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Jerry Harris, Cheer, and Title IX

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Oct 14, 2020 | 0 Comments

If you haven't watched Cheer, you've probably heard about it. The run-away hit docudrama from Netflix follows the lives and competitions of the Navarro College cheerleading squad. The squad, which has won 15 national championships in 20 years, performs jaw-dropping stunts and shares emotional stories from its members' lives. Jerry Harris became a break-out star of the show, winning people over with his sunny personality and constant optimism. Fans were stunned when federal law enforcement officers arrested him in September on child pornography charges.

Of course, the concern as the allegations unfold against Harris is that some of this behavior may have happened while he was a student at Navarro College and while he was on campus or at events representing Navarro as a student-athlete. If that's the case, Harris may find himself facing disciplinary actions from Navarro. Many students arrested for sexual misconduct or assault find themselves the target of Title IX disciplinary proceedings at school, even if there is no criminal investigation which is often the case, and in the rare instance there is a criminal case, even if found not guilty in a court of law.

Respondents and their families should note that Department of Justice statistics reflect that 80% of the time sexual misconduct allegations will be addressed exclusively as the school level with no criminal investigation or case.  Regrettably, however, what can take place at the school level, particularly if the Title IX case does not result in a favorable outcome for a respondent, can have a lifetime of negative consequences for an accused student.

What is Title IX?

Title IX is a federal civil right law passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972 ("Title IX"), 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq. prohibiting sex-based discrimination at federally funded educational institutions. While a school's disciplinary proceedings often overlap with Title IX, the law and regulations governing Title IX will most likely apply.

Title IX violations can include:

  • Sexual assault, battery, or coercion
  • Sexual harassment
  • Gender discrimination
  • Sexually suggestive jokes
  • Catcalling
  • Aggressive or physical sexual advances
  • Stalking
  • Offensive touching
  • Dating or domestic violence
  • Bullying
  • Rape
  • Non-consensual sex

Once a school is aware of a Title IX allegation, it has a legal duty to act to end and remedy the behavior. If it doesn't, it could face sanctions from the federal government or a private Title IX lawsuit from victims.

Differing Standards of Proof

In a criminal trial, prosecutors must prove each element of the crime "beyond a reasonable doubt" for a guilty verdict. But the standard of proof used by schools in Title IX actions has a much lower bar. While Title IX does permit schools to use a higher standard of proof, the regulations only require that schools use at least a "clear and convincing evidence" standard, which means that it is highly and substantially more likely to be true than not.

Title IX Sanctions

While not as severe as criminal sanctions, many Title IX sanctions can have serious long-term consequences. Students can face:

  • Formal warnings;
  • Probation;
  • Changed residence halls;
  • Bans from certain areas or buildings on campus;
  • Campus bans;
  • Suspension or expulsion;
  • Counseling;
  • Lost scholarships;
  • Restitution;
  • A formal apology; or
  • Loss or revocation of a diploma.

Additionally, you will have the misconduct finding on your disciplinary record and possibly also on your academic transcripts, affecting your future education and professional opportunities.

Hire a Skilled Student Discipline Attorney Advisor

While Jerry Harris is probably more focused on the serious criminal charges he faces, his case is a reminder of additional consequences students can face from criminal charges. If you or your child faces criminal charges or student misconduct charges, you need an experienced student discipline defense advisor. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced criminal attorney and has handled thousands of student discipline cases across the country. He can help you. Call today at 888.535.3686 or reach out to us online.

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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