Content warning: The following article contains language and topics related to sexual harassment, assault and wrongdoing that can trigger. The discretion of the reader is recommended.
As the semester approaches, students may focus more on preparing for class and moving into a new home than on their legal rights.
The Student Affairs Department puts a list of student rights on its websitewhich includes basic freedoms such as expecting quality education, joining student organizations without discrimination, and the right to apply for redress of complaints to the relevant university unit.
However, there are specific laws that address students ‘right to be non-discriminatory and protect students’ right to privacy. The terms “Title IX” and “FERPA” are widely used in higher education, but students may not be familiar with the laws behind the names.
For those who are going back to school and already have enough on their plate, here is a brief overview of important laws on student rights and free legal representation by the university.
Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments is federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in educational programs. Sexual harassment includes sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence.
Legislation can be featured in many aspects of higher education, including university recruitment and admission, financial assistance, employment, and athletics. Title IX also includes treatment for pregnant and parenting students and treatment for LGBTQ + students.
Equal Opportunities & Title IX is the primary university office responsible for enforcing policies and investigating complaints of discrimination, harassment and retaliation. The office also handles incidents of discrimination based on race, age, disability status, veteran status and more.
Students can file complaints of sexual misconduct here. Students can report problems related to discrimination and / or harassment here. Resources for Incidents related to Title IX can be found on the EO website.
The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act protects student privacy through their educational records and guarantees students access to their records.
Under FERPA, no person or group, including a student’s family member, may access protected educational materials without the student’s permission. However, the law allows parents access to educational records if the student is claimed to be dependent on federal income tax forms.
Some categories of personal data fall under Directory informationthat can be shared without the student’s consent. This includes name, subject, attendance dates and matriculation status. Students have the right to withhold directory information themselves and can request this this form.
FERPA also guarantees the right to check one’s own educational certificates. Written inquiries must be replied to within 45 days of the state of Texas receiving the request. Students also have the right to request that their records be corrected if they believe the files are inaccurate.
All university employees with access to student information systems are required to complete the FERPA training course.
Student legal advice
Students with legal problems can access a variety of free services through the SLS department. University attorneys can provide legal advice, assistance, representation, and education to students.
SLS can write letters, draft legal documents, represent students, or otherwise attempt to solve legal problems. In criminal matters, including tickets, the Secretariat can provide general advice but does not represent students.
The department handles family, consumer and labor law as well as immigration, personal injury and landlord / tenant matters. Common legal issues that students can get help with include divorce, car accidents, debt collections, unpaid wages, workplace discrimination, and evictions.
You can find the application for the student legal service here.
Recommended illustration by J. Robynn Aviles