While schools await the overhaul of Obama-era Title IX guidelines by Betsy DeVos' Education Department, the current state of affairs concerning the law and its applicability to sexual misconduct cases is more convoluted than it's ever been. The relentless increase in the rates of lawsuits brought by alleged victims and the accused over the years clearly illustrates that colleges and universities are still failing to get it right.
A recent case outcome complicates matters even more as it addresses an often overlooked concern: what are an institution's legal obligations under Title IX to discipline one of its own students for sexual misconduct directed against a student at another college.
A young woman, referred to as “Jane Doe,” was a freshman at Providence College at the time of an incident that she characterizes as sexual assault. She claims that in 2013, she was drugged while socializing with friends at a local bar, and soon after was transported by taxi to a Brown University dormitory. Throughout the course of the night, she recalls being raped by three males. The three men were later identified as Brown students and were apart of the university's football team.
Three months later, Jane Doe gave her statement of the assault to the Providence Police Department, with a Brown University police officer present. The investigation uncovered chilling details of the incident, including vile text messages between the players joking about the incident and explicit images of Ms. Doe.
In a rare move, Brown University informed Ms. Doe that she would only be able to file a complaint under the school's code of conduct. After filing the inquiry, she continuously checked in with the Brown for an update on its status. The university's response was shocking. She discovered that the investigation had never been completed and that it had abandoned any disciplinary action against the students.
Jane Doe claims that she no longer felt safe at Providence and feared retaliation because of Brown's lethargic response to her inquiry. Her only alternative option was to file a lawsuit against the school seeking compensatory damages and equitable relief under Title IX.
But, her legal action was dismissed. A decision that a three-judge appeals court panel also unanimously upheld. The reason being that she didn't participate in any of Brown's education programs or activities. This implicates that since she wasn't a student at Brown University, the institution isn't legally obligated to handle the matter.
This case reveals an important takeaway that many students weren't aware of before. Currently, under Title IX, schools can take jurisdiction over matters that involve their assailant and a student from another university, but they don't have to.
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.