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What to know about Title IX, and how it may affect me

When someone is arrested, they reach out to friends and family for help and guidance on finding a competent criminal defense attorney.  However when students are faced with a Title IX Investigation, they often fail to appreciate the seriousness.  Further students don't understand the need to immediately talk with parents and hire a lawyer to safeguard their future.  Don't hesitate, call JASON ENGLISH at 512-454-7548 to help get an informed direction before it is too late on your Title IX case. 

WHAT IS TITLE IX?

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

          Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

HOW DOES TITLE IX RELATE TO COLLEGE?

Title IX was a follow up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  It added sex as a protected class, and prohibited discrimination at educational facilities that received federal funds.  Sexual harassment of students and sexual violence interferes with a student's right to receive an education free from discrimination, and are considered illegal sex discrimination.  As a result, schools are required to respond to sexual harassment and sexual violence reports, and take immediate steps to end such or face fines and/or denial of federal funds.

WHY DO I CARE ABOUT THIS TITLE IX INVESTIGATION LETTER?

A Title IX Proceeding can easily result in your suspension, expulsion or a mark on your transcript that will follow you for a Code of Conduct Violation.  There may or may not be a simultaneous criminal investigation happening at the same time.    

Each school's Code of Conduct will provide the framework on how each school will administer any Title IX hearings.  One's rights to enforce the provisions are based in Contract Law between the School and the Student.  Rights are not the same as in criminal court, silence in Title IX Proceedings can be used against you to infer guilt.  If it appears that some rule or frame work is not set out, the student will need to ask in writing to have the Title IX Coordinator or Investigator inform on any issue the policy may be silent on.  Communications will go directly to the Student/Respondent from the Title IX Coordinator.  Be sure to always forward such communications to your lawyer.   

Each school decides the burden of proof, and their timeline for the investigation, hearing and appellate process.  The school will also decide if mediation is allowed, whether the Police Department investigates the allegation, as well as, any jurisdiction as to off campus allegations.  It is often said that a criminal case process is easier than a school Title IX case because fairness and due process are guaranteed in criminal proceedings.  Title IX proceedings get “some due process;” generally the more serious the allegation the more serious the due process.  Which means due process requires notice and some opportunity for a hearing.

WHAT IS THE JUSTIFICATION FOR LIMITED DUE PROCESS RIGHTS IN TITLE IX?

Students cannot be expelled from a college without receiving some due process such as notice and a hearing.  Right to attend college is a property right, and not a constitutional right to attend college.  Such requires that the schools be bound by their own disciplinary rules. 

The beginning of the revolution for student's rights that ended the way that schools acted “in the place of the parent” was in Alabama.  A landmark 1961 U.S. Federal Court decision ended the doctrine that colleges and universities could act in loco parentis to discipline or expel their students.  The college wrongfully expelled six students from school for their participations in demonstrations during the Civil Rights Movement without any hearing.  The case simply holds that students at public institutions of higher education cannot be disciplined without due process, including notice of the alleged violations and an opportunity to be heard.

          Dixon v. Alabama, 294 F.2d 150

ADDITIONAL ADVISORY DIRECTION FOR SCHOOLS

There have been two “Dear Colleague Letters” that help give guidance to schools in the application of the Title IX actions.  Such letters generally are official correspondence from either elected representatives or federal agencies to make statements on public policy, such as here an interpretation of Title IX by the U.S. Department of Education.  The letters hope to guide by providing information and examples to inform the schools how they will be judged in compliance with their legal obligations.  However, these are advisory and not mandatory with schools opting to adopt or reject the various provisions. 

DO I NEED TO TALK TO A LAWYER ABOUT A TITLE IX INVESTIGATION?

YES.  The best time to talk to a lawyer regarding your Title IX Investigation is when you receive notice and before you talk with any school officials or investigators.  Be advised as to the true seriousness of the process, and what it can mean for your future.  Also your commons-sense understanding of what happened can be used against you to negatively affect the outcome.  Unfortunately the question is not whether the interaction was reasonable or not.  Be advised that common-sense is often not enough to successfully navigate your Title IX investigation.  Your due process depends on you understanding the meaning of specific terminology and the applicable time-table. 

What To Do When You Receive A Title IX Letter?

  1. Inform your parents, and find a lawyer to help guide you.
  2. Do not talk about the allegations with anyone.
  3. Do not communicate with the “victim” or complainant.
  4. Make sure that there is or is not a criminal investigation also proceeding, as anything you say or do can affect you in a more serious way. No one wants to be suspended or expelled from school, but criminal convictions for felonies are more serious.  Decide first if there is a criminal case and then take such information into consideration when deciding whether to cooperate and talk with any school official or Title IX Investigator.  Strongly consider not making any statement that could be used against in a criminal case.
  5. Prepare a work-product Statement for your lawyer that proceeds step-by-step demonstrating and showing actions, cues, comments and non-verbal cues that reasonably show the interaction was consensual.

HOW TO BE PREPARED FOR YOUR TITLE IX HEARING?

A lawyer will help guide you through the process by preparing you every step of the way.  In most cases you will have to prepare and submit a statement prior to the hearing.  Further, you may not be allowed to present anything new that is not already provided.  Be advised that in some situations the Respondent / Accused will have to present statements, provide evidence, possibly question or cross examine the complainant, and be persuasive in closing argument of sorts.  The Respondent (accused of a Code of Conduct violation) will act on his/her own behalf in the hearing after preparation and direction of the lawyer acting as Advisor. 

CAN I APPEAL A TITLE IX DECISION?

You will need to consult the rules at the school that set out the necessary timelines and procedure to timely appeal.  Generally you will only be able to appeal if: (1) there is now some new evidence; (2) the sanctions against the student/respondent were disproportionate to the code of conduct violation; or (3) the school failed to follow the procedure, and do what they were supposed to do… such as failing to inform the respondent of their rights and how the hearing works.

RETAIN A LAWYER FOR YOUR TITLE IX PROCEEDING TODAY

There is no crystal ball… but because of the ramifications, take any Title IX proceeding seriously.  Suspensions, Expulsions and Permanent Marks on Your Transcripts can follow you. Further, prepare in a way to safeguard against any criminal action.  The best way to adequately prepare for your hearing is to contact JASON ENGLISH today at 512-454-7548.  You have worked hard to get where you are, don't give up on your future now. 

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