Title IX Law Explained
Understanding your rights under Title IX law is important as you navigate your collegiate career. Title IX is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits institutions from discriminating against anyone on the basis of sex and/or gender. Title IX applies to all forms of sexual harassments, assault, violence, and more. Under Title IX reports of sexual misconduct or harassment must be addressed swiftly as it is creates a hostile environment.
If you have been accused of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment as an undergrad, post-graduate student, a faculty member, or simply visitor on campus, you may be facing a Title IX case. The team at Freeman & Lund are here to help you navigate this process and understand your rights.
1. Report: the university receives a report of a potential violation. This begins the process.
2. Complaint: if the complainant wishes to initiate an investigation, they will submit a formal complaint. An OIE director may also file a complaint, even if the original complainant does not wish to file, if deemed appropriate.
3. Title IX or OIE: Title IX complaint is for those participating in or attempting to participate in the university’s education program or activity at the time of filing the complaint. OIE complaints are those harassment/discrimination/sexual misconduct complaints that do not fall under the Title IX category.
Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve received a Notice of Allegations. What do I do?
The notice of allegations is just that—a notice to you advising you of the basis of allegations that have been filed against you. The first thing that will happen is you will schedule an interview with the investigator assigned to your case to discuss your side of the allegations. These interviews typically take about 2 hours and are done by Zoom. After the initial interview, you will have the opportunity to provide documentation and a list of potential witnesses that you think are relevant to the allegations.
What is informal resolution? Is that an option in my case?
Informal resolution is a way to resolve complaints made to the university/school without a formal investigation/hearing process. It’s completely voluntary, meaning both parties must agree to this route of resolution. It can be requested in any Title IX/OIE/Student Conduct case at any time and must be approved by the school.
How is this different than a criminal case?
First and foremost a Notice of Allegations does not mean you have been charged with a crime; instead, you have been alleged to have violated the policies of your school. The entire process takes place within your school’s Title IX/OIE/Student Conduct department. There is no court system, no judge, and no prosecutor in your case. The standard required is preponderance of the evidence, as opposed to a criminal trial which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. There is no finding of GUILTY or NOT GUILTY, but rather RESPONSIBLE or NOT RESPONSIBLE for the alleged violations. Additionally, the rules of evidence do not apply.
I’m set to graduate this year. Will this impact my diploma?
It depends. Schools typically are not in the habit of taking credits away from students. However, if you are found to be responsible for a violation of the school’s policies, there is a potential for serious sanctions including potential dismissal from the university. If you are dismissed (expelled), a note will go on your transcript and the school may withhold your diploma.
Am I allowed to talk about the pending allegations?
Yes. There is no restriction on being able to discuss the allegations with your friends and family members. However, be aware that any public discussions about the allegations/investigation or communications that might interfere with the investigative process could be considered retaliation, which is prohibited.
What does a hearing entail?
If the investigation proceeds to a hearing, a hearing officer will be assigned. The hearing will be scheduled and all potential witnesses named by either party are invited to attend. The hearing itself includes testimony from the investigator, witnesses, the complainant, and the respondent. Each party is allowed to ask questions of the witnesses with some exceptions. If it is a Title IX hearing, the advisor for each party Is required to conduct cross-examination. After the hearing, the hearing officer issues a decision on whether or not you violated the policy and, if found that you did violate it, an appropriate sanction.
The 4 Stages of a Title IX Case
A written notice to the respondent of the allegations (“Notice of Allegations”)
Fact gathering and Evidence will occur:
- Interviewing complainant, respondent, and any potential witnesses.
- Reviewing any documentation submitted by the parties (screenshots, emails, receipts, pictures, and more).
- Review of evidence: each party gets the opportunity to review any evidence obtained during this period and submit a response within 10 days.
Investigative reporting is then prepared and provided to both parties.
Hearing and Adjudication
This stage is most similar to a criminal trial where both sides plea their case with testimony from witnesses, complainant, and respondent. Evidence gathered in the previous stage will be reviewed and the Resolutions Officer will determine if the respondent has violated a university policy.
Sanctions are applied only when respondent is determined to be responsible.
The application of sactions must be in line with the determined violation and may take into account many variables:
- Facts and/or Circumstances
- Past student misconduct
- Failure of the student to comply with previous sanctions
- Actual/potential harm caused
- Degree of intent and motivation
- Severity and pervasiveness of the conduct
- Impairment resulting from voluntary used of drugs or alcohol is considered and aggravating, not mitigating, factor.
Sanctions may take the form of a formal reprimand, disciplinary probation, suspension or full dismissal.
Both parties have the right to appeal on one of the following bases:
- Procedural irregularities that may have affected the outcome
- New evidence that was not reasonably available at hte time of the hearing that could affect the outcome
- OIE director/investigator/resolutions officer had a conflict of interest or bias for or against parties that affected the outcome.
Appeals must be submitted in writing within 5 days of the hearing decision.
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