When your child has been accused of sexual assault or sexual harassment in a Florida high school, it's normal to be worried and afraid. You probably have a lot of questions and concerns. These are serious allegations, and if you don't handle this matter right, they could have a negative impact on your child's life and on your family.
That's why it's important that, as soon as you find out about the allegations, you get legal help for your child from someone who knows how to protect your child's interests. A lawyer who is familiar with how Title IX works in Florida high schools can help you understand the process, prepare your student for the investigation and any hearings, and assist with guiding the investigation and preparing the paperwork.
What is Title IX?
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities and employment. A lot of people are more familiar with Title IX as the law that mandates equal funding and equal opportunities for boys and girls in sports, but the law covers a lot more than athletics. The law, which is enforced by the federal Office of Civil Rights, applies to all forms of sex-based discrimination, and it protects school employees as well as students. In addition, the law applies to all institutions that receive federal financial assistance, either directly or indirectly.
More controversially, Title IX also requires high schools to investigate and remediate alleged discrimination, which can include allegations of sexual harassment, stalking, and sexual violence. If someone has accused your child of sexual harassment, assault, or stalking while in school, Title IX is most likely the law that applies.
Though the original intent behind Title IX was good and the law plays an important role in protecting students, schools often fail to provide due process to the accused. Schools, particularly K-12 schools that aren't used to dealing with Title IX, can rush to take the accuser's side before the matter has even been investigated.
Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in Florida High Schools
Sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations are so common in Florida high schools that student journalists at American Heritage School in Plantation devoted a whole issue of their school's magazine to reporting on sexual harassment in their school. They sent other students a Google Form with questions about sexual harassment—and they received 280 responses.
In Miami Gardens, a 14-year-old girl said she was sexually assaulted three times and verbally harassed by older boys in the bathrooms over a two-week period at Carol City High School. And the parents of a football player at Oviedo High School near Orlando said that their son was sexually assaulted by teammates in the school's locker room.
Allegations of sexual assault and harassment are so common in Florida's K-12 school that the Florida Department of Education makes an extensive list of the number of crimes and types of crimes reported, including sexual assault, sexual harassment and other sex offenses in all of the state's school districts available on the Department of Education’s website.
What are Florida Schools Required to Do?
There are brand new rules regarding Title IX in Florida high schools and even school administrators are not yet familiar with how the law is supposed to apply. It is imperative that you understand your child's rights and that you have someone by your side who can make sure the school respects the law and treats your child fairly.
Under the new rules:
- Even if a formal complaint of sexual assault or sexual harassment has not been made, colleges, universities, and K-12 schools in Florida that receive federal funding must respond when the school has actual knowledge of the alleged sexual harassment or assault, if the alleged act occurred in an education program or activity of the school, including “locations, events, or circumstances over which the school exercised substantial control.”
- Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome conduct that “a reasonable person” would consider “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access” to an education program or activity.
- Parents or guardians of K-12 students may file complaints on behalf of a student.
- After an assault or a harassment incident is reported, the school must provide written notice to the students involved and their parents. The school must give the accused person at least 10 days to respond.
- The school must treat the accuser and the accused equitably, by offering supportive measures to an accuser and by following a complaint grievance process before the imposition of any disciplinary sanctions against the accused.
- The school's decision-maker must issue a written determination with findings of fact, conclusions about whether the alleged conduct occurred, and any disciplinary sanctions imposed. The accuser and the accused must receive a copy at the same time, along with information about how to file an appeal.
Not providing your child with each of these things is a violation of your child's rights and a violation of due process. An experienced attorney will demand that your child's right be followed and will insist on holding the school accountable.
Why You Need a Lawyer for High School Title IX Cases in Florida
Unfortunately, the odds may be against your high school student when facing a Title IX allegation in Florida. Unlike colleges and universities, high schools are not required to hold hearings on student complaints. There are new rules for K-12 schools and Florida's high school educators are simply not well-trained on these issues yet.
The Lento Law Firm Can Help Your Family
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has a history of successfully handling hundreds of Title IX cases in Florida and nationwide that have been resolved through both the investigation process and adjudicated through the hearing process. He knows how to help high school students who have been accused of sexual misconduct. Attorney Lento is ready to fight aggressively to protect your child, just like you would do yourself. Contact The Lento Law Firm by calling 888-555-3686 today.
Florida high schools where Joseph D. Lento can help as your child's Title IX advisor during investigations, hearings and appeals include, but are not limited to, the following school districts:
- Alachua County Public Schools
- Baker County School District
- Bay District Schools
- Bradford County School District
- Brevard Public Schools
- Broward County Public Schools
- Calhoun County School District
- Charlotte County Public Schools
- Citrus County Schools
- Clay County Schools
- Collier County Public Schools
- Columbia County Schools
- DeSoto School District
- Dixie County School District
- Duval County Public Schools
- Escambia County School District
- Flagler County Public Schools
- Franklin County Schools
- Gadsden County School District
- Gilchrist County School District
- Glades County School District
- Gulf County Schools
- Hamilton County School District
- Hardee County School District
- Hendry County Schools
- Hernando County School Board
- Highlands County School Board
- Hillsborough County Public Schools
- Holmes County School District
- Indian River County School District
- Jackson County School District
- Jefferson County School District
- Lafayette County School District
- Lake County Schools
- Lee County School District
- Leon County Schools
- Levy County School Board
- Liberty County School Board
- Madison County Schools
- Manatee County School District
- Marion County Public Schools
- Martin County School Board
- Miami-Dade County Public Schools
- Monroe County School District
- Nassau County School District
- Okaloosa County School District
- Okeechobee County School Board
- Orange County Public Schools
- Osceola County School District
- Palm Beach County School District
- Pasco County Schools
- Pinellas County Schools
- Polk County Public Schools, Florida
- Putnam County School District
- Santa Rosa County School District
- Sarasota County Schools
- Seminole County Public Schools
- Johns County School District
- Lucie Public Schools
- Sumter County School Board
- Suwannee County School District
- Taylor County School District
- Union County School Board
- Volusia County Schools
- Wakulla County School Board
- Walton County School District
- Washington County School District
Special School Districts
- Alexander D. Henderson University School
- Dozier/Okeechobee School District
- Eckerd Youth District
- Florida A&M Developmental Research School
- Florida School for the Deaf and Blind
- K. Yonge Developmental Research School
It is critical to make certain the Title IX investigation at your child's Florida high school is handled properly and that the accused student's interests and rights are protected from as early as possible during the sexual misconduct investigative process. One major reason is because even at high schools where a finding of responsibility for sexual misconduct charges is made at a hearing, the investigation will set the stage for what the hearing panel is provided prior to a hearing (and what the hearing panel will in large part rely on at a hearing), and at high schools where the finding of responsibility is made solely through the investigative process, what takes place during the investigation itself will determine whether the accused student is found responsible or not responsible for Title IX charges.
Unfortunately, some parents make the mistake of not taking the necessary precautions as soon as possible when accused of sexual misconduct. Some people will mistakenly believe that if they "just explain what happened," their school will be fair and impartial and will arrive at the truth. In a perfect world this may be the case, but in a perfect world, sexual misconduct allegations and Title IX charges would not exist.
Fighting passionately for the future of his clients at schools throughout the nation for many years, Joseph D. Lento knows how important it is to mount the strongest defense because he understands that an accused high school student's academic future is on the line. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph Lento is a licensed attorney in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, is admitted as an attorney pro hac vice in state and federal court if needed when representing clients nationwide, and serves as a Title IX attorney advisor to high school students facing sexual misconduct investigations and disciplinary cases in Florida and throughout the nation. Make certain your or your student's interests are protected - Contact National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento today at 888-535-3686.