Education Secretary Betsy DeVos shook the world of higher education with her new take on Title IX guidance. Since she took office, she's consistently emphasized rolling back much of the protections of the previous administration, as well as maximizing due process in school processes. Her decision - as you can imagine - has been nothing short of controversial. If implemented, the rules would change Title IX enforcement as we know it. Narrowing the definition of sexual harassment, rescaling institution jurisdiction, and more actions are already on the agenda, but with all of these changes, there are still some major gaps to fill.
Under the proposed directive there still wouldn't be nationwide uniformity in terms of punishment. In the Obama-era, schools were given some discretion to dictate certain aspects of enforcement, but now that this degree of discretion may significantly increase, there's been even more concern about how schools decide punishment and if these decisions are appropriate.
According to the Obama-era “Dear Colleague” letter, schools “must take immediate action to eliminate the hostile environment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.” A rather vague description of duties that does not specify or place parameters on what constitutes appropriate disciplinary action. Since the letter has been rescinded, DeVos' has yet to clarify her stance on punishment. But, given the temperament of the current proposed rules, giving full discretion to schools for this decision and straying further away from uniformity isn't too far fetched.
Allowing schools to use wide discretion when it comes to punishments has arguably complicated things. It's been difficult for schools to determine what would be exactly equitable in these circumstances. As a result, some students may feel that they've been slighted cause they were given a harsher punishment than someone else facing similar accusations at another school.
For example, a male student at the University of Kansas was found responsible for sexual assault in 2014. He was sanctioned with probation, banned from university housing, ordered to get counseling, and write a four-page paper reflecting on the incident. That same year, a student at the University of California was found responsible for that same offense and was slapped with a three-month suspension, and was forced to have the assault notated on his transcript.
So, “how do schools punish students who violate Title IX?” The answer isn't black and white, but right now, it's all up to your school. The best way to gauge the severity of your school's sanctions would be to reference school guidelines.
Nationwide Title IX Advisor
The only way to make sure your voice is heard and your rights are upheld is to retain a student defense attorney. For respondents, especially, the assistance of an attorney advisor is invaluable in the Title IX process. National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skill, experience, and expertise to help you preserve your entitled rights under Title IX and your school's policy. For a case evaluation or more information about his representation, contact him online or give him a call at 888-535-3686 today.