Title IX Attorney
According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) the leading advocacy group in this area, 26-percent of female college students and almost 7-percent of male college students will suffer some form of sexual assault during their undergraduate years.
Sexual assault in schools and on campus is, among other things, a fundamental civil rights issue: When students suffer sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other forms of sexual misconduct, they are deprived of equal and free access to an education, and thus entitled to the protections of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Overview of Title IX
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that receives federal funding. This covers the vast majority of both private and public schools.
Title IX provides, “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.”
The Title IX complaint process is an important mechanism available for students who want to combat sexual assault or harassment at school and on college campuses.
What are schools required to do under Title IX
Title IX requires institutions to protect all students, faculty, and staff from sex-based discrimination, a term that includes both sexual harassment and sexual violence. If the administration is made aware of an incident, colleges must take immediate steps to address the issue. Specifically, schools are required by law to:
- Ensure that someone who experiences sexual violence or sex-based discrimination is cared for and given access to support services.
- Have internal Title IX complaint procedures to promptly and equitably resolve complaints (Cases of sexual violence may not be handled through medication; there must be a formal hearing process)
- Designate a Title IX office with at least one employee as the Title IX coordinator to manage Title IX proceedings.
- Make available its policies on sexual assault and harassment, including its policies on how to make formal complaint.
- The institution must also take actions to prevent the violence, harassment, or discrimination from happening again. These actions may include: issuing no-contact orders to the accused; making reasonable changes to the schedules, housing arrangements, and/or extracurricular activities of the survivor; and otherwise protecting the right to an education free of violence, discrimination, and harassment. If certain accommodations are deemed necessary, the school, not the complaining student, must pay all applicable costs.
Finally, schools must ensure that there is no retaliation again those making Title IX complaints.
Supportive Services Throughout the Process
As soon as you meet with your school’s Title IX Officer, you should be offered supportive measures, which can include:
- No Contact Orders A no contact order will prevent the accused (“Respondent”) from contacting you or being in the same place at the same time as you are.
- Academic Support This can include extensions on assignments & exams and allowing you to withdraw from a class without it impacting your transcript.
- Housing Accommodations If you are living in the same dorm as the Respondent, you may be offered the option of moving to different housing.
Understanding the Title IX Investigation Process
There are a number of steps to a Title IX investigation, outlined below.
- Contacting your Title IX officer: The first step in a Title IX process is to contact your school’s Title IX officer to set up a meeting. The name and contact information of the Title IX officer should be in your school’s handbook and/or on their website.
- Meeting with the Title IX officer: During the meeting, the Title IX officer should explain the investigative process and tell you what help is available to you.
- Filing a formal Title IX complaint: If you decide to file a formal complaint, the person who assaulted or harassed you (called the “respondent”) will be notified that a Title IX complaint has been filed against them and that an investigation will occur. They will receive a summary of your complaint.
- Interviews and Evidence: Both you and the respondent will be interviewed, and you can each present evidence and identify witnesses in your Title IX case.
- Statements and Responses: You will receive a summary of the statement you made to the investigator during the interview. You will also receive a summary of the statement the respondent made during their interview. You should review carefully and make any needed corrections to your statement. The respondent will have the same opportunity.
- Investigation Report: The investigator will issue a final report in advance of the hearing.
- The Hearing: At the hearing, you and the respondent will both testify and answer questions. You will each be assigned an advocate/advisor who will ask the other side questions. Other witnesses may also be asked to testify.
- Findings are Issued: The hearing officer or hearing panel will make a decision about whether the respondent is responsible. If the respondent is found responsible, appropriate sanctions will be issued.
- Appeal: You may be able to appeal if you are not satisfied with the outcome, but schools are not required to have an appeals process. Moreover, you will likely be limited on the grounds on which you can appeal, and the timeframe in which to do so.
The Title IX Appeals Process
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your Title IX hearing, you may have the opportunity to appeal. The respondent will similarly have such an option. However, you cannot appeal simply because you disagree with the hearing’s findings. Rather, appeals are usually limited to the certain factors such as the following:
- The sanctions were disproportionate to the findings of Title IX violations (meaning the sanctions were either too severe or not severe enough);
- There was a procedural error that altered the case outcome;
- The outcome is not supported by the evidence (meaning the findings were unreasonable based on the evidence).
Appeal deadlines in Title IX cases are often short; you may only have 5 or 10 days to file your appeal. You can request an extension if you need more time to write your appeal or find someone who can help you, but the extension will not necessarily be granted.
If you appeal, the hearing decision will be reviewed by an office or administrator who did not handle the original complaint; they will decide if the original decision should stay in effect or if there was an issue that needs to be corrected.
Legal Advice for Title IX
If you have been the victim of sexual assault or harassment on a college campus in New York State, and want advice on your legal options, contact the lawyers at Peters Brovner LLP who have experience with these issues.