University Sexual Assault Investigations and Prosecutions Under Title IX

Part of the Education Amendments passed in 1972, Title IX is a federal law that was designed to protect individual from being discriminated against on the basis of gender. The amount of Title IX investigations and prosecutions has increased significantly in recent years with the most recent set of statistics suggesting that the rate of Title IX cases has increased more than 1,000 percent within the last few years. The Department of Education is tasked with enforcing Title IX claims and has created the Office for Civil Rights which exclusively monitor Title IX compliance.

Applicable Title IX Law

The written Title IX law is short but has a very rich case history interpreting exactly how Title IX should be applied. The law states that no individual in the United States may be discriminated against in any education program or education affiliated program on the basis of sex.

Key Elements of Title IX

There are some important elements that individuals should understand about the application of Title IX, including the following elements:

  • What Qualifies as a Program Under Title IX? Title IX has been applied to all educational institutions that receive federal funding including K to 12 levels as well as colleges and universities. Title IX also applies to any activity or program that is affiliated with an institution that receives federal funds.
  • Who Is Protected Under Title IX? Title IX protects men, women, pregnant individuals, and gender nonconforming individuals who might be students, faculty, or staff. Anyone who believes that there has been an act of sex-based discrimination, harassment, or violence is allowed to file a Title IX complaint. An individual does not have to be the party that was directly harmed by the discriminatory act in order to file a Title IX claim. Instead, individuals can file Title IX claims on the basis that the individual is part of a hostile environment. In deciding whether a hostile environment exists, the government will consider whether there was harassing conduct that had the effect of denying or limiting a student’s ability to participate in the program in question. The more severe the activity involved, the less that an individual will need to show a repetitive series of incidents. Title IX protects all students from discriminatory behavior even if the alleged perpetrator is the same sex as the victim. The protection of Title IX also extends to all students in the United States even international and undocumented students.
  • To What Acts Does Title IX Apply? Title IX provides protection from discrimination, harassment, or applicable acts of violence. Title IX has greatly helped equalized opportunities for men both in classrooms and in the field of school associated sports programs. Title IX has been increasingly used to protect students from sexual violence. The law imposes important obligations on educational institutions including the requirements that schools quickly respond to accusations of sexual violence and fully investigate alleged activity.

Title IX Claims Involving Sexual Violence

Special note should be made of cases involving sexual violence, which is becoming an increasingly more common occurrence at colleges and universities.

Sexual violence includes a variety of activities including: attempted or completed rape, sexual assault, sexual coercion, and sexual battery. Schools are required to take certain steps if an individual alleges sexual violence including issuing no contact directives, taking measures to make sure that an individual is free from retaliatory behavior, informing an individual about the availability of support services, and other measures to watch out for the safety of an individual.

Title IX Hearing Process

Educational institutions must provide formal hearings to individuals which tend to prohibit the accused being questioned directly by an individual. An alleged victim and alleged perpetrator must provide with equal rights throughout the formal hearing process including an equal opportunity to: present evidence and witnesses, review evidence, access information that will be used at the hearing, appeal findings or remedy, allow advocates or legal counsel to be present, receive written documentation, and use third party expert testimony.

The Contents of Title IX Cases

Individuals can file Title IX complaints by visiting the Office for Civil Rights’ website and obtaining a form. This form can then be either emailed or mail to the appropriate Office for Civil Rights location.

Title IX cases frequently seek for an educational entity to behave in a particular manner. In some cases, individuals also request monetary damages for the harm caused by the discriminatory act.

A Title IX complaint must contain certain elements including:

  • An explanation of how the discrimination occurred
  • Details about who was discriminated against.
  • A description of who committed the act.
  • Details about when the discrimination occurred.
  • Contact information for who will assist in the investigation.
  • Any other background information that will assist in an investigation.

There are two important laws concerning filing Title IX claims that individuals must appreciate.

Individuals are required to file Title IX claims within either 180 days of the discriminatory act or in the event that a school process is used within 60 days of the last act of the school’s internal grievance process. Many colleges and universities have internal grievance policies, which means that individuals alleging a Title IX violation must remember to initiate a claim within 60 days of the end of this internal process.

Situations Involving Retaliation

Many individuals are uncertain about filing a Title IX for fear of disclosing personal details, but fortunately this information is kept confidential between an individual and the Office for Civil Rights. Applicable law also protects educational facilities from retaliating against individuals. Educational facilities sometimes issue a no-contact order in addition to taking other steps to ensure that an individual who has filed a Title IX complaint is protected. An additional complaint can be filed in the event that an individual feels that any type of retaliation in response to a Title IX claim was made.

How Can a Strong Defense Attorney Help?

There are many potential consequences if an educational institution is found to have violated Title IX. A rarely used but particularly severe penalty is that an educational facility might lose all federal funding. Being prosecuted for sexual assault under Title IX is an overwhelming process for many individuals. If you find yourself in such a situation, contact attorney Henry Fasoldt who will fight tirelessly on your behalf.