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Title IX Info for College Students

As a criminal defense firm, we have seen a spike in Title IX actions over the past several years at numerous colleges and universities. More common than not, when a student contacts our firm for representation in a Title IX case, he or she is unfamiliar with what a Title IX action involves. We are here to help bridge that gap!

Title IX of the Education Amendments was signed into law in 1972 by President Nixon. The Amendment’s main purpose is to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that is federally funded. An area we see the most prevalent with Title IX actions are with sexual harassment, sexual violence and dating violence.

While each college and university has its own procedures and guidelines explained in their student code of conduct, the gist of the process can be found here:

An accuser, or mandatory reporter (university employees, student workers, confidential resources), makes a report with the school. The resources for an accuser filing a report can be done by various means: filling out a report on the school’s Title IX website; calling the Title IX office; sending an email; going in person to the Title IX Office on campus; asking the Title IX Coordinator to come to an agreed upon location; and/or making an anonymous report.

During the reporting stage, the accuser is provided with a multitude of resources, such as counseling services, crime victim services, and psychological services. The accuser is also encouraged to file a police report if she or he believes a crime has occurred against them.

Once the report is made with the school, interim measures are then put in place as the school deems appropriate. These measures can include, but are not limited to, restrictions on contact between the accused and accuser, and/or, removing the accused from campus. The accused is sent a “No Contact Order” from the school, explaining that they are not allowed to initiate or have any contact with the accuser. Interim measures can also include altering the accused’s academic or living situation; and the accuser can even request an escort service to walk him or her around campus.

The Title IX Office then conducts an investigation to determine if there is reasonable cause to believe the school’s Title IX policies may have been violated. Generally speaking, this is usually where our firm comes in for representation, however, the sooner we get involved, the better. It is imperative we get involved the moment an allegation is made in order to best protect our client. During this stage, the accused is informed that he or she is allowed to have an advisor present during this process. Most student codes of conduct state that while the student is entitled to an advisor, that advisor cannot be an attorney or someone with a Juris Doctorate degree; however, we have fought this “rule” numerous times and have prevailed. The accused is best served by having an attorney present on his or her behalf.

Also, during the investigation stage, the accused and any witnesses, are requested to come in and provide a statement to a Title IX Investigator. If the accused does not provide a statement, the school can use the refusal as evidence against the accused. However, we strongly suggest not providing any statement without the assistance of an attorney. Once the investigation is complete, if there is reasonable cause to believe a policy may have been violated, the accused is then given the opportunity to accept responsibility or not accept responsibility.

If the accused does not accept responsibility, a Student Conduct Hearing will be held. This hearing allows both parties to present their case to a hearing panel, as well as ask questions. It is especially important for the accused to be represented by an attorney at this point. The hearing panel then determines if there is enough evidence to conclude that it is more likely than not (Preponderance of the Evidence Standard) that the accused has violated a Title IX policy.

If the hearing panel finds the accused responsible for a Title IX violation, the accused is then sanctioned, which can range from suspension, expulsion, and/or criminal ramifications. Regardless of the sanction imposed, the accused will have a Title IX violation on his or her school record making it difficult to transfer schools, continue as a member in fraternities or sororities, attend graduate school, and/or secure employment.

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