A Title IX case is serious business. Often, if you're found responsible, the minimum punishment is suspension. Far more commonly, high schools and universities will expel you.
You might expect schools to be especially careful when investigating and adjudicating such cases, given what's at stake. You'd think they would make sure to be at least as thorough as the police and the courts. You'd be wrong. Title IX is a complicated law that's difficult to navigate. You don't have to be convicted by a jury of your peers, and you don't have to be found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Even worse, schools often rig the game in favor of accusers.
Here's the good news: you don't have to fight a Title IX allegation alone. The law entitles you to choose an advisor, someone who can help you as you work your way through your case. Even better, this advisor can be an attorney.
A Bit of History
Title IX was originally passed in 1972 with the goal of eliminating sexual discrimination and harassment at US high schools and colleges. In the beginning, it was intended to apply primarily to schools themselves, to make sure women had fair admission standards and equal opportunities in classrooms. Over the last fifty years, however, the law has shifted. Today, it's more often used to police students rather than schools.
As you might expect, high schools and universities aren't exactly equipped to handle serious judicial matters, cases of stalking, sexual assault, even rape. In fact, it can be a little startling to discover that your case won't be heard by a learned judge but rather by an English professor and a third-year physics student. Over the years, that situation hasn't always led to the most fair and just outcomes.
In an effort to address this situation, the Trump administration in 2020 issued what it called the “Final Rule,” a set of guidelines that told schools exactly how they should go about investigating and adjudicating Title IX cases. The Final Rule created clear definitions for the words “harassment” and “discrimination.” In addition, it narrowed the scope of schools' jurisdictions and guaranteed some important due process rights for the accused.
Unfortunately, the Final Rule didn't put an end to the evolution of Title IX. The Biden administration has already issued instructions for how schools can get around many of the Final Rule limitations. In addition, Biden has promised to roll back the Final Rule completely at some point in the future. This constant change is one of the reasons it is so difficult to fight a Title IX case.
Title IX Procedures
At least for now, though, a clear set of rules are in place:
- Every school has a Title IX Coordinator who deals with sexual misconduct allegations. Some schools require all faculty and staff to report incidents, but under the law, only complainants and the Coordinator may sign an official complaint.
- Once the Coordinator has signed a complaint, they must give notification of the investigation to the respondent. That notice must include the name of the complainant and all details of the allegation. In addition, it should let the respondent know that they will be presumed “not responsible” and that they have the right to select an advisor. That advisor can be an attorney.
- The Coordinator then appoints an Investigator. This person meets with both sides in the case. They also collect physical evidence and interview witnesses.
- Once the investigation is complete, the Investigator creates a written summary of their findings. Both sides are entitled to read this document and raise objections before it is forwarded back to the Title IX Coordinator.
- Respondents at the university level have the right to a live hearing, where they can present evidence and call witnesses.
High schools can hold hearings if they choose to, but Title IX does not mandate it. Instead, a single Decision Maker can simply review the investigative report and determine the verdict. Even in these cases, though, parents can still submit evidence and questions for witnesses.
- At a hearing, Title IX specifically allows respondents to cross-examine the complainant and any other witnesses against them. However, they may only do so through their advisors. Complainants have the same rights.
- At the conclusion of a hearing, one or more Decision Makers use the “preponderance of evidence” standard to decide the case. That is, they must find the respondent responsible if they believe it is more than fifty percent likely a violation occurred.
- Under Title IX both sides have the right to appeal the hearing decision. However, appeals are only granted for very specific reasons:
- The discovery of new evidence
- The demonstration of obvious mistakes in Title IX procedures
- The demonstration of clear bias on the part of a Title IX official
Non-Title IX Cases
Many schools were unhappy with Trump's Final Rule. They felt it limited victims' rights and allowed many kinds of misconduct to slip through the cracks. In response, they created new policies designed to address accusations that no longer fit Title IX's new, stricter definitions.
Along with these new policies, some schools set up separate procedures for dealing with these so-called “non-Title IX cases.” Because these cases aren't under the purview of the federal government, schools don't always afford respondents all the rights they deserve. Often the school doesn't presume the respondent is innocent, for instance, and it may not provide for a hearing or an appeals process.
How Can Attorney Joseph D. Lento Help?
By this point, it should be clear: fighting a Title IX accusation requires more than just hard work and tenacity. It requires skills the average student or parent just doesn't have. In fact, it requires skills even the average attorney doesn't have.
Joseph D. Lento isn't the average attorney. He's a national Title IX attorney. He's spent years studying the law. He keeps up with its changes and monitors the politics that surround it. At the same time, though, Joseph D. Lento understands how schools operate. He spends every single day strategizing client defenses, implementing these strategies on his clients' behalf, and when needed, talking to school officials in Pennsylvania and across the United States, negotiating on his clients' behalf. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped hundreds of students get the justice they deserve in Title IX cases in Pennsylvania and nationally, and he can help you do the same.
If you or your child has been accused of Title IX sexual misconduct in Pennsylvania, don't wait. You need help now. Contact the Lento Law Firm's Pennsylvania office today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.
Pennsylvania colleges and universities where Joseph D. Lento can help as your or your student's Title IX advisor during investigations, hearings, and appeals include, but are not limited to, the following schools:
- ALVERNIA UNIVERSITY
Title IX violations and Title IX charges can change an accused student's life if not defended against properly and as early as possible during the disciplinary process, and Joseph D. Lento has nearly a decade of experience passionately fighting for the future of his clients at universities and colleges throughout the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead, prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph Lento is a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and serves as a Title IX advisor to students facing disciplinary cases in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation. Make certain your or your student's interests are protected - Contact Pennsylvania Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento today.