ROTC Students and Title IX Accusations

Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, often referred to as just “Title IX”, can be confusing.

The text of the clause reads, “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

That seems pretty clear, no? And most people probably first heard about Title IX in the context of sports, namely ensuring equal access and funding for males and females in athletics. But Title IX in practice has a really broad scope. In the years since 1972, Title IX has been used in court decisions on a range of issues, including sexual harassment and discrimination, issues involving transgender students, and in prohibiting retaliation against students or faculty and staff of educational institutions who file claims under Title IX.

There are, however, some exceptions to Title IX. Title IX does not apply to a school or university that primarily exists to train people for military service. But, many future military officers are commissioned not through military academies but through Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs at regular universities where ROTC students are, indeed, subject to Title IX.

What is ROTC?

ROTC is a military training program offered at more than 1,700 colleges and universities nationwide to provide students with the training they need to become military officers. ROTC students are instructed military personnel on civilian campuses. Students typically receive college tuition in exchange for a commitment to serve in the military for a set number of years after they graduate. Students are not, however, in the military while they're in school and enrolled in ROTC. Instead, they are simply students. For this reason, the same Title IX policies that apply to every other student, also apply to ROTC students. Likewise, ROTC instructors are members of the college or university community where the ROTC program runs and also must adhere to the school's Title IX policies.

Title IX and Military Academies

Federal Service Academies, because they primarily exist to train individuals for military service, are exempt from Title IX.

· United States Military Academy in West Point, New York;

· United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland;

· United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado;

· United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut; and

· United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York.

Title IX does, however, apply to a third category of educational institutions that are not federal service academies, but that do have military training as a major part of the institution's focus. These schools include for example:

· The Citadel in Charleston, S.C.;

· Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, VA;

· Norwich University in Northfield, VT;

· Texas A&M in College Station, TX;

· University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, GA;

· Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, VA

· Valley Forge Military Academy in Valley Forge, PA

What Happens When an ROTC Student is Accused of Violating Title IX?

When a student, ROTC or not, is accused of violating Title IX, an investigation is launched by the educational institution into the claims and against the accused. Though the investigation may seem similar to a criminal investigation, it is not the same. Persons accused of criminal misconduct are afforded rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Persons accused of an on-campus offense are not always afforded the same rights. In an educational investigation, only a "preponderance of evidence" is needed to determine whether the accused is responsible and should be disciplined. This is a much lower standard than criminal courts require for a conviction. The standard is lower because the punishment is less. Someone accused of a Title IX violation cannot be arrested, imprisoned, or subjected to having a criminal record, but he or she can be disciplined, to include being expelled from school.

In addition, students subjected to Title IX investigations can be advised by an attorney, but they can't be represented by one. They often do not see the evidence against them until right before the hearing, and they may not learn who the witnesses are against them. For many who are accused of Title IX violations, the system of investigation and discipline can seem very unfair, particularly considering that the outcome can potentially alter and damage the course of their life.

For ROTC students, the outcome of a Title IX investigation can lead to being disenrolled from ROTC, losing an ROTC scholarship, and potentially even ending that individual's plans to join and serve in the military.  In other cases, a ROTC student can be required to serve in the military without pay or be required to pay back an overwhelming amount of money to the federal government if deemed to be in breach of their ROTC contract.

This is what happened to Audrey and Richard McIntosh’s son when an ex-girlfriend accused him of “dating violence” and sexual assault when they were both students at Washington University in Missouri. The charges, which the McIntoshes and their son maintain were false and vindictive, caused him to be expelled from the school and ROTC, he was made to repay his ROTC scholarship, and his plan to serve in the military was squashed.

What Should Someone Do If They've Been Accused?

Anyone, be they student, faculty, or staff, accused of a Title IX violation should contact an attorney as early as possible in the process. Even though the investigation system does not function like a criminal court and people charged with offenses are not entitled to legal representation, a skilled and experienced advisor can offer advice and guidance on how to protect yourself and how to proceed. Without assistance from someone who knows what's happening and how to guard against the potential for due process violations, the accused person is vulnerable to a system that could substantially damage and even ruin their life.

A military career is a noble pursuit and an ROTC scholarship is both valuable and hard to obtain. Don't let an unfair allegation derail your entire future. Call us today at 888-535-3686, or through our website, and let us help you.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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