Video and Photo-Taking and Title IX

Title IX was an amendment established in 1972 by the U.S. Department of Education. The intent was to ensure that all schools create policies for handling complaints related to sexual discrimination in educational environments. Schools must designate a Title IX coordinator that is accountable for evaluating such allegations promptly and fairly. The provisions prohibit acts of obstructing entry, preventing access, or otherwise discriminating against someone based on their actual or perceived sex or gender.

Sexually-based discrimination in educational institutions may occur in admissions, scholarships, athletic participation, academic programs, and others. Title IX also prohibits serious violent acts such as sexual assault or acts of sexual harassment relating to someone's sexual orientation or gender identity. Common examples include false stereotyping or inappropriate slurs made against those whose sexual identity does not conform to societal norms.

When sufficient evidence exists, the parties may be summoned to a hearing to answer the allegations, and witness testimony may be presented. To be proven, allegations must satisfy a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. Recently, federal guidelines were expanded to allow institutions to employ a “clear and convincing” evidence standard in Title IX actions. Parties who are accused (respondents) can choose an advisor to accompany them and provide support and assistance, who should be a seasoned attorney.

Prevalence of Devices for Taking Photos or Creating Video

The majority of individuals in any college or university community have smartphones that are capable of easily taking photographs or creating video footage. Recent data regarding smartphones in the U.S. affirms this, as the country now has more than 260 million users of smartphone technology, which translates to more than 80% of the population. Overall annual revenue from these devices is estimated to exceed $70 billion and rising.

With the widespread adoption of this technology, particularly in the demographic of those on college or university campuses, it is not surprising that most schools have addressed improper usage of these devices prominently in their Title IX guidelines. Acts that involve photographing or disseminating sexually-oriented photos or audio or video footage of someone without their consent is a form of sexual misconduct. Another example of misconduct involves posting explicit photos in public or common educational, work, or residential environments that create a hostile environment for others. This also applies to the posting of photos on blogs or social media networks.

Sexual Exploitation Using Video or Photos

One form of sexual harassment is sexual exploitation, which involves taking advantage of someone to derive some personal benefit or enjoyment. These types of violations are not violent and typically do not involve any direct physical contact. Posting or circulating sexually-related photos or videos of someone without their consent is a form of harassment regardless of whether the material was obtained with consent.

The relative ease with which someone could post or share images or videos that violate the provisions of Title IX is largely the result of social media. Many social media forums now exist such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and more. When abused, these platforms are capable of significantly harassing someone, harming their reputation, and result in humiliation. Forms of cyber abuse are increasingly common, perhaps more prevalent among high school age students; however, they certainly exist at the collegiate level also.

Such acts of abuse and harassment that occur online are often interpreted as bullying, forms of sexual extortion, or “revenge porn.” Victims are known to stop going to classes, no longer participating in social or extracurricular campus activities, struggle with depression, and even become suicidal in extreme situations.

Possible Institutional Obligation to Respond

If a responsible party that represents a college or university is made aware of these types of abuse, they may have an obligation to report. This applies when the acts are negatively impacting a student's ability to pursue their education or otherwise creating a truly hostile environment.

Importance of Having an Experienced Attorney-Adviser

If the allegations made against a student respondent are proven, the sanctions imposed will likely be a suspension or expulsion. Evidence of the disciplinary misconduct is typically documented in a student's records and transcripts, which can hinder admission to a different institution. Students that are accused of violating Title IX guidelines should promptly consult with knowledgeable legal counsel.

Some of the critical advantages of having an attorney serve in this role are:

  • He or she will individually re-examine and scrutinize the evidence and identify weaknesses or inconsistencies
  • Accurately interpret the institution's unique policies and procedures to develop strategies and ensure your right to due process
  • Your attorney may engage in negotiations with key administrations to seek an amicable resolution to the matter
  • Ensure you are well-prepared to assuredly deliver statements and effectively respond to questions in hearings
  • Your attorney will be mindful that your rights and interests are protected, and that your school does not violate your due process and policy and contractual rights as applicable

Lawyer Provides Advisory Representation for Students in Actions of Title IX Misconduct

The consequences of a Title IX violation can devastate your future. Joseph D. Lento is an attorney that is well-versed in this area of legal practice and has helped countless clients at colleges and universities across the United States.  He will create a customized defense strategy on your behalf. Contact the office today at (888) 535-3686 for additional information.