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College Disciplinary and Title IX Proceedings

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination against individuals in educational institutions such as high schools, colleges, and universities. Basically, these are educational institutions that receive federal funds. While Title 9 is a short statute, guidance from the U.S Department of Education and Supreme Court decisions have given it a broad scope covering sexual violence and sexual harassment. The statute requires every school to take immediate action to investigate claims of sexual harassment and sexual assault that occur against students on campus. Failure to respond and remedy hostile environments within the school could result in the institution losing its federal funding.

When a student is accused and notified of the alleged misconduct, they will be required to attend a school disciplinary hearing. The stakes are high for such students and it’s therefore, imperative for the accused to immediately retain a knowledgeable and seasoned attorney to offer legal counsel in all the stages of the school disciplinary proceeding. If there is a bad outcome, the attorney can file an appeal on behalf of the student. California License Attorney has extensive expertise and experience in assisting students and staff in defending themselves in college disciplinary and Title IX proceedings.

The introduction of disciplinary proceedings occurs as a result of school misconduct such as drug use or sales, sexual assault, cheating, hazing, theft, and bullying. Those found liable for violating school policy face severe punishment, including suspension, expulsion from school, and probation, which may involve restitution, counselling, and community service. Other potential penalties include admonition, reprimand, or warning. A finding of guilt also comes with reputational harm and stigma. These penalties will appear on the student’s record, can be considered in any disciplinary proceeding in the future, and will affect the ability of the student to transfer to another school if need be.

School disciplinary proceedings are different from court room hearings. While court room hearings are heard and decided by judges with extensive knowledge and experience in the field of law, school disciplinary proceeding involve college officials with no investigative training or the forensic understanding of evidence. Due to this, school officials often give unjust, biased, and arbitrary decisions that can damage a student’s chance of ever graduating or being able pursue their professionals and life-long career goals. The lawyers at the offices California License Attorney assist students protecting their status and future goals by defending school disciplinary proceedings.

Sexual Allegations

Cases involving sexual assault can negatively affect an accused student in a great way. Colleges and universities are always under pressure from the federal government to implement Title IX proceedings to carry out investigations and impose discipline on students accused of sexual misconduct. The pressure mostly comes from the threat of losing federal funding if they fail to act in accordance with Title IX.

Sexual misconduct is a crime requiring legal knowledge and forensic training. However, the prosecution, investigation, and ruling of Title IX cases is done by college officials with no forensic training. This means that the decision is made based on the lowest standard of proof, which is unfair and gives room for the student to be found responsible for sexual assault. A student could face severe penalties on little more than a mere accusation. Such penalties include sex offender registration and potential jail time. A student found guilty could also face criminal charges if found guilty during the disciplinary proceedings. Therefore, there’s need to observe the constitutional privilege that students have against self-incrimination, which means avoiding statements that are inconsistent.

In sexual assault cases, the issues of whether the alleged act occurred off-campus or whether the accused had the consent of the victim always come up. Each college and university defines consent differently but you can be sure it’s more than what you think it is using common sense. For instance, one university define consent as “a conscious, affirmative decision by each participant to engage in an activity that’s sexual in nature.” In this case, the decision is made through mutually understandable communication which includes understandable words and/or actions showing unmistakable willingness to engage in a sexual activity. Consent may not be inferred from passivity, silence, lack of active response, or lack of resistance. Also, both parties must have a clear understanding of the nature and scope of the conduct and must express willingness to do the same thing in the same way.

Rights Under Title IX

Title IX gives students and employees many rights, including rights that prohibit unlawful retaliation, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination. Gender discrimination can be against transgender individuals, males, and females. Additionally, section (a)(8) of the statute encompasses protection to students who are parents. This implies that if a school provides father-son activities or services to students or staff, it should as well provide similar mother-daughter opportunities (and vice versa).

Any type of adverse effect such as harassment or discrimination following an alleged is considered unlawful under the act. Examples of unlawful retaliatory treatment can include:

  • Suspension or expulsion from the institution or from a program
  • Reduction in grades in academic courses
  • Denial of the opportunity to participate in athletics, change to a less-desirable position on an athletic team, or reduction in the amount of engaging in sports
  • Harassment in the classroom or on the athletic field

Title 9 Questions and Answers

Q1: Who can make a Title X claim?

Any college or university student. It’s possible for the claim to be investigated after the student who made the claim leaves the college or university or graduates. A Title 9 claim can be made against another staff, member, teacher, student or a student organization.

Q2: How long after the incident can the claim be reported?

The act requires that reports should be made within one year of the incident. However, if after being notified, the reported student alleges that they personally were in involved in the activity together, the reporting student will be given immunity, but that won’t happen to the accused student.  

Q3: What steps should you take when you are notified that a Title IX claim has been filed against you?

First, it would be imperative to first know the section of law you are in. Second, you need to gain an insight of the specific policy at your educational institution, because the policy dictates how the accused and the University must behave. You can find a Title IX handbook through a web search for Title IX and your University. Third, and most importantly, immediately contact an attorney with comprehensive knowledge and experience in Title IX proceedings.

Q4: Do I need a Title IX Defense Attorney?

Absolutely. There is need for thoughtful legal advice in Title IX cases, especially when considering the potential criminal charges and penalties. Here are some of the reasons as to why you need an attorney:

  • Confidential: The Title IX disciplinary process is complex and anyone accused of a misconduct can get overwhelmed without someone to provide guidance. Although you may be provided with an ‘advisor’ who has allegedly been trained in matters concerning Title IX, the fact remains that that individual is an employee of the University, can be biased, and any statements you make to them can be used against you in the Title IX investigation and even criminal prosecution. That said, stop talking to the person assigned as your advisor. With a Title IX Defense Attorney, you can be sure that the information between the two of you will remain privileged and confidential.

  • Advise and Defend: The Title IX policy of your University may not meet the government’s requirement for fairness. Even though you can read and get a general understanding of the policy, it’s highly probable that you don’t know how to deal with the unfairness of the policy itself. The requirements of public and private schools are different. Your attorney could the University if the policy is intrinsically unfair or if the application itself is unfair. This is done through a “litigation hold” letter to the University. With such a step, your attorney can help keep the University investigating or disciplining you.

  • Train for Battle: A Title IX Defense Attorney can assist you in diligently preparing for the investigation and hearing. For instance, it’s possible for Title IX Coordinator on campus to ask you to come in and record a statement. Unknown to you, the statement could be used against you. If you are stranded and have no idea of what to do, consult with a Title 9 defense attorney who can help prepare to represent yourself without providing incriminating statements. The attorney will review the details of the claim to help you understand what you are up against. If you cannot fully understand your school’s policies, the attorney will help with that, as well as assist you in understanding what Title 9 proceedings involve. While an attorney won’t be there to offer representation during the disciplinary proceedings, he/she will help you develop a strategy and prepare your defense, including collecting evidence, witnesses, and witness statements. The attorney will be act as your legal counsel throughout the Title 9 proceedings.

Q5: What procedure is involved?

While colleges and universities have the flexibility to structure their disciplinary process, they are required to follow federal guidelines. The general rule in all Title IX investigation states that the procedure must be prompt, reliable, adequate, impartial, and include equal opportunities for both parties to present witnesses and evidence.

Most schools require that a Title IX claim be investigated in 60 days. However, the time can be extended if the witnesses are unavailable due to various reasons. Once the accused has been notified of the allegation, he/she is required to contact the Title IX investigator to meet up and review the allegations. At this stage, the student can go in with an advisor who cannot speak on behalf of the accused student.

During the investigation, the allegations and any evidence presented by the reporting student will be reviewed. This be followed by the review of evidence provided by the accused, and then questions to the reporting party. The final part involves reviewing the final investigation report, which is a summary of the evidence provided. The report is used to determine whether the alleged violations were committed or not. If the school feels that you committed a crime, the matter will be reported to the police, who will conduct a criminal investigation that usually involves a pretext phone call by the victim to the accused. The police will be listening to and recording the call. You will only be advised on the next step after the police have completed their investigation.

While criminal cases in court require the prosecution to provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt, Title IX investigators only provide proof that is a “preponderance of evidence” standard. This means that you lose the case if the hearing panel is 50.01% convinced that the allegations are true. Once the final report and determination is filed, the submissions are made to Title IX officer who is expected to recommend a sanction. The report is also sent separately by email to the reporting and accused students. Sanctions can include exclusion from a class; a warning; probation, with requirements such as community service, counselling, and restitution; expulsion; deferred suspension for a semester, year or more; and section or school housing.

Q6: Can I file an appeal?

Yes, but this can be done on three grounds: the facts stated by the investigator were incorrect, the sanction is not proportionate to the conduct, or there is newly discovered evidence which supports a different outcome and was not available or known during the investigation period. An appeal must be filed 5-10 days after the issuing of the sanction to the accused student. The sanction can be modified is the appeal is favored. However, the decision becomes final if an appeal is not filed.

Why Hire California License Attorney

California License Attorney is familiar with political and societal movements and trends involved in college and university disciplinary system. Our attorneys are dedicated to offering guidance and legal counsel to students charged with Title IX accusations. With extensive experience in handling Title IX cases, you can trust us to handle your case with the efficiency and dedication it deserves. We do not tolerate unfair and unjust investigations that deny accused persons of their rights. We are attorneys who demand that any system judges accused persons in a fair, transparent, and unbiased manner. We will help you protect your rights and freedom. We offer free initial consultations and to request yours, just call 888-959-0068. Don’t feel hopeless, we’ll get through this together.

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