Defending College Students’ Rights in Title Ix Investigations

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Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in education programs or other programs receiving federal monies. If you are a college student or employee that has been accused of sexual misconduct: harassment, exclusion, or discrimination of someone based upon sex or gender identity, it is important to contact an attorney with Title IX hearing experience.

What are your rights under Title IX?

Being accused of sexual misconduct can immediately put you on the defense but remember that you have rights.

  • You have the right to be prompt notification of an accusation.
  • You have the right to an impartial investigation.
  • You have the right to an unbiased hearing including:
    • The right to representation during that hearing and all proceedings.
    • The right to present evidence and witnesses in your defense.
    • The right to review the investigative report.
    • The right to request changes to inaccuracies of the report.
    • The right to appeal the findings of the investigation.
  • You have the right to privacy and confidentiality.
  • You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.

Unfortunately, because of the nature of a Title IX accusation, these rights are often violated, and it can be very stressful, emotional, and socially damaging. While a Title IX hearing is not a criminal hearing, it can quickly turn into criminal charges if it involves the accusation of dating violence or sexual assault. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the hearing and mitigate the chances of an alleged Title IX violation turning into criminal matter. If it does turn into a criminal matter, an attorney who is involved early-on, will be ready to help develop a strategic criminal defense.

What is the impact of a Title IX Investigation?

Title IX applies to public and some private K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities that access federal funds. Because students are involved in the majority of Title IX cases, the importance of social standing to self-worth and lack of formal proceedings experience, such accusations can have devastating consequences including:

  • Loss of friends
  • Loss of job and professional license
  • Loss of scholarships both academic and athletic
  • Feelings of being a social outcast
  • Depression, anxiety, feelings of inadequacy
  • Withdrawal and Resentment

What can be considered violations of Title IX?

Since students are still growing and learning about relationships, they can make mistakes that are misconstrued as sexual assault, harassment, and even more serious allegations. To avoid mistakes that can commonly lead to Title IX accusations students should be aware of the way Title IX defines the following terms.

  • Consent – Knowing and clear permission through words or actions to engage in sexual activity. Consent cannot be gained by force, intimidation, or threats.
  • Harassment/Stalking – Engagement in unwanted and/or repeated conduct towards a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or suffer substantial emotional distress.
  • Objectively Offensive – Behavior that is considered offensive by any reasonable person – not just to the alleged victim personally or subjectively.
  • Coercion – Coercive control can include insults, threats, exerting financial control, and sexual coercion. Since alcohol inhibits someone’s resistance to leave a dangerous situation, the use of alcohol is considered a coercive technique

It is important to note that The US Department of Education’s Final Rule recognizes sexual harassment, including sexual assault, as unlawful sexual discrimination.  Therefore, it is commonplace to see Title IX investigations lead to criminal charges. It imperative to seek the help of a qualified advisor as soon as you are made aware of a Title IX investigation.

How do I defend against a Title IX accusation?

Unfortunately, in today’s world many of those accused of a Title IX violation are not given a fair shake because of the sexual nature of the accusation. The stigma that goes along with the accusation makes it difficult for many college administrators and Title IX investigators to ensure equal treatment for the accused. An experienced attorney will defend the rights of college students who are accused of sexual misconduct and fight for their future.

If you are a student or faculty member who has been recently accused or a decision was made against you, contact an attorney with Title IX experience immediately. It is possible for an experienced attorney to identify rights violations to get the decision overturned to help get your life back on track.

Sources: The United States Department of Justice. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

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  • What Should I Do If I’m Accused of Sexual Harassment? Read More

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