Teaching Assistants

Title IX was an initiative first established in 1972 by the U.S. Department of Education and is currently subject to federal guidance and enforcement by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The intent was to address concerns involving sexual discrimination throughout all schools. Complaints may involve accusations brought against students, faculty, staff, and others associated with the academic institution.

Examples of sexual discrimination include obstructing entry into programs, preventing someone from accessing benefits, or impeding participation in activities based on sex or gender. Discrimination often occurs in areas such as admissions, scholarships, athletic participation, employment, and more. Title IX also prohibits acts of sexual violence such as assault or coercion that are committed against unwilling victims, which may or may not have criminal implications. Violations may involve acts of sexual harassment that are committed by promoting stereotypes or making inappropriate slurs against those whose sexual orientation or gender identity is viewed as being outside of the societal norms.

Upon receiving a complaint, the institution has a responsibility to investigated promptly, fairly, and equitably. Federal guidelines emphasize that all parties to these actions are entitled to proper due process rights. A knowledgeable Title IX lawyer can effectively defend your rights and maintain your professional reputation.

Role of a Teaching Assistant (TA)

In a college or university setting, a TA serves as an aide or backup that operates in a support role under the supervision of the instructor of a course. Often a TA is an upperclassman or graduate student that will handle tasks such as assignment grading, proctoring examinations, and much more. Although they are not generally viewed as faculty members, they are responsible for adherence to standards for conduct and academic achievement, as well as being a responsible employee for Title IX purposes.

Who is a Responsible Employee Under Title IX Guidelines in Post-secondary Education?

A responsible employee is a worker subject to a mandatory reporting requirement according to Title IX, unless specifically exempt. These individuals are obligated to report suspected acts of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator or another school official. The duty to report applies to potential violations that the responsible employee personally witnesses, is informed of directly from an alleged victim, through hearsay, etc. One common type of employee that is exempt from serving as a responsible employee are those working in a school counselor role.

The academic institution has a responsibility to inform employees of their role, their obligations for reporting, and other related details. An employee that is reporting an alleged violation should communicate all relevant information that has received, as failing to report is a violation that is likely to have penalties. Examples of information to report include names of parties involved, the time, date, and location.

Responsible Employee Response to Student Complainant

When possible, a responsible employee should share the following information with a reporting student:

  • The employee should explain that they must report all details to a proper school official
  • Explain to the student that they have the option to request their name be kept confidential, which the Title IX Coordinator or another proper official will consider
  • Tell the student that they may share information confidentially with a counselor, advocate, or other available resources

Complaints Against College or University Employees

Schools that are eligible for federal funding may be considered in violation of Title IX if an employee discriminates against a student while operating in the scope of “carrying out their day-to-day job responsibilities.” This applies to employees that are advising, teaching, or other activity. Discrimination may occur when an employee treats a student in a different way regarding their eligibility for services or benefits.

An employee may also violate Title IX discrimination rules if they subject students to differing rules or treatment. This also applies to the denial of any student certain opportunities or rights based on sex. Employees are also prohibited from aiding entities or organizations that sexual discriminate.

Employee Acts of Retaliation

A college or university employee is also prohibited from retaliating against a complainant or witness that makes a claim accusing them of a form of sexual misconduct. Examples of retaliation may include a teacher that gives a student a failing grade or obstructs a student's access or participation in scholastic programs or extracurricular activities. Schools must address acts of retaliation specifically within their written Title IX guidelines.

The Title IX Coordinator or other designated administrator can take necessary action to protect the safety of a complainant or witness. They may implement interim measures such as a no-contact order that prevents the parties from having any communication or prohibiting parties from certain campus locations.

The Rights an Institution Must Afford for Employee Respondents

Significant emphasis is often placed on protecting the rights of students who are parties in a Title IX investigation. The college or university also should afford employees that are alleged to have committed an act of sexual misconduct certain basic rights. Examples include that the employee is treated respectfully, have their privacy rights protected according to policy, and to have all allegations fully disclosed. Unfortunately, there are instances where institutional administrators fail to consider the right to due process for employee respondents; therefore faculty, staff, and others are encouraged to promptly consult with an attorney.

Benefits of Securing Legal Representation for Title IX Matters

Those employed in the various areas of an academic institution may face direct allegations of sexual misconduct that violate Title IX or be accused of improperly responding to complaints involving others. Federal guidelines are highly volatile and subject to modification and the school's administrators may also continue to develop their internal procedures and processes. Faculty and staff members who are subject to these actions must seek assistance from a lawyer with current knowledge of this area of practice.

Legal Representation for Faculty and Staff at Educational Institutions in Title IX Matters

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience necessary to achieve positive results in Title IX actions. He has a firm understanding of the potentially difficult ramifications that can result from these matters, such as those associated with your employment and reputation. He will protect your right to due process and pursue a favorable outcome. Contact the office today at (888) 535-3686 for more information.

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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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