Colleges and universities use Title IX to investigate and sanction sexual misconduct, discrimination, and harassment. If schools fail to respond to misconduct quickly or punish them adequately, they risk losing federal funding.
The Title IX process is intimidating. Luckily, if you're a student accused of Title IX misconduct at an Arkansas school, you can choose an advisor to assist you in the process.
How Does Title IX Work?
Title IX is a federal civil rights law passed in 1972 that removed sexual, discriminatory barriers preventing people from participating in educational opportunities. In addition to colleges, universities, and elementary and secondary schools, Title IX also applies to any education or training program operated by a recipient of federal financial assistance.
Federal Title IX legislation covers activities like:
- Arkansas high school 4-H programs and activities administered under the Department of Agriculture
- Storm spotter training classes managed by Arkansas county emergency managers receiving funding from the Department of Commerce
- Vocational courses in Arkansas prisons and jails receiving money from the Department of Justice
Changes to Title IX
While Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex, it's been revised to include gender identity and adds sexual harassment as a form of discrimination. Moreover, policies requiring the grievance process to have in-person hearings, the cross-examination of witnesses, and stringent reporting channels are scheduled to be rolled back through Biden Administration guidelines, per a White House press release.
Title IX Reporting In K-12 Schools Versus Postsecondary Institutions
Public schools districts must have Title IX plans to address sexual harassment or discrimination by students, employees, and third parties. School districts allow any employee with knowledge of allegations to report them to the school's Title IX Coordinator. However, some may require mandatory reporting from all employees.
For example, the Fort Smith School District states that "any person may report sex discrimination, including sexual harassment." In contrast, the Hot Springs School Districtstates that "any school employee who has knowledge of sexual harassment is required to immediately report."
In Arkansas colleges and universities, there are also differences in reporting requirements. The school's employee policy will note if either full-time and part-time employees or only full-time employees are required to report.
For instance, the University of Arkansas requires all employees to report any "potential violation" within 24 hours. Failure to do so may lead to disciplinary action. Likewise, Arkansas State designates the chancellor, all vice-chancellors, deans, department chairs, faculty members, security officers, athletics coaches, and all part-time student employees as "responsible employees," thus required to report.
How Does the Title IX Grievance Process Work?
When a school's Title IX Coordinator is informed of allegations, it fulfills the "actual knowledge" requirement, beginning the course of action to investigate instances of misconduct and subsequent hearing and sanctioning procedures. While schools and programs differ on the amount of time given to certain aspects of the process—notices of investigations and hearings, response to evidence, appeals—most proceed similarly.
The accused (respondent) and accuser (complainant) will receive a notice of allegations in their student mailbox or electronic inbox. The notice will include:
- The conduct alleged by the complainant
- Date and location of the incident
- Identities of all parties involved
- Each party's rights and options
- Notice of informal resolution options and process
- A statement that the respondent is presumed "not responsible" for the alleged conduct until a determination
- Notice that each party may have an advisor of their choice, who can be an attorney
Most schools will allow a party's advisor to assist them through the process but, in some cases, may not represent them fully. For example, the University of the Ozarks prohibits an advisor from speaking for or appearing in place of them.
The Investigator, who cannot be the same person as the Title IX Coordinator, will interview both parties, gather evidence, and interview witnesses. Once the information is collected, the Investigator will provide each party and their advisor with an electronic copy for review. The parties will have ten business days to submit a written response to the Investigator, which the Investigator considers before completing the report.
It's generally required for colleges and universities to provide a live hearing (optional for K-12 schools), including opportunities for cross-examination. A school may or may not allow a student's advisor to be present at the hearing.
The Decision-Maker, who may not be the same person as the Investigator or Title IX Coordinator, will ask initial questions of the participants at the hearing. Each party will present a closing statement to the decision-maker. Following the hearing, the Decision-Maker will render a determination based on the "preponderance of the evidence," meaning it's more likely than not