Under the Obama-era Title IX guidelines, colleges and universities had the option to make use of live hearings when adjudicating complaints of sexual assault or harassment. Under the new Title IX rules that go into effect on August 14, 2020, these hearings are now mandatory. What's more, the rights enjoyed by the accused during these hearings have also been expanded.
If you are facing the possibility of student discipline, your defense could benefit from the requirement of a live hearing in your case. By hearing from you directly, the parties charged with determining if you violated school rules could be more likely to understand your side of the story. To learn more about how a live hearing could impact your case, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento as soon as possible.
Live Hearings Under Title IX
Mandatory live hearings are only one part of the sweeping rule changes that the Department of Education is undertaken. However, it is a major change that might help protect your due process rights. Under the previous rules, a school policy could lead to your case being decided without ever getting to be heard – or to challenge the person that has accused you.
Now, every college and university must set up a live hearing during every grievance. A trained hearing officer will oversee the proceedings, and their role in this new process is important. That is because these rules now allow cross-examination of witnesses during the live hearing. The rules of cross-examination are more restrictive compared to a criminal proceeding, with much leeway given to the hearing officer.
One major difference is that each question must be screened by the hearing officer before it can be asked. The hearing officer must determine if the question is relevant. If they decide it is not, it may not be asked of the student. By default, questions about a party's sexual history are considered irrelevant unless the question establishes consent or another possible perpetrator.
There are even strict limitations on who can ask the questions. Students may not cross-examine each other directly. Instead, all questioning must be handled by an advisor or attorney. With this rule change, the guidance of legal counsel experienced in student defense is vital. Every student must have an advisor, but they have the right to select one of their choosing – including a lawyer.
How “Live” is a Live Hearing?
While these hearings must be held live, the new Title IX regulations give schools leeway in how they handle them. For example, hearings may be heard remotely similar to those held during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools may also take special measures to avoid unnecessary conflict. For example, the school may grant the request of a party to participate remotely from a separate room in the same building instead of sharing a room with the other party.
These changes might have a major impact on how you approach your defense strategy. However, you should never take on your defense without the guidance of an attorney. If you are facing a student disciplinary complaint, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento online or call (888) 535-3686 today.