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Recent Incident Involving Football Coach Sparks Questions About Unclear Mandated Reporting Requirements Under Title IX

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Nov 01, 2018 | 0 Comments

Background on Title IX and Mandatory Reporting

Incidents involving sexual misconduct - sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, rape etc. - in higher education are acutely underreported. In an effort to combat campus sexual misconduct and increase reporting rates, the Education Department has in prior years established a “mandatory reporting” clause. It is still enforced today under current federal guidelines.

Under Title IX of the Education Amendments, schools must promptly, thoroughly, and equitably investigate any reports of sex-based discrimination. This is the case even in the absence of a formal complaint, hence why mandatory reporters play a pivotal role in an institution's obligation to adjudicate complaints of sexual misconduct.

Mandatory reporters are required to report any knowledge of sexual misconduct or other types of sex discrimination to their school's Title IX office or to the appropriate school officials. Colleges and universities are tasked with identifying these individuals at the school so students are aware. Various types of employees may be mandatory reporters, including:

  • Presidents, vice presidents, deans, and provosts
  • Department heads
  • Student affairs professionals
  • Coaches and athletic directors
  • Residential staff
  • Members of the faculty

Furthermore, there are also individuals identified as “Campus Security Authorities” (CSAs) - defined and enforced by the Clery Act - who must report instances of sexual misconduct along with other types of on-campus crime. If mandatory reporters and CSAs know about an incident and fail to make a timely report, he or she violates Title IX policy and essentially forfeits a student's right to an investigation.

The Case: Coach Urban Meyer

A contentious debate about whether or not Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer violated federal Title IX statutes recently broke out amid domestic violence allegations. In 2015, Urban's former assistant Zack Smith was accused of abusing his now ex-wife, Courtney Smith. After an in-depth investigation of the allegations, the school made the decision to let Zack go.

Years later, Urban is now under fire after being accused of knowing about the situation while it ensued - an outright violation of Title IX regulations if true. The coach had previously denied any knowledge of the incident involving Zach. But just recently, Courtney said in two separate interviews that she detailed the long history of her abuse to Urban's wife, Shelley, and she alleges that he knew about it also.

Urban's contract, along with the contracts of other athletic coaches nationwide, included language that required him to report any known violations of the university's sexual misconduct policy and other campus crimes. Now investigators are posing two questions: Did Urban know? And if he knew, did he follow the proper protocols in reporting?

Experts have weighed in with opinions on both sides of the spectrum. Some say that Urban did not violate Title IX because the allegations involved a third party, his wife, who is not associated with the school. Therefore, he had no responsibility to report. Others say, however, that the responsibility to report still stands, even if third parties are involved.

Nationwide Title IX Advisor

The only way to make sure your voice is heard and your rights are upheld is to retain a student defense attorney. For respondents, especially, the assistance of an attorney advisor is invaluable in the Title IX process. National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skill, experience, and expertise to help you preserve your entitled rights under Title IX and your school's policy. For a case evaluation or more information about his representation, contact him online or give him a call at 888-535-3686 today.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience passionately fighting for the futures of his clients. Mr. Lento represents students and others in disciplinary cases and other proceedings at universities and colleges across the United States while concurrently fighting in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, and New Jersey. Mr. Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand universities and colleges across the United States. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide.

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