthermore, a Respondent will not prevent this process from proceeding by his or her silence or absence; failure to respond to a complaint or to appear at a hearing may result in the process proceeding solely on the basis of the Complainant’s testimony and evidence.

A Complainant may request to withdraw a formal grievance after it has been filed by submitting written reasons for the withdrawal to the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors. The Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors will be responsible for notifying the Respondent of the request to withdraw. The Respondent must provide written agreement to the withdrawal before the charges are dropped. A Respondent who does not agree to the withdrawal request must provide written reasons to the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors who, after consultation with appropriate administrators including, where necessary, legal counsel, will issue a written determination to the parties regarding the status of the claim. A Complainant may not interrupt the process simply by failing to appear at the hearing or other required meetings. Failure to appear may result in the hearing proceeding solely on the basis of the Respondent’s testimony and evidence.

None of the above actions should be construed to impinge upon the right of the school to initiate or continue a claim despite a request to withdraw when, if in the opinion of the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors, the allegations are sufficiently egregious to merit further action on the part of the school. The alleged victim will be relied upon to serve as a witness under these circumstances.

E. Retaliation

No individual shall be retaliated or discriminated against for participating in these procedures. Any act of retaliation directed against person(s) participating in these procedures is illegal. Complaints of retaliation should be addressed to the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors, who will determine the appropriate action.

F. Penalties

The penalties for those found to have violated this policy may include, but will not be limited to, any one or combination of the following: verbal admonition, written warning placed in the personnel file, probation, suspension without pay, demotion, removal from administrative duties, and dismissal.

G. Filing Sexual Harassment Complaints

The school recognizes that it has a responsibility to provide a procedure for rapid and equitable resolution of all sexual harassment complaints. In many instances, resolution can be reached without the need for formal measures. The goal in all instances is to ensure that inappropriate and offensive behavior is stopped.

H. Initiating a Complaint

Complainants may initially consult with the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors, who can provide information about the complaint handling system and options available for resolution.

The Title IX Coordinator and Co-Directors will assess the matter; determine what immediate action must be taken; and advise the Complainant about how to proceed – informally, using one of the methods described in Section I, J, and K or formally, using the methods described in Sections L and M. Students are not required to use informal mechanisms to resolve sexual harassment complaints. Schools cannot require or offer mediation as a mechanism to resolve a sexual violence complaint. The student can use Conway’s grievance procedure to address sex discrimination or allegations of sexual misconduct.

The Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors may also consult with the Chair of the Board of Trustees to determine the appropriateness of proceeding under these procedures. The Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors have the authority to discontinue processing a complaint. This decision is final and not subject to appeal.

The Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors will identify the appropriate fact-finding mechanism. Fact-finding will be done either internally (by a school staff member) or externally (by a person whose services will be retained specifically for this purpose). When fact-finding results in a written report, this report may later be introduced into the record during a formal hearing process.

I. Informal Resolution

In some circumstances, informal resolution of a complaint prior to or instead of initiating the formal process may be more satisfactory than directly proceeding to a formal grievance. Informal resolution options include, but are not limited to, self-help or consultation.

J. Self-Help

The goal in any complaint process is to stop the harassing behavior. If a Complainant believes he or she is experiencing inappropriate conduct and can comfortably confront the individual responsible for the inappropriate conduct, then the following steps may be taken:

  • confront the person(s) promptly;
  • inform the person(s) that the conduct is offensive, intimidating, or embarrassing;
  • describe the effect of this behavior;
  • request that the behavior stop immediately.

The Complainant should have the above conversation with a witness present who can corroborate the exchange. If this is not possible or practical, the Complainant may write a letter incorporating the above points and give it to the person in front of a witness. The Complainant should retain a copy of this letter.

In all instances, the Complainant should document the event(s), including dates, times, places and witnesses.

If this action fails to provide the Complainant with the appropriate relief, or as an alternative to using this approach, the measures described below may be considered.

K. Consultation and Action

When the Complainant cannot comfortably and directly confront the Respondent, or the behavior has continued in spite of direct confrontation, then the Complainant should report the behavior to someone in a position of authority who can intervene (e.g., Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors).

L. Formal Resolution (Filing a formal grievance)

Complainants who are dissatisfied with or do not wish to utilize informal resolution should consult directly with the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors to determine the appropriateness of filing a formal grievance. Although informal resolution attempts are not required prior to filing a formal grievance, they are nonetheless encouraged.

Any individual who chooses to file a formal sexual harassment grievance may do so immediately following the incident giving rise to the complaint, or following efforts to reach an informal settlement. In no event will it be filed greater than twelve months following the incident which gave rise to the complaint unless the provisions of Section III have been met. After initially meeting with the Complainant to assess the complaint, including the appropriateness of the complaint being filed under this Policy and Procedures (see Section H), the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors will advise the Complainant of appropriate next steps.

M. Formal Grievance Procedure

The grievance must be submitted in writing to the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors. The grievance must clearly and concisely state a description of the matter being complained about; it may also indicate any remedy sought. The complaint form must be signed and dated by the Complainant.

The Respondent will have ten working days to submit a written response to the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors. The response will contain full and specific responses to each claim in the grievance, admitting, denying or providing a full explanation of the allegations. The response must be signed and dated by the Respondent. If an investigation has not already taken place and a fact-finder’s report completed, then one will immediately commence. The Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors will appoint the fact-finder and provide the fact-finder with a copy of the response and the complaint.

The fact-finder will conduct a thorough investigation and forward a written report to the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors as quickly as possible. The Co-Directors will review the report to determine next steps.

When a hearing is to be held, it will be conducted in accordance with the procedures outlined below.

If, consistent with Section H, the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors determine that the complaint should be dismissed and a hearing should not be held, the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors will provide written notification of this decision to the Complainant and the Respondent. This decision is final and not subject to appeal under these procedures.

The Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors will provide copies of the fact-finder’s report to the Complainant and the Respondent.

Duties and Powers of the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors and Hearing Panel

The Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Director will:

  1. assign members to the hearing panel. In addition to the Co-Directors, these members may include administrative staff and trustees;
  2. ensure an orderly presentation of all evidence;
  3. ensure that the proceedings are accurately recorded; and
  4. see that a fair and impartial decision based on the issues and evidence presented at the hearing is issued by the Hearing Panel.

The Hearing Panel will:

  1. define issues of contention;
  2. conduct a fair and impartial hearing which ensures the rights of all parties involved;
  3. receive and consider all relevant evidence which reasonable people customarily rely upon in the conduct of serious business;
  4. ensure that the Complainant and Respondent have full opportunity to present their positions and to present witnesses and evidence which support their positions; further, the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors may also name individuals to appear as witnesses;
  5. ask relevant questions of the Complainant, Respondent, and witnesses to elicit information which may assist the Co-Directors in making a decision; members of the school community have a responsibility to fully cooperate with this process;
  6. continue the hearing to a subsequent date if necessary to permit either party to produce additional evidence, witnesses, or other relevant materials;
  7. change the date, time or place of the hearing on its own motion or for good reason shown by either party, and with due notice to all parties;
  8. permit both parties to submit written arguments following the conclusion of the hearing;
  9. rule by majority vote on all questions of fact, interpretations of rules, regulations and policies, recommendations for penalties and relief, and any requests that are made during the hearing.

The Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors may consult with or have the assistance of school legal counsel throughout this process.

N. The Hearing

The Hearing is intended to provide a forum within which a panel determines whether school policy has been violated. Both parties will be given a full and fair hearing. The proceeding, although formal, is not a court proceeding and the school will not be bound by the procedures and rules of evidence of a court of law. In most instances, Complainants and Respondents will be expected to speak for themselves. The school will hear and admit evidence which it believes is pertinent to the case.

O. Review

Within thirty days after receiving a written copy of the Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors’ decision, the Respondent, and the Complainant may request a review by submitting a written petition to the Co-Directors (who may appoint a designee to handle the review). The petition for review will set forth in detail the specific grounds upon which review is sought. The Co-Directors will review the record of the case and based upon this review, may modify or vacate the earlier decision.

The Co-Directors or designee will render a written decision in as timely a manner as possible following receipt of the petition for review and all materials relating to the grievance. The Title IX Coordinator and/or Co-Directors’ decision will constitute final school disposition of the matter.

P. Records

Records of all proceedings under this Policy will be kept by the Title IX Coordinator and Administrative Director and may be accessible to authorized staff as necessary. For example, records may be accessed when determining an appropriate penalty for a subsequent sexual harassment complaint; when a complaint of retaliation is made; when a decision is reviewed; or when a Respondent is a candidate for a supervisory position.

The records will also be available to the school’s Legal Counsel for any proceeding related to these policies or procedures, whether internal to the school or in any judicial or administrative proceeding in which the school, its trustees, officers, employees or agents are a party.

Q. Standard of Proof

A violation of this Sexual Harassment Policy will be found only where there is a preponderance of evidence that a violation has occurred. The school will be bound to make its determinations based on this standard of proof.

R. State and Federal Remedies

In addition, complaints of sexual harassment may be filed with one or more of the government agencies set forth below.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
John F. Kennedy Federal Building
475 Government Center
Boston, MA 02203
(800) 669-4000

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
Boston Headquarters:
One Ashburton Place, Suite 601
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 994-6000

Springfield Office:
436 Dwight Street, Room 220
Springfield, MA 01103
(413) 739-2145

Office for Civil Rights
United States Department of Education
5 Post Office Square, 8th Floor/Suite 900
Boston, MA 02109-3921
(617) 289-0111

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do I decide if I should make a report?

A. The decision to report is a personal one, and regardless of the decision you choose to make, we will do our best to connect you with emotional and academic support to help you through the process. Submitting a report alerts the school that an incident took place. Filing a formal complaint indicates that you would like the school to investigate the incident further.

Q. Who has access to my initial report?

A. The Title IX Coordinator and Co-Directors will have access to the report you submit through our website. They will maintain the privacy of the complainant. If you decide to file a complaint, other people will have information about your case, and the Title IX Coordinator will communicate with you about who those people are.

Q. Can a report be filed anonymously?

A. Yes, a report can be made anonymously here.

Q. Are there local resources I can use while I consider making these decisions?

A. The Sexual Assault Support and Advocacy (SASA) at the Center for Women and Community in Amherst, MA, is an off-campus confidential resource that you can access 24/7 at (413) 545-0800.

Q. What happens financially and academically if I choose to take a leave of absence due to a sexual assault?

A. The Title IX Coordinator will work with you and the Academic Director to discuss your options.

Definitions

Definitions of Clery Act Crimes

Aggravated Assault

An unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. This type of assault usually is accompanied by the use of a weapon or by means likely to produce death or great bodily harm.

Arson

Any willful or malicious burning or attempt to burn, with or without intent to defraud, a dwelling house, public building, motor vehicle or aircraft, personal property of another, etc.

Burglary

The unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or a theft. For reporting purposes this definition includes: unlawful entry with intent to commit a larceny or felony; breaking and entering with intent to commit a larceny; housebreaking; safecracking; and all attempts to commit any of the aforementioned.

Consent

In Massachusetts, it is illegal to have sex under any circumstances with someone who is incapable of giving consent due to incapacity or impairment; incapacity or impairment may be caused by intoxication or drugs, or because a victim is underage, mentally impaired, unconscious, or asleep.  For purposes of this policy, consent is an explicitly communicated, reversible, mutual agreement to which all parties are capable of making a decision.

  • Consent requires a “Yes” in response to requests for sexual acts.
  • Silence is not consent.
  • “No” is not consent.
  • By law, a person is incapable of consent if he or she is unconscious, asleep or younger than 16 years old.
  • A person may also be incapable of consent if he or she is intoxicated (i.e. drunk, high) or mentally incompetent.
  • Submission is not necessarily consent. There is a fine line between persuasion and coercion. For example, having sex with someone who reasonably believes that there is a threat of force meets the legal definition of rape in Massachusetts.

Destruction/Damage/Vandalism of Property

To willfully or maliciously destroy, injure, disfigure, or deface any public or private property, real or personal, without the consent of the owner or person having custody or control by cutting, tearing, breaking, marking, painting, drawing, covering with filth, or any other such means as may be specified by local law.

Dating Violence (definition from the federal Violence Against Women Act, amended 2013; there is not a specific crime defined as “dating violence” in Massachusetts)

Violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim.

  • The existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on the reporting party’s statement and with consideration of the length of the relationship, the type of relationship, and the frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.
  • For the purpose of this definition, dating violence –

Includes, but is not limited to, sexual or physical abuse or the threat of such abuse

Does not include acts covered under the definition of domestic violence

Domestic Violence (from 2013 VAWA Act; the definition under Massachusetts law varies slightly)

A felony or misdemeanor crime of violence committed—

  • By a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim;
  • By a person with whom the victim shares a child in common;
  • By a person who is cohabitating with, or has cohabitated with, the victim as a spouse or intimate partner;
  • By a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction in which the crime of violence occurred;
  • By any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction in which the crime of violence occurred.

Forcible Fondling

The touching of the private body parts of another person for the purpose of sexual gratification, forcibly and/or against that person’s will; or, not forcibly or against the person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent because of his/her youth or because of his/her temporary or permanent mental incapacity.

Hate Crimes

Hate crimes must also be reported by category of prejudice based on the following: Race, gender, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, or disability. For the purpose of reporting the statistics with respect to the crime statistics that must be compiled in accordance under the categories of: On campus, on non-campus building or property; public property; and dorms/residences. Reportable hate crimes include crimes in the Clery crime categories with a bias component, as well as bias-involved larcenies (thefts), simple assault, intimidation, vandalism, and any other crime involving personal injury.

Incest

Non-forcible sexual intercourse between persons who are related to each other within the degrees wherein marriage is prohibited by law.

Intimidation

To unlawfully place another person in reasonable fear of bodily harm through the use of threatening words and/or other conduct, but without displaying a weapon or subjecting the victim to actual physical attack. Counted only in bias statistics.

Larceny (theft)

The unlawful taking, carrying, leading or riding away of property from the possession or constructive possession of another.  Counted only in bias statistics.

Motor Vehicle Theft

The theft or attempted theft of a motor vehicle.

Murder and Non-Negligent Manslaughter

The willful (non-negligent) killing of one human being by another.

Negligent Manslaughter

The killing of another person through gross negligence.

Rape (UCR definition)

The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus, with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.  This offense includes the rape of both males and females.

Robbery

The taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear.

Sex Offenses-Forcible

Any sexual act directed against another person, forcibly and/or against that person’s will; or not forcibly or against the person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent.  Includes Rape & Forcible Fondling defined in this section.

Sex Offenses-Non-forcible

Unlawful, non-forcible sexual intercourse.  Includes Incest & Statutory Rape defined in this section.

Simple Assault

An unlawful physical attack by one person upon another where neither the offender displays a weapon, nor the victim suffers obvious severe or aggravated bodily injury involving apparent broken bones, loss of teeth, possible internal injury, severe laceration or loss of consciousness.

Stalking

Engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for the person’s safety or the safety of others, or suffer substantial emotional distress.

For the purpose of this definition –

  • Course of conduct means two or more acts, including, but not limited to, acts in which the stalker directly or indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about, a person, or interferes with a person’s property
  • Substantial emotional distress means significant suffering or anguish that may, but does not necessarily, require medical or other professional treatment or counseling
  • Reasonable person means a reasonable person under similar circumstances and with similar identities to the victim. One incident of stalking is recorded for each year in which a course of conduct involving the same perpetrator and victim, and is recorded at the first location of the incident series

Statutory Rape

Non-forcible sexual intercourse with a person who is under the statutory age of consent (16 in Massachusetts).