In 1972, the U.S. Department of Education established Title IX to address concerns related to sexually-based discrimination in all academic institutions. Ongoing direction for proper compliance and institutional enforcement is the responsibility of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). All U.S. schools are required to comply with the current guidelines, such as preventing acts of discrimination that often arise in the admissions process, scholarship eligibility, athletic participation, employment, and more. Schools that do not comply may risk losing eligibility for federal education funds.
Title IX violations may occur in many different ways. Acts of sexually-based harassment are now defined as behavior that a reasonable person would consider “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” to a level that it hinders the ability to obtain an education. Examples may involve inappropriate requests for sexual favors or other unwelcome advances. Acts of sexual violence are particularly severe violations that may have criminal implications and involve victims who have not provided consent to participate, such as rape or coercion.
Acts of gender-oriented harassment may involve promoting false stereotypes that create a hostile environment. In many cases, the victims are those whose sexual identity differs from societal norms. Acts considered as forms of sexual harassment may also include stalking and behavior such as dating violence or domestic violence.
Each school designates a Title IX Coordinator, who is responsible for compliance and has some flexibility in developing processes and procedures that are suitable for their school. One primary concern has been that all parties be treated fairly and that any conflicts of interest are prevented. All parties are permitted to choose an adviser that provides support, assistance, and accompaniment throughout the proceedings, which is a role that is best-suited for a seasoned Title IX lawyer.
Understanding Interim Measures
Schools that receive a complaint, such as allegations of sexual assault or harassment, may potentially implement interim measures for parties including the accuser (complainant) and the accused (respondent). These measures can be described as services determined to be proper or suitable during the period where the investigation is underway or pending. The Title IX Coordinator is responsible for making assessments regarding whether to potentially implement measures or may act in response to the concerns of a party. Federal guidance has suggested that this process should not be exclusively based on “fixed rules or operating assumptions” that could limit the potential options necessary to respond to each unique situation and circumstances.
As with the majority of Title IX rules, interim measures should be made available to all parties and should not favor any particular party. During the Title IX investigation and disciplinary proceedings, the Title IX Coordinator should take action that will not “deprive any student of his or her education.” In addition to customizing or individualizing these measures, they may need to be revised or modified over time in response to the situation and based on emerging safety concerns.
Interim Measures Compared to Supportive Measures
The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault compiled a lengthy report that offered guidance in this area. The report made a distinction between interim measures and what they consider “supportive” measures. Supportive measures apply in situations where a complaint is made or otherwise reported beyond the scope of Title IX. For example, an alleged victim that seeks counseling support, rather than directly requesting a change in housing due to harassment from the university administration.
Types of Common Interim Measures
Many different types of potential interim measures may be applicable such as follows:
- Changes to a student's class schedule such as if opposing parties were in the same class
- Adjustments in employment such as altering a student's work schedule for an on-campus job or transferring an individual to a different department
- Rescheduling or postponing the due date for an assignment or test, such as to allow for an individual to seek medical care and recover from an injury
- Imposing a “no-contact” order that prohibits any contact or communication among parties or forbids someone from being in certain specified areas
- Making a change to campus housing assignments or eligibility for participation in sports or other activities
- Implementing a leave of absence, interim suspension, or temporary withdrawal
Clery Act Compliance and Ongoing Assessment of Effectiveness
Interim and supportive measures should be handled in compliance with Title IX regulations and the Clery Act. Colleges and universities must comply with the Clery Act, which involves requirements for reporting crime occurring on campus, near campus, or in locations associated with a recognized school organization. Each school issues an Annual Security Report, which must contain details regarding sexually-oriented offenses and many other requirements.
Schools are also instructed to continually evaluate the outcomes of interim measures to consider ways of improving. This ongoing process of evaluation is important for progress to be made and using a consultant or other expert to assist is encouraged.
Importance of Retaining Experienced Advisory Counsel
Have you been informed that you are the subject of allegations that violate Title IX guidelines? It is important to contact a knowledgeable lawyer that is familiar with this area of practice. This contact should be prioritized, as federal guidelines emphasize the importance of promptly responding and investigating these complaints. Having adequate time for preparation is important, such as being ready to make concise statements and effective responses to questions.
The Title IX guidelines have been transitioning recently; therefore, having an attorney that is abreast of the changes is important amid such volatility. Your attorney may also approach your school's administrators to negotiate an amicable resolution. He or she will protect your rights to due process and strive to obtain a positive outcome.
Attorney Represents Title IX Respondents
Students facing serious allegations of misconduct that violate Title IX may find their educational plans abruptly altered if suspension or dismissal occurs. Also, student records and transcripts will contain documentation showing that you were the subject of disciplinary action, which may make it difficult to be admitted to another school or graduate program and can limit internship and employment opportunities, if not shut doors altogether. Joseph D. Lento provides effective advisory representation for those accused of violating Title IX provisions and will strive to protect your rights and best interests. Contact the office at (888) 535-3686 today for additional information.