School Obligations Under Title IX

Title IX requires colleges, universities, and school districts to adopt certain policies and have in place other certain requirements in order to remain compliant with the federal law. These requirements are critical in protecting the welfare of students on campus, as well as both complainants and respondents in Title IX investigations. Title IX cases require these procedures in order to protect fairness to all involved, and ensure uniform application of their requirements across the board. Schools are obligated to follow the guidelines imposed by federal law, and failure to do so is a violation of your federal civil rights.

Understanding the requirements schools have imposed upon them can help you and your attorney identify when you are being treated unfairly, and can be a major part of the Title IX investigation or even the appeals process. While you are not expected to know or understand all of these requirements, your experienced Title IX attorney will and will ensure that your school protects your Title IX rights when you stand accused of a violation.

There is a lot to know, but with experienced Title IX defense attorney Joseph D. Lento you can move forward confidently and defend your rights. You are not alone in this fight.

Experienced Title IX Defense Attorney

Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience in defending those accused of Title IX violations, including students, international students, employees, and professors at universities and colleges throughout the United States. Understanding the ins and outs of Title IX cases requires the type of hard work and experience Lento brings to work with him every single day. Every case deserves the best possible protection, including yours.

Joseph Lento is an experienced negotiator, and some Title IX cases can be resolved amicably with the right negotiator by your side. When cases cannot be resolved through such efforts, he has the years of experience needed to fight your case all the way to the end, including through any necessary appeal. You will always rest easy, knowing that your rights are protected by a highly competent attorney.

Title IX: Understanding the Law

Title IX of the Education Amendments is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination because of gender committed by or against students, staff, and faculty in higher education institutions that receive federal funding. Gender discrimination can be committed against women, men, and transgender individuals.

Sexual misconduct is considered gender-based discrimination, along with proven instances of bullying, employment discrimination, and unfair and disproportionate opportunities in intercollegiate sports and educational programs.

Colleges and universities receiving federal funding maintain their compliance with Title IX by handling any of reported cases of gender-based discrimination. All parties involved in a case - whether they be students or employees of a college - will be required to undergo their school's Title IX processes.

Do All Schools Receive Federal Funding?

Technically, the answer is no. If a school does not receive federal funding, it is not obligated to have in place the obligations set forth under Title IX. When this is the case, however, allegations against you will not be considered a "Title IX violation" as the law does not apply.

However, for the vast majority of schools in the United States, they do receive federal funding and are therefore subject to the provisions of Title IX. This means that most schools are obligated to have in place the procedures and protections required of the federal law. They are obligated to respond and remedy hostile educational environments and to protect students.

If a school is receiving federal funding, and fails to follow the obligations imposed upon it by Title IX, this can be the basis of a defense against Title IX allegations, or the basis of a successful appeal of any sanctions imposed upon you. Your attorney will help determine if the requirements are being followed, and use them to your advantage whenever possible.

Requirements of Title IX

As a federal law that is meant to protect against sex discrimination, the requirements imposed upon schools are designed to further that goal. First, there are some important things to know about Title IX that can affect you and your case:

  • Title IX applies to all students, regardless of gender identity. This means that transgender, non-binary, male, female, and any other variation of gender identity is protected under the law.
  • Schools are not permitted to retaliate against a person for filing a complaint, and they are also required to protect the complainant from retaliation by others.
  • A school is not permitted to discourage you from continuing your education, even as the respondent in a case (until an official determination is made).
  • Schools are required to ensure that no student has to share a campus space with their abuser or alleged abuser (such as classes, dorms, workplaces, etc.)
  • Schools are permitted to issue no-contact directives to prevent students from interacting with one another in the course of a Title IX investigation
  • Schools are required to be "proactive" in ensuring campus is free from sex discrimination
  • Schools are required to establish procedures for handling complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination, and violence.

These requirements are far from the only imposed upon schools, but show the broader protections afforded to all students, both accuser and accused. When schools fail to follow their obligations, they can be held responsible for this failure.

Notices of Nondiscrimination

One of the primary requirements of Title IX is that schools are required to disseminate a notice of nondiscrimination. Technically, these notices do not require that sexual harassment and violence be prohibited, but the Department of Education strongly recommends that schools do this, as these types of sexual discrimination do apply under Title IX. 

How this notice is disseminated to students, faculty, and staff is largely left up to the school, so long as it is available to them and is considered "widely distributed, available, and easily accessible" to the school each year. The Department of Education recommends that schools do the following in regards to these notices:

  • Include sufficient detail so that members of the school community can identify that sexual harassment and violence are prohibited forms of sexual discrimination
  • That the notice be published online and so that it is available in print form for easy access and understanding

Failure to include these notices can result in a finding that the school violated the requirements of Title IX. At times, this can be a defense to the charges against you, or the sanction imposed upon you.

Clear Grievance Procedures

All schools obligated under Title IX are expected set forth and adopt a grievance procedure that outlines the complaint, investigation, and disciplinary process for Title IX cases. These procedures should address sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence that occur within the education setting. The procedures are also required to address discrimination perpetrated by:

  • students,
  • employees,
  • faculty, or
  • third parties.

The procedures set forth by federal law require a transparent grievance process for the purpose of resolving formal complaints of sexual harassment. The rules apply to all school, including K-12 and post secondary institutions. Under federal law, a school's grievance process is required to:

  • Treat complainants equitably, and provide remedies when the respondent is found to have committed an offense
  • Not impose disciplinary sanctions upon a respondent until a grievance process described under law has been offered
  • Require objective evidence of all evidence, both inculpatory and exculpatory
  • Ensure that any individuals involved in the decision making process be free from bias
  • That training of Title IX personnel include training on the definition of sexual harassment and how to conduct an investigation
  • Decision maker's must be trained on how to handle issues of relevant evidence, including how to apply rape shield law protections for complainants
  • Have reasonably prompt timelines for the grievance process, including any time for appeals or informal resolutions of complaints
  • Designate whether the school will use a "preponderance of the evidence" standard or a "clear and convincing evidence" standard for all formal sexual harassment complaints
  • List the possible remedies a school may use and disciplinary sanctions the school might impose upon the respondent
  • Adequately describe the school's appeal procedures
  • Parties should have the right to be accompanied by an advisor in hearings, this advisor may, but does not have to be, an attorney
  • Schools are responsible for the collection of all evidence and bear the burden of proof, not either of the parties
  • Schools must provide a report that summarizes all findings and decisions to the parties

Title IX and the Clery Act both require that school employees who address sexual violence complaints have appropriate training to do so. The Department of Education also recommends that certain other staff members receive this training as well in order to better protect students from sexual discrimination.

Prompt Response to Any Violence

Title IX requires that schools promptly address a complaint of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual violence. Although the Department of Education has not defined a specific time which could be determined as "prompt," an individual assessment of a case may occur when a question about whether the response was prompt is raised. Schools are obligated to investigate and respond to acts of sexual violence even when the police are also involved in a criminal investigation, which is often the case.

Schools are also required to notify alleged victims of their reporting options, including within the school setting and their rights to inform the police of any alleged sexual violence. Schools are expected to provide reasonable accommodations to alleged victims in order to protect their rights and protect them from any further harm.

Requirement of Title IX Coordinator

Title IX also requires that every school that receives federal funding put in place a Title IX coordinator. This individual is in charge of ensuring that every students' Title IX rights are safeguarded. This also requires that the Title IX Coordinator ensure a robust Title IX protection program exists. Title IX coordinators are expected to know and understand the ins and outs of this federal law, and be able to implement it in order to protect student rights.

The Title IX coordinator is the employee with major responsibility for Title IX compliance efforts. The Title IX coordinator's responsibilities are critical to the development, implementation, and monitoring of meaningful efforts to comply with Title IX. Those schools and universities that receive federal funding (which are most) are required to notify recipients of their Title IX regulations.

Often, the Title IX coordinator is a specially trained person who knows how to function as the Title IX coordinator. Sometimes, but far from always, this person is a non-practicing attorney. However, the role does not require someone with a law degree to hold the position, which often results in Title IX coordinators with a less than ideal understanding of how to run a successful and compliant Title IX program.

Confidential Support Services

A school sis also required to know where a person can talk with someone confidentially about the incident that allegedly took place. This means providing access to:

  • counselors
  • advocacy
  • academic support
  • mental health support

Schools are also required to inform its mandatory reporting staff members of their obligations under the law. Certain employees are required to report sexual violence to law enforcement, and Title IX requires that employees be trained to recognize these situations.

Consult an Experienced Title IX Defense Lawyer

If you stand accused of a Title IX violation, there are some very serious consequences that could occur if you are found to have violated. With the risk of suspension, expulsion, loss of scholarship, and more in front of you, you cannot afford to sit back and watch your life be taken from you. You have rights that deserve to be protected. The long-term harm of choosing to go it alone can be catastrophic, emotionally and financially.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has a firm understanding of the consequences and has helped countless students accused of Title IX violations defend their case. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today for help.

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