Title IX is a federal law that sets standards for how colleges and universities must handle sexual discrimination and sexual violence claims. The statute requires that schools have certain provisions in place for handling allegations, including that the process must be clear and speedy and be handled by designated personnel. Schools face losing federal funding if they fail to take immediate and proper action when presented with Title IX allegations.
While all sexual discrimination and sexual violence allegations should be taken seriously, some schools have applied the Title IX provisions in exceedingly strict manners against the accused. Allegations — before any investigation even begins — can be extremely damaging to a student's reputation and career opportunities stretching far into the future. In some instances, though, schools have come up against the harsh reality that when allegations are proven unsubstantiated, they may be facing a lawsuit from the formerly accused for overzealous actions.
One such case occurred recently in Maine, where a former University of Maine Farmington student settled a lawsuit with the University of Maine System for $45,000, based on the claim that the school improperly handled sexual assault allegations made against him as well as previous allegations he made against another student.
Title IX Investigation of Allegations
The former student, known as John Doe in the lawsuit, had been accused by multiple women of assaulting or harassing them. While the school conducted a Title IX investigation, the school suspended him and banned him from campus, though he was permitted to attend classes remotely in 2019.
The investigation eventually concluded that Doe was not responsible for sexual assault, but, according to him, the damage was already done as he had suffered both emotionally and financially from the suspension. He said he had lost income from an on-campus job.
Doe further alleged that the school failed to investigate allegations of rape and assault he made against another student. He claimed he had told university employees that a female student had raped him in 2017.
In settling Doe's lawsuit against the school, a spokesperson for the University of Maine System emphasized that the school prioritized both protecting students and respecting students' legal rights to due process.
Fighting Title IX Allegations
Disciplinary actions involving Title IX allegations are often harsher than those imposed for other school code violations — and they are often applied before an investigation is even conducted or completed, as illustrated in the above case. A finding that the student is responsible for the alleged conduct could even mean expulsion.
Title IX hearings often mirror those involving a standard violation process. Many schools have dedicated panels that hear such claims. Because of the high stakes and sensitive issues involved, schools almost always allow attorneys to attend hearings, which is why it is imperative to have a skilled and experienced attorney by your side if you are facing Title IX allegations.
Contact the Lento Law Firm as soon as possible, at 888-535-3686, to ensure that your rights are protected.