If you're facing Title IX allegations in PA, you might be feeling stressed, anxious, or concerned about what happens next. This is unsurprising – Title IX procedures can be complex and time-consuming, and the rules change frequently. Experienced Title IX attorney Joseph Lento can help you deal with these accusations as efficiently as possible, but in the meantime, here's an overview of what Title IX is, how it works, and what to expect from the disciplinary process.
How Title IX Works
Title IX is a significant Federal law that forms part of the Education Amendments of 1972. For our purposes, here's the key part of the provision:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal assistance…”
Put simply, Title IX prevents sex-based harassment and discrimination in any institutions which accept Federal funding, i.e., schools and colleges. Under Title IX, schools must:
- Provide men and women with equal opportunities;
- Investigate any allegations made by students or school employees; and
- Take steps to prevent discrimination and sex-based harassment on campus.
Federal funds can be withheld from schools that fail to comply with their Title IX obligations. Unsurprisingly, then, institutions can be overzealous when investigating alleged Title IX violations, so anyone facing a Title IX complaint should seek an experienced attorney's advice.
Who Is Covered by Title IX?
In PA, Title IX applies to public and private institutions receiving federal funds. Since most PA schools receive some amount of federal funding, they must abide by Title IX rules.
Title IX covers students and school personnel. The definition of “student” is simple enough, and school personnel includes, for example:
- Faculty members
- Sports coaches and trainers
Title IX exists to protect students and college employees from sex-based discrimination and behavior such as sexual harassment and relationship violence. However, you could also face disciplinary action under the same rules if someone alleges you violated their Title IX rights.
Stages of a Title IX Action
The Title IX procedures can be complex, and schools often lack the resources to investigate allegations thoroughly and uphold due process. Title IX attorney Joseph Lento can represent you during proceedings, but here is a summary of what you might expect to happen in PA schools.
- Complaint Filed A Title IX case begins when the other party formally makes a complaint against another individual – normally to the school's Title IX Coordinator. Every school has a different process for making complaints; however, if the school agrees there are grounds for investigating the matter, the case moves on to the next stage.
- Notification Received At this stage, the respondents receive written notice of the complaint. The complaint must set out certain details, including who made the complaint and what the allegations are.
- Investigations Begin Your school's investigator will meet with you and the complainant to discuss the evidence. This may involve interviewing witnesses, if available. To ensure the school conducts these investigations fairly and thoroughly, you should hire a Title IX attorney as soon as you're aware of the complaint against you.
- Findings Reported After completing the investigations, the investigator reports their findings for both parties to review. Your attorney can help you respond to the report and suggest changes if required. The final report is then sent to the Title IX Coordinator.
- Disciplinary Stage Begins At this point, the case could either be dismissed due to lack of evidence, or it continues to a live Title IX hearing (unless it's a school at the K-12 level or below, where live Title IX hearings are usually optional). Attorney Joseph Lento can help you prepare for your hearing and ensure your best interests are upheld.
- Decision Made After the hearing, both parties receive written notice of the decision. If the hearing panel upholds the complaint against you, your attorney can explain whether there are grounds to appeal the findings.
- Appeal Filed Both parties can appeal a Title IX hearing decision. However, you can only file an appeal in limited circumstances – here are the main ones.
- The school didn't apply Title IX law accurately.
- Procedural irregularities took place, which affected the outcome.
- There's new evidence available that affects the decision.
- The decision-maker had a conflict of interest which affected the outcome.
Schools set their own deadlines for filing appeals; Penn State, for example, only gives parties five business days to appeal a decision. Your Title IX attorney can explain the appeals process in more detail.
Title IX Violation Consequences
Whether you're a student-employee or school staff member, Title IX accusations can jeopardize your future.
- For student-employees, a Title IX violation could result in your suspension or even expulsion from an academic program. If there's a Title IX finding on your record, then it may not be possible for you to pursue the education and career opportunities you've worked hard for.
- If you're a school employee, a Title IX finding could mean losing your job and finding it harder to secure new employment elsewhere. It may also damage your reputation personally and professionally.
Joseph Lento, an experienced Title IX attorney, will do everything possible to have the allegations dismissed or help you negotiate a settlement that protects your interests.
How an Experienced PA Title IX Attorney Can Help You
Title IX guidelines are complex and change frequently. To give your case the best chance of success, you need support from an experienced attorney who is familiar with Title IX matters and is up to date on a