DOE's New Title IX Rules Promise Better Protections for the Accused
On May 6th, 2020 Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released the U.S. Department of Education's new guidance to Title IX cases. These new rules guide schools on how to handle sexual misconduct cases on campus. They are set to go into effect on August 14, 2020.
As a federal law created in 1972, Title IX doesn't change. However, the federal government can change the guidelines around how Title IX is enforced in schools nationwide. These guidelines can change based on which political party is in power.
The DOE's new Title IX guidelines have been created in response to due process issues under the previous rules. Hundreds of due process lawsuits have been filed over the years by students accused of sexual misconduct. These students argue that they didn't get the proper legal protections – including their right to question their accuser – before being held responsible and punished for something they didn't do.
It's a story that has unfortunately become more common since Title IX was previously changed. Students accused of sexual misconduct get suspended or even expelled without a fair chance to defend themselves, in as short a time as 60 days.
Previous changes to Title IX reflect an effort to protect victims of sexual assault. But the accused also need protection, especially before being found responsible for any wrongdoing. Unfortunately, this is a difficult balance to find. Meanwhile, you could be facing the end of your educational career as you've known it so far.
“Innocent until proven guilty” is one of the cornerstones of the American legal system. Even though Title IX violations are not criminal matters, they still have major consequences that can rob you of your education and your future. Sexual misconduct is a serious charge. Campus sexual misconduct incidents can lead to actual criminal charges. If you're accused of sexual misconduct under Title IX, you will see immediate effects on your life as a student, including losing access to campus. You deserve the right to properly defend yourself.
Although the DOE has released its new guidelines, they're already being challenged in court. Congress might even try to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn them. Many schools aren't sure how they're going to implement the new guidelines by the August 14 deadline. Some might wait to make changes until the cases go through the courts. Still others might choose to keep as much of their Title IX procedures the same as possible.
In addition to these dramatic new changes and legal challenges, the coronavirus pandemic adds another layer of complication to the entire process. If you're a student facing a Title IX accusation of sexual misconduct right now, you may be anxious and uncertain about your case. The single best thing you can do for yourself is to hire an experienced Title IX lawyer. No one else can help you navigate this shifting legal landscape better.
Joseph D. Lento has fought for student rights nationwide for over a decade. He has helped students falsely accused of sexual misconduct prove their innocence and move on with their lives. He has also seen how previous changes to Title IX guidelines affected the way they were enforced. He is the Title IX expert you need in your corner at this time.
Call the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to speak to an experienced Title IX attorney and get started on your defense. The sooner you talk to an advisor, the better.
Previous Title IX Guidelines and Changes
Title IX guidelines were previously revised in 2011 when the Obama Administration came out with new rules put in place to protect victims of sexual misconduct. These new rules became known as the “Dear Colleague Letter,” or DCL.
The DCL set out to change the entire culture around sexual assault on campus. After the DCL was implemented, schools had the responsibility to “take effective action to prevent, eliminate, and remedy sexual harassment. If they failed to do this, schools could be subject to long, costly investigations with all the bad press that comes with it.
The letter put into action measures to end harassment and other types of hostile environments in schools nationwide. The focus shifted more from identifying and punishing individual perpetrators of sexual misconduct to changing institutional attitudes around sexual conduct, especially on college and university campuses. Its most significant changes included:
- Requiring schools to use the lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof, which makes it easier for accusers to prove their cases
- Discouraging live hearings and cross-examination of accusers
- Pushing schools to apply the “single investigator” model, where a single person appointed by your school's Title IX office handles everything about a Title IX case, from investigating the accusations to determining guilt, innocence, and sanctions
- Expanding the definition of sexual misconduct under Title IX to also cover verbal conduct like inappropriate sexual comments or jokes, spreading sexual rumors, or posting another student's sexual content on the internet
- Increasing the number of school employees who are “mandatory reporters” who must report cases of sexual misconduct to the school's Title IX office
- Encouraging students to report sexual misconduct early, before it becomes so severe or pervasive to be a hostile environment
- Requiring schools to implement programs and remedies that prevent sexual misconduct, educate students about sexual misconduct on campus, and address “the root individual, relational, and societal causes of sexual assault”
Sexual assault survivor's groups praised the new guidelines in the DCL. However, many believed the regulations went too far, putting academic freedoms at risk.
The rules came under fire almost immediately for what critics described as unfair treatment of accused students in the Title IX process. In the years following the DCL, hundreds of due process lawsuits have been filed by students wrongly accused and sanctioned for sexual misconduct. These lawsuits argue that students have certain rights that are being infringed.
The new Title IX guidelines offer much more protection for the accused.
If you've been accused of sexual misconduct under Title IX, the new Department of Education guidelines could change the outcome of your Title IX case. However, implementing these changes is not so as simple as flipping a switch.
The Department of Education gave schools across the country a deadline of August 14, 2020 to apply the new Title IX rules. It's unclear whether schools will be able to meet this deadline. The new Title IX rules are also expected to be challenged in court, with multiple victims rights groups gearing up to file lawsuits. Many schools may simply wait to change their policies until after these legal battles have been resolved. That could take months or even years.
So although the new Title IX rules afford better legal protections for the accused, you may not see these protections before your Title IX case is resolved by your school. Relying on the new guidelines to help your case would be a mistake. Your best course of action is to contact a Title IX lawyer who can help you successfully defend yourself in the midst of all this uncertainty.
In Title IX cases, the earlier you contact an experienced Title IX lawyer, the better. Your attorney can help you at every step of the Title IX process, keeping in mind any changes in law or policy.
The truth is, you have no time to waste when it comes to finding a good Title IX advisor. Title IX investigations resolve quickly and usually end up with severe disciplinary sanctions like suspension or expulsion. These penalties can stay on your school record for years, where any future employer or school can request to see it in your student file. Most Title IX cases conclude within 60 days. You must understand that a Title IX complaint can completely derail your education, career, and life in the span of just two months.
Joseph D Lento has fought for the rights of students wrongly accused of sexual misconduct for many years He was defending Title IX cases for his clients when the last new rules went into effect. He has the expertise to provide you the best possible defense and the experience to guide you through this complex legal situation.
Call the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to protect your rights and your future.
What Are the New Title IX Regulations?
The new Title IX guidelines include some notable changes, almost all positive for the accused. In sum, when the new guidelines go into effect, you can expect:
- A more difficult standard for proving sexual misconduct
- The right to cross-examine your accuser in Title IX hearings
- A narrower definition of sexual misconduct
- Title IX will no longer apply off-campus
- Title IX cases will no longer be handled by a single investigator
- Fewer school employees will be “mandatory reporters” for sexual misconduct
- Title IX hearings to be carried out by teleconference
For advocates of due process, most of these changes work to level the field for both the accuser and the accused. However, these changes are already being challenged in court by victims' rights groups. Some changes may ultimately be amended.
The outcome of the election in November may also end up leading to more changes to the Title IX guidelines. However, even if a new political party were to revise the guidelines, the rules wouldn't simply flip back to what they were before. They would have to go through the long review and comments procedure before they could be implemented.
Because individual schools are responsible for implementing their own Title IX procedures, enforcement of the new guidelines may depend on where you go to school.
This is where an experienced Title IX adviser-attorney presents a huge advantage. For example, the Lento Law Firm has established relationships with schools across the country. We're familiar with each individual school's enforcement and culture around Title IX. That type of expertise is difficult to find and can make all the difference in your case.
If the new guidelines go into effect as they are now, any school that accepts federal funds is required to follow the new rules. That includes all public elementary and secondary schools plus all public colleges and universities, and most private schools, too.
Not all schools have the same type of procedures now. Not all schools will implement the new rules in the same way, either. Even with federal guidance, schools get some room for discretion.
Below are the ways the new rules could affect your Title IX case.
1. Higher Standard of Proof
Your accuser must meet a certain standard in order to prove that you're responsible for sexual misconduct. A lower standard of proof means it's easier for your accuser to prove their case against you. The higher the standard of proof, the harder it is to meet.
Under the new Title IX rules, schools are allowed to raise their standard of proof when determining responsibility and assigning sanctions in Title IX cases. This change would increase the chances of accused students successfully defending themselves.
Previously, the federal government's Title IX rules set the standard of proof for Title IX cases as a “preponderance of the evidence.” Under this standard, accusers need only to show evidence that sexual misconduct had occurred “more likely than not.” This comes out to more than a 50% chance of being true. This is a low standard that makes it easier to find someone responsible for sexual misconduct than it would be in criminal or civil court.
Now, colleges and universities have the option to apply the “clear and convincing evidence” standard. This standard requires your accuser to show evidence convincing enough that it demonstrates a “high probability of the truth.” This is a much higher standard of evidence, which means it's much harder to prove that sexual misconduct occurred.
A higher standard of proof means that your accuser needs more evidence to prove that you are responsible for sexual misconduct. This new rule is meant to protect accused students from accusations of misconduct that don't have strong enough evidence to back them up.
What Evidence Can You Use to Defend Yourself in a Title IX Case?
Evidence is critical for proving your innocence in Title IX cases. But if you've been falsely accused of sexual misconduct, how can you prove the absence of something?
In order to prove your innocence, try to find witnesses who saw you and your accuser engaging consensually, both before and after the incident or during the time the incident took place. In some cases, this is simply not possible. Many sexual encounters happen in intimate settings, with only two people involved. You can also show text messages or other written communication between you and your accuser showing a positive relationship with no concerns or accusations during or after the incident.
You can also carry out a forensic or psychological evaluation to dispute your accuser's claims. Your lawyer can help you with this.
Not all evidence is admissible, but the more you have to support your defense, the better. When you meet with your Title IX adviser-attorney, it's crucial that you are honest with them. When you work with a lawyer, you have attorney-client privilege, which means anything you share with your lawyer is confidential. Make sure to tell your lawyer any details you can remember, even if you personally don't think they're relevant.
Ultimately, the standard of proof in your Title IX case will depend on your individual school's policies. The new rules do not require schools to change their standard of proof. It simply gives schools the option to do so. So your school may choose not to change their policy.
Depending on the Title IX culture at your school, your administration may choose to keep the lower standard of proof. This is especially true if your school has been under fire in the news for previously failing to properly handle Title IX cases.
That means you can't just sit back and rely on the new rules to protect you. An experienced Title IX attorney-advisor can help you understand the new rules and where your school stands on them. Call (888) 535-3686 for a case consultation today.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty Means Equal Restrictions
Under the new Title IX rules, until a student is found guilty, schools can no longer take interim measures that disproportionately restrict one party more than the other.
Interim measures are emergency protective actions that a school may take to remove a student or employee from campus because they pose a threat to the accuser. This could involve the accused student losing their campus housing or having to switch classes if they're currently enrolled in a class with their accuser.
Since 2011, most of the burden of these interim measures fell on the accused, even before they were found responsible for any sexual misconduct. That meant your living situation or course load could be affected because of a false allegation with no evidence. You would have to live with these restrictions until your case was settled and your innocence established. Depending on your schedule and course availability, that could delay your graduation date if you ended up losing your spot in a course that you needed to complete your degree.
The truth is, when it comes to sexual misconduct, even a simple accusation can have profound effects on the life of the accused. Even if the evidence doesn't back up the allegations, irreversible damage could still be done.
The newly-released Title IX rules allow schools to remove an accused student or employee from campus only if there's an immediate threat to someone's physical health and safety. This means your life is much less likely to be disrupted while your Title IX case is resolved.
2. Cross-Examination in Title IX Hearings
Cross-examination is considered to be one of the cornerstones of the American judicial system. But it's become a major issue in Title IX proceedings on school campuses.
“Cross-examination” means formally questioning a witness, under oath, in a court of law before an impartial judge. The point of cross-examination is to challenge testimony that has been given or uncover further testimony in an effort to establish the truth.
The right to confront your accuser and defend yourself in front of an impartial judge is built into the Constitution of the United States. Many consider it a fundamental part of due process.
Hundreds of students who have been accused of sexual misconduct have filed due process lawsuits against their schools for failing to allow them to cross-examine their accusers in Title IX cases. In these lawsuits, students argue that cross-examination should have been available to them as part of proper due process owed to them under U.S. law.
Victim's rights groups argue against cross-examination because it may be traumatic for the accuser. However, students' rights defenders have argued that cross-examination is one of the most important parts of the United States justice system.
The 2011 DLC rules allowed schools to conduct cross-examination but did not make it required. As a result, many schools chose not to involve cross-examination in the Title IX process. The new 2020 Title IX rules require schools to make cross-examination available for any witnesses or evidence presented in court. This includes questioning your accuser.
That means under the new rules, you can directly question your accuser's account of what happened. This is a major change that can significantly alter the outcome of your case.
How Would Cross-Examination Work Under the New Title IX Rules?
Although cross-examination may be allowed, it still has its limits, especially in sexual misconduct cases that require a level of protection for the victim.
Under the new Title IX rules, the accuser and the accused cannot cross-examine each other personally. In fact, the new guidelines require colleges and universities to make sure that both parties have an adviser who can ask questions and cross-examine on their behalf.
Your Title IX advisor does not have to be a lawyer, but a lawyer is highly recommended. Simply put, an experienced Title IX defense lawyer will have the experience to carry out a cross-examination better than a non-lawyer advisor.
Any case that covers sexual misconduct must be handled with sensitivity and care, for both the accused and the accuser. This applies not just for cross-examination, but for every step of the Title IX process. This is where the value of expertise really comes in. Call (888) 535-3686 to speak to a seasoned Title IX attorney now about your case.
Cross-Examination in Elementary and Secondary Schools
The previous Title IX guidelines were mainly directed at colleges and universities, although they also applied to elementary and secondary schools. The new Title IX regulations actually include some separate guidelines for K-12 institutions.
Under the new rules, K-12 schools are allowed but not required to have live hearings and cross-examination. As a result, elementary and secondary schools get to keep more flexibility in how they structure their Title IX hearing process. This way, students under the age of 18 won't have to be exposed to cross-examination or live questioning.
However, the new rules do require that elementary and secondary schools give each party the chance to submit written, relevant questions that they'd like to ask. These questions could be directed at the opposing party or another witness. The process must also allow each party to submit a limited number of additional follow-up questions.
3. Narrower Definition of “Sexual Harassment”
Another big change involves the definition of sexual harassment. Under the new Title IX regulations, the definition of harassment is much more narrow. As a result, many cases that qualify for a Title IX investigation now would not necessarily in the future.
Under the previous administration's guidance, a single incident of sexual harassment could qualify for a Title IX investigation if it was severe enough. But the new rules define sexual harassment as unwelcome conduct that is so “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” that it gets in the way of the accuser's access to education.
For example, an isolated incident involving a single sexual comment would not meet the new definition of harassment under Title IX. The behavior would have to be severe and pervasive enough from an objective point of view. That's a much higher bar to meet.
What would that mean for you if you're facing Title IX allegations over an isolated incident?
Your school could handle your case in a couple of different ways:
- Your school could decide any cases that started before the deadline under the old rules, then switch over to the new rules for any new cases arising after the deadline.
- Or, your school's administration may switch everything over to the new rules by the deadline on August 14, 2020. Cases concluded after that date would be decided under the new guidelines even if they came up under the old regulations.
If your case is currently open, you may consider waiting it out until the deadline – especially if you don't think the accusations against you would hold weight under the new rules. After all, it's summer vacation. But that line of thinking is a mistake. Your case may still move forward before the deadline and you could be caught unprepared. If you don't take the chance to defend yourself at your hearing, you might not get a good chance to do so again.
When it comes to Title IX cases, time is not on your side. You have way too much to lose to take a relaxed approach. Keep your case from getting lost in the shuffle by hiring an advocate who is dedicated to defending your interests.
Joseph D. Lento has weathered major shifts in Title IX rules before. He helped clients across the country navigate changes in the law in 2011 and 2014. He is the advocate you want in your corner. Call the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686.
Clarifying the Definition of Sexual Harassment
The new rules also designate the following types of behavior as sexual harassment:
- Sexual assault
- Dating and intimate partner violence
These actions don't have to be “severe and pervasive” to qualify for a Title IX investigation. A single incident is enough to get you into trouble for sexual misconduct.
4. Limiting the Scope of Title IX Off-Campus
In addition to the narrower definition of sexual harassment, the new rules also scale back how far Title IX reaches off campus. The result? Fewer cases will be covered by Title IX. The outcome of your case may change dramatically based on where the misconduct occurred.
Previous Title IX rules required schools to investigate all complaints of sexual misconduct, whether the incidents happened on or off campus. This policy was meant to address the “continuing effects” of sexual misconduct on campus, even if the misconduct happened elsewhere. Critics argued that this rule held schools accountable for student behavior that they had no control over and no way of preventing.
Under the new rules, schools must only investigate complaints of sexual misconduct that happen off-campus when:
- It involves an educational activity, and
- The school has “substantial control” over the context where the misconduct occurred.
This definition covers any building owned or controlled by an officially recognized student organization. That includes fraternity and sorority houses. Schools are allowed but not required to extend Title IX protection to unrecognized Greek letter organizations.
Previously, schools would have to investigate sexual misconduct even if it happened:
- In off-campus housing
- Out of town, such as a student's hometown
- At unrelated events and venues
- Out of the country, in the case of study abroad
Under the new rules, these cases are no longer covered under Title IX.
But few Title IX cases are ever black and white. What if an event was off-campus but your school was a sponsor? What if you have an internship through your school but it's located at another company? What exactly does “substantial control” mean?
Most cases fall under a gray area. This is where an experienced Title IX lawyer can look at all the facts in your case and help you understand where you stand.
Title IX Enforcement in Study Abroad Programs
The new Title IX rules limit enforcement to students actually “in the United States.” This is a literal reading of the language in the law. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court has generally held that federal law cannot be enforced outside of U.S. borders.
That means schools are no longer required to cover study abroad programs under Title IX. In addition, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will no longer investigate complaints of Title IX violations in study abroad programs. Also, the federal government is unlikely to pursue Title IX complaints against these programs.
There's nothing in the new rules that stops a school from enforcing Title IX in their study abroad programs if they choose. However, schools must take care to protect students' due process rights. International cases come with additional complexities and challenges, such as access to evidence and witnesses. Without due process, your school cannot make a fair decision.
The best place to look to understand your school's position on Title IX enforcement off campus would be your student conduct handbook. Even with the new changes by the federal government, schools still have a lot of options on how they choose to enforce the law.
Your school's stance may depend on:
- The culture around Title IX and sexual misconduct at your school
- Whether your school has been investigated by the OCR for failing to enforce Title IX
- Whether your school has received negative media attention for the way they've handled Title IX cases before
Part of a good Title IX advisor's expertise comes from working with different schools that enforce different types of policies. Joseph D. Lento has spent years building relationships and becoming familiar with schools across the country. He understands the nuances of campus culture to give you an idea of what to expect at your specific school.
Call the Lento Law Firm now at (888) 535-3686 to discuss your best Title IX defense.
5. No More Single Investigator Cases
Under the old Title IX regulations, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) encouraged schools to implement a single investigator model in Title IX cases.
This model gives a single person the power to investigate, prosecute, find responsibility, and even recommend sanctions in Title IX cases. In a single investigator process, the investigator assigned to your case interviews both parties, collects and inspects all of the evidence, and determines guilt. That's a lot of power for just one individual to hold.
Proponents of the single investigator model argue that the intimate, interpersonal process allows for better one-on-one conversations with all of the parties involved. But that doesn't take into account the fairness of such a policy. The investigator assigned to your case could have unconscious bias and make premature conclusions. Despite their best intentions, they can still make mistakes. Meanwhile, the future of your education rides on their decision.
The single investigator model involves one person acting as detective, judge, and jury in your Title IX case. The process has far fewer checks and balances in case the investigator has a bias. As a result, students lose a lot of the legal protections that come from having a hearing.
In a single investigator model, the person assigned to your case decides:
- What questions to ask of each party
- Which statements to respond to and pursue further
- Which evidence is relevant and what can be disregarded
- Whether you were responsible for sexual misconduct
- What punishment or sanctions to recommend in your case
In many cases, the investigator completes their report and sends their recommendations to the school without a hearing ever taking place.
If you think about it, this type of procedure would be outrageous in a fair and just criminal system. So why was it ever considered acceptable on school campuses? Some administrators defend the system because there's less at stake – a Title IX complaint cannot send you to jail like a criminal complaint could. But a Title IX complaint could still have major repercussions in your life and career, with sanctions up to and including expulsion from school.
Not just that, but the evidence and conclusions from your Title IX case can lead to or affect the outcome of any criminal charges you may be facing.
What Do the New Rules Say About the Single Investigator Model?
Fortunately, the new Title IX rules no longer allow schools to follow the single investigator model. Instead, they require schools to have live hearings to decide responsibility. These changes are a big win for due process and students' rights.
The new regulations state that due to “fundamental fairness ... no decision-maker [can] be the same person who serves as the Title IX Coordinator or the investigator.”
Under the new rules, decision-makers in Title IX cases must:
- Review the investigator's submitted report, and
- Hear live testimony from any witnesses included in the report.
Decision-makers cannot base their conclusions on statements made by witnesses who refuse to be cross-examined by the parties involved.
This is good news for students who have been falsely accused of sexual misconduct under Title IX. You can expect a much fairer process with a hearing over a single investigator.
Still, that doesn't mean you're in the clear. Although a hearing is fairer, you need a strong advisor to represent you at your hearing and ask the right questions. You're not allowed to personally cross-examine or question your accuser. An experienced Title IX lawyer can help handle the process in a sensitive and skillful way.
You must stay vigilant about hiring the best Title IX advisor for your case and protecting your rights as schools put these new rules into practice. Because these new regulations are uncharted territory, your school may not necessarily get the changes right. In the meantime, your case could move forward with permanent consequences to your education and your career. The sooner you talk to an expert, the better.
Joseph D. Lento has years of experience fighting for students across the country. He's represented students not just in Title IX cases on campus but also in due process lawsuits filed by students against their schools. He is a staunch defender of clients whose schools failed to grant them the legal protections they deserve before finding them responsible for something they didn't do. He can help you get your life back on track.
Call the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 for a consultation of your case.
6. Fewer Mandatory Reporters
Under the rules of the Supreme Court, schools are responsible for addressing sexual misconduct cases only when they have “actual knowledge” of the incident. This bar is the absolute minimum and does not include any mandatory reporters.
The Obama administration raised this bar in 2011 with their Title IX guidelines requiring schools to make most faculty and staff “mandatory reporters.” These employees must report any allegations of sexual misconduct to their Title IX office.
Under the new Title IX rules, colleges and universities are no longer required to make most of their employees mandatory reporters. Elementary and secondary schools, however, still require that all teachers and staff report any sexual misconduct they witness or hear about.
According to the Department of Education, students over the age of 18 are mature enough to decide for themselves whether or not to report misconduct. Children under the age of 18 need mandatory reporters since sexual misconduct against minors is a criminal offense. And crimes involving minors trigger state mandatory reporting requirements.
The DOE also announced that the department would be dedicating more funds to investigating sexual misconduct in elementary and secondary schools. That means K-12 school systems across the country could be subject to much stricter scrutiny.
Although the Trump administration's new Title IX regulations remove most mandatory reporters in colleges and universities, the new rules also require that every school establishes an easy and accessible reporting system for students to use.
Fewer mandatory reporters would mean potentially fewer investigations in the future. However, if you're already facing Title IX allegations, this change won't help you.
Not only that, but you have to keep in mind that the new Title IX regulations set forth only the minimum steps that a school must take to comply. For example, coaches and professors do not have to be mandatory reporters under the new Title IX rules. But your school may choose to make them mandatory reporters anyway in their own policies and code of conduct.
7. Videoconferencing Allowed for Title IX Hearings
The new Title IX regulations allow and even encourage schools to continue holding Title IX hearings through video conferencing software. That means if you're off campus for any reason, your Title IX case can still move forward against you remotely. You may not even get a chance to come back to campus before a decision is made against you.
If you're facing a Title IX complaint and you're not on campus, you may feel more isolated and removed from the process than ever. You might be at a complete loss for where to turn, especially when there's no school office you can go to for resources or support. You may also face additional challenges when it comes to contacting witnesses and gathering evidence.
The seasoned counsel of an experienced lawyer can help you through this difficult time. Your lawyer will not only represent you in interactions with your school but also coach you personally through the Title IX process and defend your innocence at your hearing. The right lawyer is an invaluable resource to have on your side and can make all the difference in your case.
Much of the world has only recently started to function remotely through video conferencing. But Joseph D. Lento has been conducting video hearings across the country for years. The Lento Law Firm has represented clients studying abroad across the world, whether in Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, or elsewhere. The traits that make Joseph D. Lento an excellent defense attorney – adaptability, strategy, dedication – allow him to succeed whether your hearings happen in person or through video conferencing.
Video hearings present their own challenges. The dynamic is completely different compared to an assembly of people in a room. In these types of situations, nothing can beat real-life expertise. Your best option is to find an advocate who's already familiar with these technical challenges so that your case goes as smoothly as possible. You don't want your Title IX advisor cutting out from technical difficulties while your future is on the line.
Call the Lento Law Firm now at (888) 535-3686 to talk to an experienced nationwide Title IX attorney about your best options for protecting your education and your future.
Other Changes in the New Title IX Regulations
Previous guidelines gave schools more leeway and discretion in how they carried out Title IX investigations and hearings on their campuses. But the new regulations go into much more detail than the guidelines released in 2011 and 2014, with specific requirements.
In addition to the changes discussed above, the new Title IX regulations also require schools to:
- Send both parties a written explanation of the accusations that includes “sufficient details” known at the time
- Allow both parties enough time to prepare a response before any initial interview is conducted by the school
- Communicate to both parties in writing any changes to the nature of the allegations
- Give both parties the right to see all the evidence collected by the investigator
- At least 10 days before the hearing, send a written report to both parties that summarizes all the relevant evidence in the case
- Provide a rationale for all the decisions they make as to each allegation
In addition, after the decision has been made, schools must allow either party to appeal the decision based on one of three reasons:
- New evidence,
- Failing to follow proper procedure, or
- Bias by investigators or decision-makers.
Both parties are also allowed to appeal any sanctions that may be given after a student has been found responsible for sexual misconduct. That means you can appeal the sanctions you get if they are too severe. It also means that your accuser may appeal the sanctions as well – on the basis that they were not severe enough.
What the New Title IX Changes Leave Out
One big change in Title IX regulation is about what the new rules leave out.
The Title IX regulations set forth in 2011 and 2014 included guidance on services that schools must provide to victims of sexual misconduct. Schools were required to include significant victim support services such as medical resources, counseling, and academic support such as tutoring. These services had to be provided to students free of any extra charge.
On top of that, schools were required to arrange for victims to retake courses or withdraw from classes without penalties and provide escorts for them to move safely around campus.
In addition to support services, schools had to take steps and make efforts to prevent sexual misconduct on campus through community educational programming.
The new rules, on the other hand, make no mention of campus-wide prevention efforts. Under its new regulations, the administration declined to make community education or extensive support services a requirement to comply with Title IX. Schools are free to offer prevention and support services, but they are not required to under federal law.
What does that mean for students facing Title IX accusations?
This particular change affects school culture around Title IX more than individual Title IX cases. This cultural shift may take a while to happen or may not even happen at all depending on your school. Over the years, schools have implemented all of the Obama-era guidelines that lead to stricter practices around sexual misconduct on campus. During this time, the culture and conversations around sexual misconduct have also changed on a national level.
As a result, schools may still have incentive to keep their sexual misconduct prevention and educational policies in place. Your school's administration may face pressure from campus groups and the media to keep a firm stance on sexual misconduct. This is especially true if your school has been in the news for failing to take action on sexual misconduct cases in the past.
Now, more than ever, your school culture can affect the process and outcome of your case. An experienced Title IX lawyer can help you understand what to expect at your specific school.
Hiring a Title IX Lawyer for Your Case
Although the new Title IX regulations help even the field for the accused, the truth is right now the Title IX landscape is more complex than ever.
In addition to implementing the new Title IX changes within just three months of their announcement, schools must also deal with the pandemic disrupting campus life. As a student, your life is complicated enough trying to adjust to a new socially distant world. In these uncertain times, you shouldn't try to handle your own Title IX defense alone.
Does My Title IX Advisor Need to Be an Attorney?
No. However, an attorney is highly recommended for several reasons.
For your best chance at success, you should never try to represent yourself in your Title IX case. All schools allow you to have an advisor who can also be an attorney. You should hire someone you trust to represent you.
A Title IX lawyer has certain advantages over a non-lawyer advisor. Unfortunately, an accusation of sexual misconduct can have consequences beyond your school's campus. Facts of your case may develop into criminal charges. Your lawyer can anticipate these additional legal challenges and help you with a unified approach to all of them.
On the other hand, you can't just hire any lawyer to represent you in your Title IX case. You need to find a lawyer who specifically handles Title IX defense. This is because Title IX cases at the school level involve a completely different system than state or federal courts. If your lawyer doesn't have Title IX expertise, they could be out of their depth – even if they normally handle other legal issues with no problem.
A Title IX lawyer can also ensure that your school follows its own procedures and applies them fairly. If your school fails to protect your legal rights throughout the Title IX process, your Title IX lawyer can help you file a due process lawsuit against your school.
An attorney's expertise goes beyond what a non-attorney can provide. Because when you're facing a Title IX accusation of sexual misconduct, the consequences go beyond your education to your career and the rest of your life. You want to make sure you have the best chance of proving your innocence for the sake of your future.
The fact is – schools will continue to enforce Title IX and investigate cases even if students aren't on campus. This situation creates unique challenges for your defense. If you're learning remotely, you may feel isolated, alone, and afraid for your future. You may have trouble accessing evidence or reaching witnesses for your case.
The Lento Law Firm is here to help and ready to defend you. Joseph D. Lento has fought for the rights of falsely accused students across the country for over a decade for many years. He's seen how previous changes to the regulations affected the Title IX landscape. Our law firm has already adapted to the virtual realities of a post-COVID world. We can help you navigate the new rules and guide you to the most beneficial outcome for your case.
Call (888) 535-3686 now to speak directly with experienced Title IX lawyer Joseph D. Lento about your case. The sooner you call to get started, the better.