There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in serious delays for many disciplinary hearings on college campuses. These campuses are generally closed to students, many of which are sheltering far away.
Despite these delays, the amount of time these schools have to undertake a Title IX investigation is not unlimited. Under federal law, there are limits in how long a case may take. While these limits do not provide a specific time frame, any process that is too short or too long could constitute a Title IX violation. This remains true during a public health crisis.
Required Time Frame for a Title IX Case
According to federal law, schools must complete their Title IX investigations in short order. This general deadline, set out by 34 C.F.R. Section 668.46, requires investigations to complete “within reasonably prompt time frames.” It is important to note that this does not set a hard deadline, as it allows schools to take present circumstances into account.
What Constitutes “Prompt?”
In general, most schools aim to resolve these claims within 60 days. However, the broad language within Section 668.46 does not make this a firm requirement. This time frame is left broad in an effort to allow an investigation into complex cases. After all, a hard limit on the investigation could greatly impact the accused and their ability to build their defense.
Does the Current COVID-19 Pandemic Impact These Time Limits?
Long before COVID-19 had an effect on the student discipline process at campuses across the country, it was clear that schools had some leeway in the length of their investigations. In fact, the Department of Education made clear that the lengths of an investigation should vary depending on the complexity of the case. With that in mind, courts routinely have found cases that stretch beyond 60 days to have still been heard promptly.
Because of this, it is unlikely that a claim of delay would benefit a person facing student discipline. The rules are intentionally vague, with the intent that promptness is viewed on a case by case basis. Given the current closed status of most college campuses, it is not unreasonable to expect the schools to have leeway with the length of their investigations.
That said, there are clear circumstances where a delay is unreasonable. For instance, the Department of Education has made clear that schools should not put their investigation on hold to allow criminal proceedings to play out first. By failing to investigate a Title IX claim due to a pending criminal proceeding, the school could be in violation.
Discuss Your Options with a Nationwide Student Defense Lawyer
If you are facing student discipline based on a Title IX complaint, it is important to remember that you are protected by certain rights. Even during a public health crisis, you are entitled to these protections under the law. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced student defense lawyer that is prepared to advocate aggressively on your behalf. To learn more, Contact national Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento for help at 888-535-3686.