Sexual misconduct and assault are taken very seriously on New Jersey college campuses. Federal rules and regulations under Title IX outline how academic institutions must respond to allegations and ensure victims get the help they need. Sometimes, college employees find themselves at the center of false allegations, investigations, and hearings. Such proceedings can be dizzying. If you're the subject of a Title IX sexual misconduct allegation, you have the right to hire an attorney to guide you through the process. If you're hoping to protect your rights and your career, experienced attorney Joseph Lento can make all the difference.
Defining Title IX
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq., was designed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex at the federal level. Any school that accepts federal funding must comply with Title IX regulations. These rules apply to K through 12 schools as well as publicly funded universities and colleges in New Jersey.
On the basis of sex, no person may be discriminated against, excluded from participating or be denied benefits under any program that receives federal financial assistance.
When a college or university in New Jersey accepts federal funding, the institution must avoid discrimination in employment, hiring, athletics, and admissions. Federal regulations outline how schools must respond to Title IX allegations. These rules also dictate how potential victims and the accused should be protected throughout the process. Navigating Title IX regulations can be challenging without the help of an experienced Title IX attorney.
Who Falls Under Title IX Rules?
Title IX applies to students, but school employees are also subject to Title IX proceedings. Professors, administrators, coaches, graduate assistants, and Residential Assistants may all find themselves at the center of Title IX allegations. Title IX protects employees from sex-based discrimination, but they may also be subject to Title IX disciplinary actions. Conduct prohibited under Title IX includes:
- Sexual harassment, including the creation of a hostile work environment and quid pro quo
- Sexual assault, including statutory rape, incest, non-consensual sexual contact, and non-consensual sex
- Domestic violence
- Dating and/or intimate partner violence
How Title IX Works
Under Title IX, colleges are required to investigate serious criminal allegations, even when no student or employee files a complaint. Overzealous administrations are often unprepared to handle criminal investigations and disciplinary hearings. Due process rights of the accused are often overlooked and disregarded.
- The Complaint
Title IX actions usually start with a complaint. Complaints must be filed with the institution's Title IX Coordinator. It is the job of the coordinator to review the details of the complaint and decide whether there is reason to pursue a Title IX action against the accused.
Upon receiving a complaint and initiating an action, the Title IX Coordinator must inform the respondent. The notification will include the Title IX violation in question, the identity of the person who made the complaint, and details about the alleged misconduct. Respondents will be informed of their rights, possible sanctions, and notice that the action will proceed regardless of whether they participate in the investigation or hearing.
Next, the Title IX Coordinator will appoint an official investigator to meet with the complainant, respondent, and any witnesses. The investigator will also review any evidence. At this stage, it's important to retain a Title IX attorney to ensure all exculpatory evidence is reviewed before the investigator issues their findings.
- Investigator's Report
After the investigation concludes, the investigator will release a report of their findings. Both the claimant and respondent will have the opportunity to review the report, respond to it, and offer changes before it is sent on to the Title IX Coordinator.
- Decision-Making Phase
Once the report has been filed, the disciplinary phase begins. College and university employees in New Jersey have the right to a hearing before a neutral arbiter.
- Title IX Hearing
Both the complainant and respondent have the right to be represented by their attorneys at the Title IX hearing. Respondents will also have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, including the accuser. Respondents may introduce evidence and witnesses.
- Hearing Determination
Some hearings are overseen by a panel of arbiters. In some cases, a sole decision-maker may be appointed. Either way, respondents must be found responsible “by a preponderance of evidence.” This is a lower bar than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” threshold used in criminal courts, meaning that respondents are more likely than not to be found responsible for Title IX violations.
At this point in the process, both parties have the right to appeal the decision. The caveat is that requests for appeals must be made within ten business days. Appeals are typically only granted in situations where new evidence has come to light, mistakes were made during the Title IX proceedings, or when there is obvious bias on the part of a hearing official. An attorney can prove instrumental to submitting a well-drafted appeal.
How an Experienced Title IX Advisor Can Help
Given how much is on the line following such allegations, it's important to take action and protect your professional reputation. Title IX rules are in constant flux, so you'll want an experienced advisor to guide you through the proceedings. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can be that advisor for you.
It's easy to feel panicked in the face of sexual misconduct allegations. Whether you're hoping to protect your job, your reputation, or both, Joseph D. Lento can advocate for your best interests. Remain calm and schedule a consultation with the Lento Law Firm as soon as possible. If you've been accused, take action today and contact Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento. Reach out now online or by phone at 888-535-3686.