Title IX is a federal civil right law intended to prevent sex discrimination at federally funded educational institutions, including K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and post-graduate programs. Congress enacted the legislation as part of the Education Amendments of 1972 ("Title IX"), 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq. Since that time, Title IX has grown to encompass things like sexual assault, harassment, stalking, and sexual violence at schools across the country.
In November of 2018, the U.S. Department of Education proposed a new rule governing sexual misconduct proceedings in schools. On May 6, 2020, the D.O.E. finally implemented new regulations for Title IX cases. These changes will have the force of law on August 14, 2020. The new rule will change school policies in some significant ways. In this blog post, we'll discuss some of the most significant changes.
Definition of Sexual Harassment
The new rule narrows the definition of sexual harassment. Under the old regulations and guidance, a single incident could meet the definition depending on its severity. The new rule now mandates that sexual harassment has to be unwelcome conduct that rises to the level of "severe, pervasive and objectively offensive" and denies the student access to school educational activities or programs. The rule also changes the definition of sexual harassment to specifically add sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking, which don't need to meet the "severe and pervasive" standard.
Standard of Proof
Under earlier guidance, schools could use a "preponderance of the evidence" as the standard of proof when reviewing a sexual misconduct claim under Title IX, which means more likely than not. Now schools may use a "clear and convincing evidence" standard, which means that the evidence of misconduct must be highly and substantially more probable than not. This standard applies to civil court cases involving civil rights. While it is not the same "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard used by criminal courts, it is a higher standard given the serious nature of the charges. Schools may choose between the two evidentiary standards.
Due Process Protections
The new rule also offers additional due process protections for students accused of sexual misconduct under Title IX, something many courts have found lacking in school reviews of sexual misconduct. Schools must now give accused students written assurance that they are "presumed innocent" and offer a full and fair hearing. Accused students may now use lawyers or legal advisors to cross-examine witnesses, including the accused. Schools will be required to review and revise their procedures and policies to ensure that they conform with the new Title IX procedures.
If a school is investigating you or your child for sexual misconduct under Title IX, you need an experienced legal advisor as soon as possible. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience as a Title IX advisor, handling matters at thousands of schools across the country. He can ensure that you receive the due process rights to which you are entitled and help protect your academic and professional future. Give him a call at 888-555-3686 or through his online form.