Defending yourself in a campus Title IX - Sexual Misconduct Claim
College is an exciting time for students and their families.Unfortunately at colleges, universities and graduate schools across the country students are are forced to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct that could result in suspension or expulsion and a permanent record.
What is Title IX?Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law that states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. Title IX is most commonly known for bringing equality to sports in educational institutions. However; Title IX goes far beyond ensuring equal funding for men's and women's sports. It is also extends its definition of " denying benefits" and " discrimination" based on sex to a persons right to be free from sexual harassment and "assault" on campus.
So why is Title IX important to you? The Federal Government, Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights places enormous financial pressure of both Public and Private Colleges to swiftly investigate and act on allegations of sexual misconduct on campus. If a college fails to investigate or take action in a manner that is approved of by the Office of Civil Rights, the college can face loss of federal funds.
Find the right adviser.First, seek out an adviser versed in Title IX. While most colleges and Universities have faculty that are permitted to act as an adviser and students are often able to have a parent be an adviser it is most beneficial for a student to have an attorney as an adviser. Title IX cases are notoriously difficult and an uphill battle for many. Because Title IX investigations are not quite criminal law but can have criminal implications it is important to have someone who understands the complexities of both criminal law and civil law.
It is important that you remember as an accused the college is not there to help you. They have a huge incentive to protect their federal funding. It is not advisable to give any statements until you consult with your adviser. Too often students seek counsel after an adverse finding in a Title IX investigation or hearing when it may be too late to do any good.
Selecting and attorney as an adviser will enable you to work with him or her to develop strategy. They can assist in preparing you for interviews, gathering evidence and review the college's procedures and hold the college responsible if they do not follow procedures.
Review your college's Misconduct Policy and Procedures.Every educational institution has its own policies and procedures. There is no standard or common policy or procedure among colleges. It is important that you understand the time frame in which an investigation and hearing take place and what rights if any your college extends to you.
Some colleges allow for a student to appear before a hearing board others only have a single investigator who also acts as judge and jury. Some have a single investigator who presents evidence to a Dean who will then make a decision without a hearing. Many colleges also provide an appeal process. Although appeals may be permitted they are often permitted for a very limited reason such as procedural errors in the underlying process.
Unlike a criminal case heard in Court the burden of proof to be found responsible is by a mere preponderance. That means the college has to believe your accuser by only 50.1 percent to have you found responsible.
Gather your own evidence.As previously stated your college is not there to help you. They will conduct their investigation to keep the Office of Civil Rights happy. They may miss or ignore important evidence and fail to interview important witnesses. It is therefore, critical that you obtain your own statements, request evidence from the college, and investigate motives for the accuser to lie. Your attorney adviser may also evaluate whether a polygraph would be helpful. An attorney adviser is uniquely qualified and equipped to assist in the gathering of evidence in your case. The importance of gathering evidence and establishing a record cannot be under estimated, even if it does not lead to a finding of no responsibility ( Title IX respondents are not found guilty but rather " responsible") it can assist in supporting a civil law suit against the college in the event of an adverse finding.
Consequences.While no one wants to think about it there are serious consequences to being found responsible for a sexual assault or sexual misconduct on campus. They include:
Suspension,Expulsion and a permanent record of being held responsible or a sexual assault on your transcript and educational record, which could cause you to be denied for transfer to another school or should you apply to a graduate school.
Treat Title IX sexual misconduct allegations with the utmost urgency and importance. If you are the subject of an accusation contact counsel immediatly.