New Regulations Limit Title IX Cases
New Federal Title IX Rules went into effect in August 2020 that offer the accused new protections and narrow the scope and definition of Title IX violations. A significant number of Sexual Misconduct cases no longer fall under Title IX regulations. Applicable cases are limited to on-campus and school-controlled venues only. Off-campus housing not controlled by the university, such as a rented house or apartment, is not included. Title IX also sets a higher bar for incidents to be investigated as Title IX violations. The new ruling excludes “sexual exploitation” and “improper conduct related to sex” from its policies. Also, Title IX sexual misconduct now must be “severe and pervasive,” not “severe or pervasive” as previously required.
The New Title IX Mandate For Live Hearings
Any sexual misconduct case within Title IX's scope now requires a live hearing. This provides an opportunity for testing the credibility of all parties through cross-examination. Cross-examination is voluntary, but if a witness refuses to be cross-examined, their testimony is excluded from the sexual misconduct case. The University decision-maker(s) in the sexual misconduct case cannot draw conclusions about their reasons for not participating.
Appointing Hearing Advisors
For the hearing, each party must obtain a hearing advisor who will question the other party and witnesses. You may choose your own advisor, or the University of Florida will appoint a law student from the Levin College of Law to be your advisor. Using a university-appointed hearing advisor is not a good option. Advisors employed by the school aren't necessarily on your side and can give any information you tell them to university staff. This not only destroys your confidentiality, but your college can use this information against you when deciding your case. Beyond the hearing, your advisor may also accompany you to any meeting to provide support. An attorney-advisor, with years of trial experience, can provide expert guidance, gather specific evidence and witnesses, and conduct effective cross-examinations at your student discipline hearing.
College Policy Picks Up Where Title IX Leaves Off
The Department of Education does not prevent schools from investigating and punishing conduct that not technically considered sexual misconduct under the New Title IX definition. The University of Florida, like many other Florida colleges, has created two separate misconduct policies: a Title IX policy and a university sexual misconduct policy. The dual policies for Sexual Misconduct attempt to incorporate the new federal regulations without appearing to abandon the school's commitment to protecting sexual misconduct victims.
Student Discipline In Sexual Misconduct Cases
The University of Florida does not tolerate sexual misconduct, and any individuals who engage in such conduct will be subject to disciplinary action. Furthermore, the university encourages anyone witnessing sexual misconduct to report the incident promptly to the Title IX coordinator. The University of Florida Title IX discipline process is outlined in the University of Florida handbook, but does not include important updates to their Title IX policy mandated by new regulations. The university highlights the updates to its Title IX policies on the UF Office for Accessibility and Gender Equality website. The University of Florida emphasizes that any sexual misconduct that does not fall within the New Title IX's narrower definition will be subject to University procedures. If you are facing sexual misconduct allegations, it is important to review all Title IX policies and updates, as well as university sexual misconduct disciplinary rules for a clear and accurate understanding of the process and your rights.
Initial Phase Of Sexual Misconduct Cases
The University of Florida uses the term “Complainant” for the student filing accusations of sexual misconduct and “Respondent” for the student being accused. If you receive a Letter of Notice as a Respondent, it does not mean that you have been found in violation of the policy. It means an investigation has begun to determine if there was a violation of policy. The Title IX Coordinator or designee will meet with you to outline the next steps and discuss resources. The investigation process can be stressful and complicated. It is highly advisable to obtain an experienced attorney-advisor to understand the processes and rights afforded to you.
Any communication, other than with your attorney, can be used against you in the live hearing. Under no circumstances should you speak with your accuser or discuss your situation with anyone at school. Additionally, if campus police or safety officials ask you questions about the incident, politely remind them that you are not obliged to answer. Keep a detailed log of communication related to your case and gather any relevant evidence or documents.
Prohibition Against Retaliation
The University of Florida strictly prohibits retaliation by any party involved in the grievance process. Retaliation may even result in more severe discipline than the underlying alleged misconduct.
Possibility of Appeal
If the hearing results in an unfavorable outcome, University of Florida students may make an appeal. All appeals must be in writing and submitted to the appropriate office within ten (10) business days from the date of the decision letter.
Criteria For Filing An Appeal:
- your rights were violated in the hearing process
- new, sufficient relevant information is available
- the sanctions imposed were not appropriate for the violation
Ongoing Policy Modifications
The University of Florida cultivates ongoing community participation and feedback from students, faculty, and staff regarding revisions of its Sexual Misconduct policy and procedures. If you are facing sexual misconduct charges, be sure to contact the UF Office for Accessibility and Gender Equity for the most up-to-date regulations and procedures.
Your Attorney-Advisor Will Fight For You
The Lento Law Firm has successfully defended students in hundreds of sexual misconduct cases across the nation. Attorney Joseph D. Lento will protect your rights and provide guidance to obtain the best possible outcome in your investigation. If you or someone you know is facing Title IX charges or being accused of sexual misconduct at the University of Florida, contact expert attorney Joseph D. Lento online today or call 888-535-3686.