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The Potential Incentives to Overprosecute Title IX Claims

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jul 09, 2021 | 0 Comments

Title IX is a federal law that provides a framework for colleges and universities on how to handle reports of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. While the law is certainly well-intentioned, a recent trend in Title IX policy decisions at colleges and universities as well as possible legislative action could lead to unintended consequences such as over-reporting of alleged instances of sexual misconduct or even further protective knee-jerk reactions to specific complaints.

Employees Could Face Termination

Louisiana State University (LSU) recently revised its Title IX policy to make mandatory termination of employment the penalty for any employee who is required to report Title IX violations but either fails to do so promptly or falsifies a report. The school's official statement on the matter also names an interim Title IX coordinator whose sole responsibility is to handle Title IX complaints.

A bill introduced in the Louisiana legislature carries language similar to that of the LSU policy. Introduced by Representative Aimee Freeman (D), the bill would require any employee who directly deals with students to report any claim of sexual assault by a student to the school's Title IX coordinator. Such employee's failure to perform this duty would lead to termination of their employment with the school.

With the threat of employment termination looming, it is reasonable to imagine that some employees may feel the need to err on the side of reporting a potential Title IX claim. While, in theory, this may sound like a positive thing, we should also remember that for each allegation, there is an accused student whose current and future life could be upended by even the mention of an investigation — especially as some schools move to immediate suspension from school while an investigation is pending.

ALERT Act

Increased pressure on universities on Title IX claims could also adversely affect procedures already in place. Lawmakers on the federal level are also taking aim at strengthening the consequences for universities who mishandle sexual misconduct claims. The Accountability of Leaders in Education to Report Title IX Investigations (ALERT) Act was reintroduced in Congress recently with bipartisan support. The main objective of the bill is to require any college or university that receives Title IX funding to submit an annual certification that both the school's president and at least one member of the Board of Trustees have reviewed every Title IX allegation involving an employee that year.

In support of the bill, lawmakers pointed to the scandal concerning former Michigan State University (MSU) employee Larry Nasser, who sexually abused dozens of student-athletes and was eventually sentenced to 40 to 175 years for his crimes. MSU officials apparently knew of allegations but failed to follow up on them.

National Title IX Attorney

Allegations of Title IX violations are exceedingly serious, especially because some schools take swift actions on claims that adversely affect students — including suspensions — even before an investigation begins. Attorneys are allowed to be present at Title IX hearings, and make no mistake: if you or your student are facing Title IX allegations, you want an experienced Title IX attorney with you from as early in the process as possible.

Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to ensure that your rights are protected.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Attorney Lento and his team represent students and others in disciplinary cases and various other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Attorney Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he and his team have sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address any school-related issue or concern anywhere in the United States.

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