Title IX proceedings are formal processes that educational institutions use to handle complaints of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and assault, under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. These proceedings are designed to investigate, adjudicate, and resolve allegations of violations of Title IX policies. They typically involve steps such as filing a complaint, an investigation by the institution, a hearing to review evidence and hear from parties involved, a decision on whether a Title IX violation occurred, and potential sanctions. There's also usually an opportunity for appeal. These processes aim to ensure fairness and protect the rights of all parties involved.
A Title IX office at a university or college will receive a report stating that a student suffered sex-based discrimination. Title IX reports may feature allegations brought by one student against a fellow student. Also, Title IX reports may be filed by a faculty member against a student. Most of these complaints focus on some form of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, or sexually inappropriate behavior.
A student bringing the Title IX report is the complainant, and the student accused of a Title IX offense is the respondent. A respondent may have their status as a full-time student placed in jeopardy by a Title IX investigation. If a respondent is found guilty of committing a Title IX offense, they may be expelled. Faculty members found guilty of committing a Title IX offense may be dismissed from their academic post. State criminal charges may also be filed against the respondent depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.
Title IX procedures are often revised depending on which political party occupies the executive branch of the federal government. Currently the Biden administration is in power, and its influence over the interpretation and application of Title IX is ongoing.
Every university and college in the United States must have a Title IX Compliance Officer. Title IX complaints are directed to the Title IX Compliance Officer. A staff under the compliance officer will be larger or smaller depending on the size of the university or college.
During Title IX proceedings, several steps are typically followed:
Filing a Complaint
A complaint alleging Title IX violations is filed, which triggers the process. Students are typically provided with multiple methods of filing a Title IX report. Some universities and colleges offer online reporting documents. Faculty members, administrators, fellow students may also be obligated to report a Title IX violation if they have knowledge of the misconduct. Every complaint passes through the Title IX office at the university or college.
After evaluating the complaint, the Title IX officer decides whether to launch a Title IX investigation and follow through on pursuing the Title IX report. Universities and colleges risk losing federal funding if they do not adhere to the provisions of Title IX, so the vast majority of Title IX reports are investigated by the Title IX office.
The Title IX office at a specific university or college will have to make the decision to begin an investigation. A Title IX officer will initiate an investigation by assigning an investigator to a case. Multiple Title IX investigators may be assigned to particularly complex cases. Investigators do not need any unique license or qualification. Faculty members, administrators, legal professionals, and others may act as Title IX investigators.
A Title IX investigator will notify both the complainant and the respondent that a Title IX investigation is ongoing. Typically, both parties receive a letter and an e-mail, but different universities and colleges may choose other methods of notification. Also, a Title IX investigator will instruct the complainant and the respondent regarding their right to choose an advisor. Oftentimes advisors are attorneys, but this is not always the case. Universities and colleges also offer students access to psychological counseling and medical treatment. Complainants are more likely to receive offers of assistance from their university or college.
A Title IX investigator will spend their time collecting evidence related to the facts of the case. Examples of relevant evidence gathered by Title IX investigators include emails, dormitory logs, text messages, and clothing. The evidence considered by the Title IX investigators will also include oral and written statements made by the complainant and the respondent, as well as statements made by witnesses.
Title IX places the burden of collecting evidence on the university or college, not the parties. Complainants and respondents are not tasked with gathering evidence in Title IX cases. Although the institutions and Title IX investigators are supposed to be neutral regarding Title IX investigations, complainants are often given special treatment by Title IX investigators. Respondents may therefore feel confused and intimidated during the Title IX investigation.
Investigators must complete their investigative reports within set timelines. The periods range from thirty to ninety days. The complainant and the respondent each have ten days to submit a response to the report before it is transmitted to the Title IX office. However, Title IX investigations may last for months and even years. It is important to be prepared for the long-term.
Universities and colleges may propose informal resolution as one option for resolving a Title IX investigation. Both the complainant and the respondent must agree to the informal resolution process. Either party has the right to end the informal resolution program and continue the Title IX investigation. Universities and colleges cannot force complainants or respondents into developing an informal resolution.
Title IX Hearing
Title IX cases in universities and colleges are not exactly the same as Title IX cases conducted in secondary schools. Hearings are optional during Title IX cases at secondary schools, but both the complainant and the respondent are granted the right to a Title IX hearing during investigations at universities and colleges.
All hearings conducted during Title IX investigations must be live, but the complainant and respondent may request hearings be conducted on closed-circuit video. The Title IX office at the university or college will schedule the hearing and assign a panel to analyze the evidence. A panel may consist of students, administrators, and faculty members. These panel members typically receive training under the direction of the Title IX office.
The panel members will hear the facts of the case and scrutinize all witness statements and evidence before rendering a decision. Panel members may analyze the report prepared by the Title IX investigator, but the members cannot rely only on this document when making their decision.
The claimant and respondent may provide their opening and closing statements during the Title IX hearing. Advisors often represent complainants and respondents during Title IX hearings. Advisors may cross-examine witnesses and each other. Also, advisors may ask questions during the Title IX hearing.
How Do Title IX Hearings Work?
Title IX hearings occur on campus. Specific Title IX proceedings may begin once an administrative officer receives a report of sexual discrimination. These reports may concern two students or a faculty member and a student. Title IX complaints often concern sexual misconduct or sexual assault allegations. Students may make allegations of rape, stalking, making sexually suggestive comments, and sexual harassment.
A panel of investigators are often involved during Title IX investigations. The Title IX panel will review the allegations and substantive evidence brought against a faculty member or student. If you are a respondent, Title IX investigators will ask you about your contact with the complainant and any sexual contact that occurred between you and the complainant. The Title IX panel wants to understand the details of the matter so they can decide if you are responsible for the allegations brought against you.
An experienced student defense lawyer can help you develop an effective case strategy for the Title IX investigation. Legal guidance from an experienced professional will help you throughout every phase of the Title IX investigation.
After the evidence is presented, the panel members will meet and decide whether the respondent is responsible for the allegations made by the complainant. An individual may hear the evidence in the case, and this person will be able to render a final decision. When a panel makes a decision, a majority must be in agreement. Decision makers also use the lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard that only requires the decision makers to determine if an event is “more likely than not” to have happened.
Sanctions Under Title IX
Title IX penalties vary from case to case. A university or college cannot place you in prison for sexual misconduct. However, institutions of higher learning have a range of sanctions that apply to students determined to have committed sexual misconduct. Some examples of these possible sanctions include revoking your on-campus housing privileges, restricting your school email account, and mandatory psychological counseling. Most universities and colleges punish students found to have committed sexual misconduct with suspension or expulsion.
It is important for you to understand that Title IX applies to individual educational institutions, not students. Title IX prohibits individual schools from discriminating against students on the basis of sex. Schools who do not adhere to the provisions of Title IX face severe financial penalties. The university, college, or secondary school determines which sanctions students must face.
Expulsion typically comes with a notation on your academic record regarding the reason for the expulsion. If you are facing Title IX allegations, you want to do everything within your power to avoid expulsion. It can be difficult to obtain admission to other schools if you are expelled for a Title IX violation.
Appealing a Decision
The complainant and the respondent both have the right to appeal the decision rendered. In most circumstances, the appeal is directed to the provost or the university president. Some appeals are restricted to unique facts and specific cases. Appeals are typically performed when the following conditions arise: a demonstration of bias, definite mistake performed during Title IX procedures, and new evidence relating to the case. The majority of appeals are denied, and a university president will rarely overturn the decision of the Title IX panel.
Title IX procedures continue to evolve over time. It is important that you retain a student defense lawyer if you are facing Title IX allegations. Contact K Altman Law today to schedule a consultation. We have years of experience representing clients who are parties in Title IX cases. Call K Altman Law at 888-984-1341 to learn more about the legal services we offer.
Why It Is Important For You to Retain an Experienced Title IX Defense Attorney
You do not want to risk your academic and professional future by handling every aspect of a Title IX investigation on your own. A skilled Title IX defense attorney can help you prepare for interviews, coach you prior to a Title IX hearing, and conduct a private investigation. Contact K Altman Law today to learn about the ways a knowledgeable Title IX defense attorney can help you. We have years of experience representing clients in Title IX investigations. Our team is prepared to help you. Contact K Altman Law or call us at 888-984-1341 today.