On August 14, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education's ("DOE") new Title IX regulations took effect. These regulations changed how educational institutions investigate claims of sexual misconduct, discrimination, and harassment at their schools. At the same time, the new rules left many unanswered questions when it comes to cases filed before the effective date and claims involving students studying abroad. Currently, there is a pending U.S. District Court case out of St. John's University that is challenging the limits of the new regulations in both areas.
The Title IX Case
The plaintiff in the case, a male student, identified as John Doe, is suing St. John's University for its handling of a complaint of sexual misconduct that occurred while he was studying abroad in France.
John Doe's accuser claims that in November 2019, John Doe subjected her to "unwelcome physical conduct of a sexual nature, non-consensual sexual contact, and sexual exploitation" after they went out drinking one night in France. The accuser later amended her complaint to include several allegations of sexual misconduct between March and November 2019 that allegedly occurred in France and the United States.
John Doe claims that he drank heavily on the night of the incident and doesn't remember what happened. He also filed a counter-complaint against his accuser in response to all of the allegations.
St. John's University Investigation
St. John responded to these complaints by conducting an investigation. Instead of having the parties appear for an in-person hearing, the plaintiff and the accuser submitted written responses to the accusations. The university then convened a 3-person panel to review the evidence.
After its review, the panel concluded that John Doe violated the school's sexual misconduct policy. It suspended John Doe through the end of 2020 and barred him from campus through 2021 or until his accuser graduated, whichever comes later.
Title IX Regulations
Before the new Title IX regulations came into effect, St. John's approach to the investigation, in this case, may have passed scrutiny. However, the current regulations include more due process guarantees for the accused. Specifically, it narrows the definition of sexual misconduct, presumes the accused's innocence, and lets the accused review any evidence and cross-examine their accuser.
While the DOE made it clear that these new regulations do not apply retroactively, there are questions about whether the District Court will use the new Title IX rules in this case. Although the students filed their complaints before August 14, 2020, the new regulations' effective date, the university issued its decision on that same day.
Getting Title IX Help
Defending yourself against claims of sexual misconduct as a student is an incredibly stressful experience no matter when the accusations were lodged. Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience fighting for the rights of the accused across the country. We can help you navigate the new Title IX rules and guide you to the most beneficial outcome for your case.
Call (888) 535-3686 now to speak directly with experienced Title IX lawyer Joseph D. Lento about your case. The sooner you call to get started, the better your prospect of a fair process and a favorable outcome.