What You Need to Know About Title IX Virtual Hearings
For students facing Title IX charges of sexual misconduct, many dread the idea of in-person hearings the most. You may be nervous about getting up and speaking in front of a room of school administrators, especially when the stakes on the table are so high.
The new Title IX rules signed into law in 2020 require schools to conduct live hearings in Title IX proceedings. As the accused, you may very well have to testify in your own defense. The new Title IX rules also encourage schools to conduct Title IX hearings remotely and virtually with the help of audio and video technology – either over the phone or videoconferencing.
That means even if you're not on campus, your school is likely to use technology and tools like Zoom to proceed with its Title IX misconduct case against you.
When it comes to Title IX sexual misconduct, your education is on the line. The further along you are in your education, the more investment you've put into getting there. For some, that investment could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Because sexual misconduct is such a serious infraction, students found responsible usually face harsh and swift repercussions. Consequences of a Title IX finding of sexual misconduct include suspension or expulsion from your educational program. A finding of responsibility for sexual misconduct could derail your career trajectory in your chosen field.
This is especially true the more specialized your degree. Your Title IX reputation may precede you wherever you go. Whether you're applying to new schools or to jobs, both educational institutions and employers will want to see your student record. If you are found responsible for sexual misconduct under Title IX, that will appear in your permanent student record.
What does that mean for you as the accused? What can you do to protect yourself?
First, every student accused of Title IX misconduct benefits from having a Title IX advisor. Even better – from an advisor who is also a Title IX lawyer.
Under the new Title IX rules, sexual misconduct hearings on school campuses now involve cross-examination of witnesses. A Title IX attorney has the advantage of cross-examination experience in court. This experience translates directly into a stronger defense for you.
At Lento Law Firm, we work tirelessly to defend students across the country falsely accused of sexual misconduct under Title IX. When you work with Joseph D. Lento, you get:
- An advocate in your corner looking out for your best interest at all times,
- An attorney with years of experience handling live hearings in court and on campuses,
- A specialized expert in Title IX cases with decades of national experience, and
- A coach to help you get through this challenging time.
The biggest mistake students make when facing Title IX charges of misconduct is to not take the situation seriously enough. The sooner you get started on your defense, the better. Title IX cases tend to resolve quickly with immediate sanctions – and the appeals process isn't promising if you've already been found responsible.
Call the Lento Law Firm now at 888.535.3686 to get your education back on track.
What Are the Title IX Requirements for Live Hearings?
The Department of Education releases guidance for schools on how they should conduct their Title IX proceedings. While the DOE guidelines set the parameters, colleges and universities have some freedom in the details of how they conduct their Title IX proceedings.
As a result, Title IX proceedings may not be the same on different campuses. One of the benefits of working with Joseph D. Lento is the familiarity he has from working with Title IX offices in schools across the country for so long. The details of how your particular school enforces Title IX guidelines will vary based on the culture around Title IX on your campus.
Despite the differences in campus enforcement, some Title IX requirements cannot be ignored and must be implemented by all schools that receive federal funds.
Under the new Title IX changes as of 2020, schools must provide live hearings in Title IX proceedings. In addition, campus live hearings also require that:
- The live hearing must be overseen by a trained hearing officer who has the power to reject any irrelevant questions or evidence.
- Only Title IX advisors can act as cross-examiners; you or your accuser cannot personally cross-examine each other or witnesses. This helps cut down on unnecessary conflict and avoid additional trauma.
- If requested by either party, your school must be ready to conduct the hearing with you and your accuser in separate rooms. Although physically separate, you must be able to see and hear each other in real-time.
- Either party and any witnesses can request to participate remotely in the live hearing.
- Your school must record all of your Title IX hearings, even if they happen in person.
The idea of having to testify or answer questions in a live hearing can be intimidating. However, with the right support, the process doesn't have to be painful. Your Title IX advisor can help you prepare properly for any live hearings where you might have to participate.
How Should You Prepare for Your Title IX Live Hearing?
To have a successful defense, you must come prepared for your live hearing. That means:
- You understand the charges against you and the sanctions at stake
- You are able to clearly and accurately communicate your version of events
- You anticipate the questions you're likely to receive and practice answering them
- You have a list of acceptable questions to ask your accuser
- You've found witnesses and they're ready to testify for you
- You're ready to leave emotions behind the door, no matter how you're feeling
- You have admissible evidence to present as proof of your innocence
Managing all of this is difficult on your own. That's why an experienced title IX attorney-advisor is your best resource when preparing for your live hearing.
Unfortunately, a live hearing isn't as straightforward as simply telling your side of the story and presenting evidence in your defense. You can only ask certain types of questions and offer certain types of evidence. Some evidence may not be admissible. The last thing you want to do is hinge your defense on proof that you end up not being able to use in your hearing.
When you work with a dedicated Title IX lawyer like Joseph D. Lento, you'll get expert help to:
- Represent you at your live hearing
- Identify evidence that can be used in your defense
- Investigate the facts of your case if necessary
- Find and coach witnesses to testify on your behalf
- Determine what questions you can expect during your live hearing
- Draft relevant and acceptable questions to ask your accuser and their witnesses
- Coach you personally on how to communicate your version of events and answer questions – this coaching will be done both before and during your hearing
- Argue against sanctions based on mitigating circumstances in your case
The best time to contact a Title IX adviser attorney for your case is as soon as possible. Because Title IX cases tend to resolve quickly, you don't have a lot of time to find evidence and build your defense. While the new Title IX rules aren't as strict on the 60-day timeline, you can still find your entire life upside down within just a few months.
The new rules encouraging virtual and remote hearings mean that even if you or your accuser is not on campus, your Title IX case may still go forward virtually. This helps avoid any delays in the process, but it could result in a time crunch for you.
Virtual Hearings and Videoconferencing
Although the new Title IX rules encourage video conferencing as an alternative to in-person hearings, virtual hearings are simply not the same as face-to-face. It's much harder to gauge nonverbal cues and establish a personal connection between you and your school's Title IX officers at your hearing. While you may be relieved that you don't have to stand in front of a room of people to speak, you could be at a disadvantage in other ways.
The main problem arises because Title IX cases are so fact-specific – and in many cases, you and your accuser might be the only people who know the real facts. Many sexual misconduct cases revolve around incidents that happened behind closed doors. Even if there are witnesses, they can usually only testify up to a certain point. As a result, the outcome of your Title IX case may depend almost entirely on you and your accuser's testimony.
When it comes to cases of personal misconduct, your credibility is extremely important to establish your defense. In-person hearings allow you to make a personal impression on the Title IX officers deciding your case. Virtual hearings don't quite have the same effect.
Joseph D. Lento has successfully defended students over virtual hearings for years – even before the new Title IX rules in 2020. A technologically savvy Title IX advisor-attorney can help you establish your credibility even over teleconference. With so much of your education and career on the line, you don't want to take any chances on an advisor who doesn't already know how to successfully navigate virtual proceedings.
Filing an Extension for an In-Person Hearing
If you think a teleconference will hurt your ability to defend yourself, you can request an extension of your case so that your hearing can be conducted in person. Your school may refuse your request, in which case you would be required to proceed with virtual hearings.
However, if your Title IX office finds you responsible for sexual misconduct, you could bring up the issue of in-person hearings on appeal. The best strategy is still to fight your case before your school's Title IX office makes a finding against you.
Your school's Title IX office must treat both you and your accuser equally. You could file a due process complaint with the DOE's Office of Civil Rights if your school allows your accuser to have an in-person hearing but fails to offer you the same option.
Do Virtual Live Hearings Violate Due Process?
“Due process” refers to fair treatment in judicial proceedings and is guaranteed under the United States constitution. Even though Title IX proceedings happen on college campuses and not courtrooms, you still have due process rights with your education on the line.
If you believe that a virtual hearing affected your ability to defend yourself and you've been found responsible and sanctioned by your school for sexual misconduct under Title IX, you can argue that your due process rights were violated by your school.
However, without additional issues affecting your case, it's unlikely that a due process claim will be successful simply based on videoconferencing.
This exact issue actually came up early in 2020 in a case called Doe v. Transylvania University. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the university changed all live hearing to be remote. One student accused of sexual misconduct went to court for a temporary restraining order to stop the virtual hearing from happening based on due process concerns.
The court in this case ruled against the student's temporary restraining order because:
- Title IX policy does not require “live” hearings to include everyone in the same room,
- Videoconferencing had already been approved for school disciplinary hearings,
- Both parties would be present on the same videoconference,
- Both parties would get the chance to question each other and witnesses, and
- Both parties still had the opportunity to cross-examine in real-time.
In addition, the court determined that Title IX officers are able to properly evaluate the credibility of the parties over video even if they don't appear in person.
According to the court's ruling, schools have a “substantial interest” in resolving Title IX cases quickly and accurately, without court interference. Postponing a Title IX case until live hearings can be conducted would go against “prompt resolution” requirements under the law.
Most college and university Title IX offices will have pre-planned protocols in place for conducting Title IX live hearings. However, just because a school has a policy in place doesn't mean it always successfully follows the proper processes. Sometimes, schools may fail to follow their own procedure and protocol, putting your defense at risk. If there's an oversight in the way your hearing was conducted, Title IX due process complaint may come into play.
Your Title IX attorney is there not just to defend you but also to protect your rights by making sure your school follows the proper procedures in your case.
How a Title IX Attorney Can Help Your Case
Your Title IX advisor is in your corner at every point in the Title IX process – whether you must attend hearings in person or virtually through teleconferencing.
Joseph D. Lento has worked with students falsely accused of Title IX sexual misconduct for decades – including virtual hearings and procedures. He has defended countless students from accusations that would otherwise derail their educational and career prospects. Even under the new Title IX rules, it's hard to find a challenge Joseph D. Lento hasn't solved before.
Just because Title IX cases happen on school campuses doesn't mean you should take them lightly. Because sexual misconduct is such a serious offense, the consequences can go far beyond campus. You may face criminal charges from the incident and your school's Title IX office may even cooperate with local police investigations against you.
As a result, it's extremely important how you approach your case. You want to make sure you don't accidentally incriminate yourself in other ways – for example, you may also be sanctioned for drinking or drug use on campus during the incident.
If your school finds you responsible for disciplinary violations, those incidents and the sanctions you receive will become a part of your permanent student record. Both schools and employers will request to see your student records if you wish to apply. A sexual misconduct violation could hurt your chances both academically and professionally for a long time to come.
The best course of action is to address the Title IX accusations against you as soon as possible. Waiting could cost you precious time – and the charges won't go away on their own.
Your education is an investment you need to protect. Joseph D. Lento has successfully handled and defended hundreds of high-stakes Title IX student misconduct cases across the United States. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686 to get started on your defense now.