Being accused of a Title IX offense is stressful, embarrassing, and potentially life-changing. It is imperative that if you or your child is in this situation, you hire someone who is experienced and knowledgeable in Title IX and who knows how to help and protect your interests and your future. With today's polarized political environment and with how fast information, and misinformation, can spread, schools are likely to respond quickly (and not always fairly) in order to avoid public scrutiny. If you or someone you love has been accused of a Title IX offense, you need to take the charges seriously, and you need to hire a lawyer.
What is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal law that was passed in 1972 as a way to eliminate sexual discrimination in the U.S. educational system, and it prohibits a wide range of conduct on federally funded institutions. Title IX reads: “…no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The law has been responsible for a number of very positive changes in the educational system, including mandating equal funding for male and female athletic programs, a change that has led to an explosion of girls' sports programs and many more athletic college scholarships for women.
But it's a law that is subject to frequent changes, and that makes it especially tricky for people who don't deal with it regularly to understand. Even lawyers who have not handled Title IX cases before have a hard time knowing how to defend a client who is accused of a Title IX violation.
For example, since the Obama administration, in addition to mandating equal funding for girls' sports, Title has been the primary means by which most high schools and universities deal with sexual misconduct allegations. Under this interpretation, sexual misconduct is considered a form of gender-based discrimination. The Obama administration began requiring schools to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct and, where appropriate, to take action against students who were found guilty.
But the law has continued to change with each subsequent administration. In 2020 the Trump administration completely overhauled the enforcement guidelines then, as he took office in early 2021, Biden promised to repeal most of those guidelines. In June 2021, the Biden administration also indicated that it will include transgender students as a protected group under Title IX.
For these reasons and others, it's essential that you hire a lawyer who keeps up with the latest developments on Title IX and understands how to navigate the law's many complexities.
How Title IX Is Applied Now
- An individual (“The Complainant”) makes an allegation to the school's designated Title IX Coordinator. Only the Coordinator can receive and sign a Title IX complaint.
- Once an accusation has been made, the Title IX Coordinator must notify the accused person (“the Respondent”) of the allegations, including the name of the Complainant and the details of the allegation. This notice must also inform the Respondent of his or her rights, including the right to be presumed not responsible and the right to choose an Advisor.
- The Title IX Coordinator will then select an Investigator to investigate the matter. The Investigator will meet with people on both sides and hear their stories. The Investigator will also collect any physical evidence and interview any witnesses.
- When the investigation is over, the Investigator will write a full report detailing all findings. The Complainant and the Respondent will have an opportunity to read the report and to suggest changes before the report is sent back to the Title IX Coordinator.
- Once the report is finalized, the matter moves from the investigative phase to the decision-making phase. At the college and university level, all Respondents are entitled to defend themselves at a live hearing. However, high schools and K-12 schools have the option to hold hearings, but they are not required to do so under Title IX. In secondary and primary school situations, the Coordinator can assign a Decision Maker to review the investigative report and render a verdict.
- During a Title IX hearing, both the Complainant and the Respondent are represented by their Advisors. They may introduce evidence and call witnesses. In addition, both sides have the right to cross-examine each other and to cross-examine any witnesses.
- The hearing may be decided by a single Decision Maker or by a panel of Decision Makers. Whether one person or a panel, Decision Makers base their decisions on the “preponderance of evidence” standard. This is far less strict than the “beyond reasonable doubt” legal standard used in criminal courts. “Preponderance of evidence” requires only that Decision Makers be at least 50 percent convinced that the Respondent committed a Title IX offense in order to find the Respondent responsible.
- Once the Decision Maker has rendered a decision, both sides will have the opportunity to appeal the findings. There is a time limit on the appeal, though, usually ten days. And an appeal may only be made if one of the following conditions is met:
- New evidence is discovered
- A clear mistake was made in following Title IX procedures
- There was obvious bias on the part of one or more Title IX officials.
What's at Stake
If you're facing a Title IX allegation, you are likely wondering what the consequences might be. Though schools will often claim to use a variety of sanctions such as written warnings, restitution, and mandated counseling to punish a Title IX violation, suspension is typically the minimum penalty, and it is much more common for students who are found to be responsible for sexual misconduct to be expelled.
Expulsion can be traumatic and embarrassing, but it's important that someone who has been accused of a Title IX offense also recognize that they are likely to suffer secondary effects as well. For example, if you are expelled from a Tennessee state college or university, like any campus of the University of Tennessee, Tennessee State University, or the University of Memphis, or you will likely be unable to enroll in any other state college or university. Your school may even make a notation in your transcript explaining the nature of your offense. This will make it very difficult for you to enroll in any other college or university, public or private, in any state. Your academic career could very well be over, derailing the course of your life and many of your dreams for your future.
But, even if you are not ultimately expelled, being found responsible for a Title IX violation could interfere with your ability to receive financial aid, and it could prevent you from being hired for an internship, being accepted to graduate school, or getting hired for your first post-college job, even if you move out of state.
How Can Attorney Joseph D. Lento Help Your Family?
It's hard to overstate the importance of adequately defending yourself against a Title IX allegation. Not only is the allegation embarrassing, but it could also change the very course of your life. Your reputation and your entire future are at stake, and you will need to fight for yourself under rules that are not only complicated, they're also constantly changing.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento is here to help. Joseph D. Lento built his career on Title IX cases. He has defended hundreds of students in Tennessee and across the United States from sexual misconduct charges ranging from stalking to rape. He knows the law, he is up-to-the-minute on the current interpretations of it, and he knows the academic atmosphere. He spends every day talking to faculty and administrators, fighting for his clients' rights, and negotiating fair settlements. Whether you're trying to prove your innocence or looking to make a deal that will salvage your career, Joseph D. Lento will be on your side.
If you or your child has been accused of Title IX sexual misconduct in Tennessee, it's imperative that you act now. Don't wait. The Complainant has already made an allegation, and the school is already preparing a case. You should be too. Contact the Lento Law Firm's Tennessee office today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.
Tennessee 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:
- American Baptist College
- Aquinas College
- Argosy University Nashville
- Austin Peay State University
- Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences
- Belmont University
- Bethel University
- Bryan College
- Carson Newman College
- Chattanooga College Medical Dental and Technical Careers
- Chattanooga State Community College
- Christian Brothers University
- Cleveland State Community College
- Columbia State Community College
- Cumberland University
- Daymar Institute Clarksville
- Daymar Institute Murfreesboro
- Daymar Institute Nashville
- DeVry University Tennessee
- Dyersburg State Community College
- East Tennessee State University
- Fisk University
- Fortis Institute
- Fortis Institute Nashville
- Fountainhead College of Technology
- Free Will Baptist Bible College
- Freed Hardeman University
- Hiwassee College
- International Academy of Design and Technology Nashville
- ITT Technical Institute Chattanooga
- ITT Technical Institute Cordova
- ITT Technical Institute Johnson City
- ITT Technical Institute Knoxville
- ITT Technical Institute Nashville
- Jackson State Community College
- John A Gupton College
- Johnson University
- King College
- Lane College
- Le Moyne Owen College
- Lee University
- Lincoln Memorial University
- Lipscomb University
- L'Ecole Culinaire
- Martin Methodist College
- Maryville College
- Memphis College of Art
- Middle Tennessee State University
- Miller Motte Technical College Chattanooga
- Miller Motte Technical College Clarksville
- Miller Motte Technical College Madison
- Milligan College
- Motlow State Community College
- Nashville State Community College
- National College of Business and Technology Nashville
- Northeast State Community College
- Nossi College of Art
- O'More College of Design
- Pellissippi State Community College
- Remington College Memphis Campus
- Remington College Nashville Campus
- Rhodes College
- Roane State Community College
- Sewanee The University of the South
- South College
- Southern Adventist University
- Southwest Tennessee Community College
- Tennessee State University
- Tennessee Technological University
- Tennessee Temple University
- Tennessee Wesleyan College
- The Art Institute of Tennessee Nashville
- The University of Tennessee
- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
- The University of Tennessee Martin
- Trevecca Nazarene University
- Tusculum College
- Union University
- University of Memphis
- University of Phoenix Chattanooga Campus
- University of Phoenix Knoxville
- University of Phoenix Memphis Campus
- University of Phoenix Nashville Campus
- Vanderbilt University
- Vatterott Career College Memphis Appling Farms
- Vatterott Career College Memphis Dividend Drive
- Victory University
- Virginia College School of Business and Health
- Visible Music College
- Volunteer State Community College
- Walters State Community College
- Watkins College of Art Design & Film
- William Moore College of Technology
- Williamson Christian College
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, is admitted as an attorney pro hac vice in state and federal court if needed when representing clients nationwide, and serves as a Title IX advisor and educational consultant to students facing disciplinary cases in Tennessee and throughout the nation. Make certain your or your student's interests are protected - Contact National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento today.