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Victim-Centered Training Threatens Title IX Neutrality

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Aug 06, 2022 | 0 Comments

It's said the road to hell is paved with good intentions. A proposed bill in New Jersey is a prime example.

S.B. 2469 requires public college and university employees who investigate Title IX violations to undergo “victim-centered” training. On its face this seems like a good idea. Serious allegations like sexual assault should be handled with the utmost sensitivity and compassion.

The downside is that this threatens the impartiality of investigators. The bar for finding the accused guilty, which is already low, will drop even further if investigators are instructed to sympathize with alleged victims rather than approach the case with an open mind.

The proposed law applies not just to employees of universities, but students in positions like resident assistants in dorms and peer advisors. The law doesn't specify what training the university has to use, but the text of the bill specifies it should “improve the ability” of the trainee to:

  • Understand the sexual assault policies of the institution
  • Provide services or help alleged victims locate appropriate services
  • Communicate “sensitively and compassionately” with sexual assault victims

The most concerning aspect of this bill is its emphasis on a “systematic focus” on a “victim-centered response.” This jeopardizes the neutrality of investigators, who have the power to completely derail the lives and plans of the accused.

Lifelong Impact of Title IX Investigations

The significance of a Title IX violation only becomes apparent to lives impacted by its use. Simply put, Title IX is a federal civil rights protection against discrimination based on sex. Any school from elementary through university that receives federal funding — and any “program or activity” like sports — must follow its guidelines or risk losing that funding. Sexual misconduct, for example, is a way of alienating others within the institution based on sex; as such, allegations of sexual misconduct have to be thoroughly investigated. Title IX characterizes sexual misconduct as:

  • Unwanted sexual advances, favors, or requests
  • Unwelcome sexual conduct - verbal, visual, or physical
  • Offensive or frequent remarks about someone's sex
  • Any harassment of a sexual nature that interferes with a student's right to an education or their ability to participate in the program or activity

National Significance of New Jersey Bill

While the bill originates in New Jersey, its potential passage holds national significance by removing safeguards put in place in 2020 by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). The Trump Administration in 2020 reinforced Title IX protections for victims of sexual harassment while safeguarding processes designed to give the accused a fair chance.

A statement from the DOE acknowledged bureaucracy has often “stacked the deck against the accused.” The guidance from the U.S. Department of Education “prescribes a transparent grievance process” that:

  • Reinforces the principle that the accused is innocent until proven guilty
  • Requires schools to develop a standard of evidence
  • Obliges schools to provide a written decision and rationale

The DOE said the rationale behind the 2020 order was to “legitimize the process and support survivors” by “ensuring that final findings of responsibility are credible.” New Jersey's S.B. 2469 threatens to roll back those protections by reintroducing bias into the proceedings.

Title IX accusations of sexual misconduct hold the potential to derail your future just as you're getting started in life. Joseph D. Lento is the fighter you want in your corner when facing false accusations of sexual misconduct. Call the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to speak to an experienced Title IX attorney and get started on your defense.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Attorney Lento and his team represent students and others in disciplinary cases and various other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Attorney Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he and his team have sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address any school-related issue or concern anywhere in the United States.

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