The Department of Education has just issued a question-and-answer document that begins to make good on the Biden-Harris Administration's promise of renewed Title IX enforcement. Rolling back Trump Administration regulations that granted greater protections to students accused of sexual misconduct on college and university campuses may take years. But the document points out several steps that colleges and universities can take under the existing Trump Administration regulations. It signals colleges and universities that they can and should renew Title IX and broader sexual-misconduct discipline efforts in the meantime.
First Steps Toward Renewed Enforcement
The Biden-Harris Administration's question-and-answer document is detailed. It takes fifty-six pages to answer sixty-seven questions. But popular interpretation of the lengthy and technical document, like the ones in the Chronicle of Higher Education and NPR, read the document to mean that colleges and universities should be considering these renewed and broader enforcement actions:
- pursue disciplinary charges based on the school's own broader definition of sexual misconduct rather than only charging cases under the current, narrower Title IX definitions;
- pursue disciplinary charges based on off-campus incidents if the school retained substantial control over the suspected perpetrator;
- designate professors and other school staff members to pursue disciplinary charges based on observation or public report, without any complainant;
- remove accused students from the campus while the school's investigation is pending;
- complete proceedings within sixty days rather than a longer time for investigation and hearing; and
- do not consider pre-hearing statements from any witness who does not testify at the hearing.
What the New Guidance Means for the Accused Student
Students plainly face increased risk of sexual misconduct charges, both under Title IX and under the school's own broader definitions, at any school that follows the Biden-Harris Administration's new guidance. Schools pursuing charges under their own broader definitions may charge misconduct for things like sexual exploitation and invasions of privacy. These prohibitions can be so vague, as schools broadly define them, as to capture conduct that many students would have little idea was misconduct. Discipline for off-campus conduct in private apartments, and discipline based on a professor's report without any complaining witness, also add to the student's risk.
The new guidance also increases the accused student's risk of an unfair procedure. Encouraging schools to remove the accused student from campus during the investigation puts that student at a disadvantage, both in gathering evidence for the hearing and in continuing and completing studies. And rushing the proceeding to completion within sixty days can mean incomplete investigations, missing witnesses, and a hasty hearing.
Retain Expert Attorney Assistance
The new guidance makes it especially important to retain expert academic attorney representation to defend and defeat sexual misconduct charges. If you or someone you know faces Title IX or other sexual misconduct charges, know that national academic defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are ready to mount an aggressive and effective defense. Do not give in to false, unfair, or exaggerated misconduct charges. Don't let your school rush your proceeding to a bad conclusion. You have too much on the line, too much at stake in your education. Call 888-535-3686 to schedule a Lento Law Firm consultation, or use the online service.