Title IX is the primary method schools use to investigate and punish instances of sexual misconduct, harassment, and discrimination. Students facing Title IX allegations must endure a stringent hearing process with administrators ready to levy harsh consequences. If a school fails to respond quickly or sanction responsible parties adequately, they risk losing federal funding.
Title IX is an intimidating process for a student focusing on their studies. If you're a student accused of Title IX misconduct at a West Virginia school, you have the opportunity to choose an advisor to assist you in the process. That advisor should be an experienced Title IX attorney who can help you protect your reputation and academic future.
How Does Title IX Work?
The U.S. Congress passed Title IX in 1972 to prevent sex-based discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal funding. The law was recently revised to include gender identity and adds sexual harassment as a form of discrimination. Moreover, policies requiring a school's hearing process to have in-person hearings, cross-examining witnesses and evidence, and formal reporting guidelines, are at risk of being rolled back.
Not only does Title IX apply to K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, but the federal law also governs sexual misconduct, harassment, and discrimination claims at various workshops and training programs.
Federal Title IX legislation covers activities like:
- Tax preparing workshops managed by local organizations in West Virginia receiving funding from the Internal Revenue Service
- West Virginia high school 4-H programs and activities administered under the Department of Agriculture
- Training programs conducted by West Virginia emergency management organizations that receive funding from the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Association
- Vocational courses conducted in West Virginia prisons and jails receiving money from the Department of Justice
Differences Between Title IX Reporting In K-12 Schools and Postsecondary Institutions
All faculty, staff, full-time and part-time employees, and vendors of West Virginia K-12 schools are required to report instances of Title IX misconduct. According to West Virginia's Berkeley County School District, failure to report “may result in disciplinary action, including termination.”
In West Virginia colleges and universities, there are differences between schools insofar as reporting requirements are concerned. Nevertheless, most college and university personnel must report Title IX misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator. The school's employee policy will note if reporting is required for full-time and part-time employees or only full-time.
For example, at West Virginia Wesleyan College, full-time faculty, full-time staff with “significant responsibility for student and campus activities,” coaches, athletic training staff, and student employees, including resident assistants and resident directors, must report Title IX misconduct. At West Virginia University at Parkersburg and Concord University, all employees are considered “Responsible Employees,” thus mandatory reporters of Title IX misconduct. However, not all Responsible Employees are “Officials With Authority” (OWA). Only employees designated as OWAs have the authority to take action to redress misconduct, aside from fulfilling reporting obligations. On the other hand, West Virginia Junior College does not follow the Responsible Employee program and directs all reporting requirements to the school's Title IX Coordinator.
How Does the Title IX Grievance Process Work?
When a school's Title IX Coordinator is informed of allegations, the “actual knowledge” requirement is fulfilled, beginning grievance procedures. While schools and programs differ on the amount of time given to certain aspects of the process—notices of investigations and hearings, response to evidence, appeals—most proceed similarly.
- The Title IX Coordinator will contact the alleged victim (complainant) to discuss the allegations. If the Title IX Coordinator dismisses the allegations, the school administration may still address them in any manner deemed sufficient.
- The Title IX Coordinator informs the accused (respondent) about the allegations and apprises them of their rights, including the right to be presumed “not responsible” and their right to choose an advisor.
- An Investigator(s), who must not be the same person as the Title IX Coordinator, interviews both parties, gathers evidence, and interviews any witnesses involved. All evidence will be sent to both parties, who will have between five and ten days to respond.
- Colleges and universities must provide a live hearing (optional in K-12). The Decision-Maker(s) will permit each party's advisor to cross-examine the other party and witnesses. If any of them don't submit to cross-examination, the Decision-maker(s) cannot use any of their statements in reaching their conclusion.
- The Decision-Maker(s) will base their determination of responsibility on the “preponderance of evidence” (at least 50 percent convinced).
- The complainant and the respondent can appeal the decision within a short timeframe (two to ten days).
Parties can only file appeals due to a few circumstances. At the University of Charleston, they include:
- Procedural irregularities affected the outcome of the grievance process
- New evidence emerges that was not reasonably available during the grievance process
- The Title IX Coordinator, Investigator(s), or Decision-maker(s) had a conflict of interest or bias for or against the complainant(s) or respondent(s)
It's important to note that technical problems resulting in a failure to record or an inaudible recording of the live hearing aren't grounds for an appeal.
How Can Title IX Consequences Affect You?
If a student is found responsible for Title IX misconduct, punishments are severe. Suspension will most likely be the minimum penalty, but responsible parties are typically expelled from the school or program.
The consequences are far more burdensome than the end of a student's academic career. For instance, an expelled student will have the nature and the outcome of the offense detailed on their transcript, making admittance into another school a tricky venture. Even if the Title IX violation does not lead to expulsion, it may interfere with obtaining federal financial aid or private scholarships, becoming less competitive in the graduate school applicant pool, and being ineligible for some professional licenses and jobs.
How Can a Title IX Attorney Help You?
Your entire future is at risk when you're accused of Title IX misconduct. You must defend yourself under complicated rules and under guidelines that are constantly changing.
Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento understands the fluctuations in federal Title IX law. He built his career on advising and defending students in West Virginia and from Title IX misconduct allegations across the country. He spends every day talking to faculty and administrators, fighting for his clients' rights, and negotiating fair settlements.
If you're a student accused of Title IX misconduct in West Virginia, you need to act immediately. The school is well on its way to preparing its case, and you should be too. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or through its online form.
West Virginia colleges and universities where Joseph D. Lento can help as your or your student's Title IX advisor during investigations, hearings, and appeals include, but are not limited to, the following schools:
- Alderson Broaddus College
- American Public University System
- Appalachian Bible College
- Bethany College
- Blue Ridge Community and Technical College
- Bluefield State College
- Bridgemont Community and Technical College
- Concord University
- Davis & Elkins College
- Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College
- Fairmont State University
- Glenville State College
- Huntington Junior College
- ITT Technical Institute Huntington
- Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College
- Marshall University
- Mountain State College
- Mountain State University
- Mountwest Community and Technical College
- New River Community and Technical College
- Ohio Valley University
- Pierpont Community and Technical College
- Potomac State College of West Virginia University
- Salem International University
- Shepherd University
- Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College
- University of Charleston
- Valley College Beckley
- Valley College Martinsburg
- Valley College Princeton
- West Liberty University
- West Virginia Business College Wheeling
- West Virginia Junior College Bridgeport
- West Virginia Junior College Charleston
- West Virginia Junior College Morgantown
- West Virginia Northern Community College
- West Virginia State University
- West Virginia University
- West Virginia University at Parkersburg
- West Virginia University Institute of Technology
- West Virginia Wesleyan College
- Wheeling Jesuit University
Title IX violations and Title IX charges can change an accused student's life if not defended against properly and as early as possible during the disciplinary process, and Joseph D. Lento has nearly a decade of experience passionately fighting for the futures of his clients at universities and colleges throughout the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph Lento is a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, is admitted as an attorney pro hac vice in state and federal court if needed when representing clients nationwide, and serves as a Title IX advisor and educational consultant to students facing disciplinary cases in West Virginia and throughout the nation. Make certain your or your student's interests are protected - Contact National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento today.