Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on sex at educational institutions that receive federal funding. While the goal of ending discrimination is admirable, Title IX hearings concerning sexual harassment or assault can be problematic for the accused student. Here we will explain what a Title IX hearing is, the many problems related to these hearings and the steps you can take to protect your civil rights.
What is a title IX hearing?
Title IX requires schools to prevent sexual discrimination and its effects, which includes sexual harassment and assault1. Title IX requires universities to investigate all accusations of sexual harassment and maintain a safe environment on campus. Universities use Title IX hearings to investigate and remediate accusations involving sexual assault or harassment.
For example, if one student accuses another student of sexual assault, then the accused student will be brought before a panel in a Title IX hearing. Different schools have different processes regarding how Title IX hearings are carried out and who makes decisions. Generally, the hearings involve faculty-sourced panel members reviewing the evidence and allegations brought against the accused student. The panel will then determine if the accused student disobeyed the school code of conduct. Depending on the outcome of the hearing, a student may face expulsion from their university or other consequences. These hearings are not criminal proceedings and the accused student may face criminal charges in addition to the Title IX hearing.
What are the potential problems with a Title IX hearing?
The way that many Title IX hearings are currently conducted can have many problems, including:
- Nontransparent rules: Because Title IX hearings are not criminal cases, they may have opaque processes and regulations. In some cases, the panel members or investigators may even decide to expel a student before their hearing.2 While protecting privacy is essential in these sensitive situations, the accused person should be allowed to defend their academic future.
- Panel member bias: While Title IX panel members are required to be unbiased judges, this may not always be the case. Most students who are accused of sexual harassment are young men, and some panel members may have preconceived opinions when it comes to men and sexual harassment allegations.
- Unclear rules of consent: College can be a confusing time for many young people when it comes to experimenting with sex. What one person considers consent to sexual activity may be misconstrued by another person. Understanding consent is made even more difficult with the introduction of alcohol or drugs. A simple mistake or false accusation can be blown out of proportion in a Title IX hearing.
How can accused students protect themselves?
Universities are required to notify students if they intend to investigate accusations of sexual harassment. The most important thing that the accused student can do is to hire an experienced Title IX attorney. A knowledgeable attorney can coordinate a private investigation, protect your rights as a student, ensure that you are well-represented in a hearing, handle communications and negotiations with the university. In some cases, the introduction of an attorney can end an unfounded investigation before a Title IX hearing starts.
At The Law Office of Brian Jones LLC, we defend the rights of our clients who are accused of sexual harassment. You can contact our office now to schedule an appointment.